Twitter for marketingIs Twitter worth $18 billion following its IPO last week? I am not an investment adviser, but what I do know is that Twitter is an important investment for content marketers. In a fast changing world, insights are the new currency and Twitter can provide unique insights that are not readily available elsewhere. It is becoming an important social discovery tool for users.

Think You Know Twitter? Think Again

Twitter is not what it was. More than a social network, it is becoming a content discovery engine for users, which has significant implications for marketers. Let’s start by looking at some of the changes taking place.

1) Active engagement on Twitter is growing. According the latest surveys 59% of account holders are now active on a monthly basis, up from 50% in Q2 2012. Pew Research found that 56% of social network users either specifically create content for their platform or curate content on the platform. 32% of users did both. These users are increasingly sharing things that they think their followers will find helpful.

2) In the new world, news breaks first on Twitter. Tweets about the raid that discovered Osama Bin Laden, or the plane on the Hudson River, were the starting point for news stories. NASA announced the discovery of ice on Mars via a tweet from its @MarsPhoenix account. "Best day ever!!" it declared.

Newsrooms have adopted social media, using it not simply as a broadcast platform but as a source. A different  Pew Research survey found that Twitter news consumers are more educated than the general population. Four-in-ten (40%) of Twitter news consumers have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 29% of the total population.

3) People are using Twitter as a source of discovery. Only half of active users post updates, which means that half of the active user base must be reading or using Twitter as a source of discovery. The growth in content creation and curation, plus the use of Twitter for news updates means that users turn to Twitter to discover things. Users may get news and industry updates posted by people they follow or search twitter for such news and updates.

4) Twitter is increasingly being used as a tool rather than a social network. Data licensing is Twitter's second major revenue stream, as it sells its public data of about 500 million tweets each day. This allows companies to analyse consumer trends and develop insights based on this data. On the financial markets, analysts have started using Twitter and the sentiment of tweets to predict the future value of businesses.

5) Tweets last longer than you think. It has been said that the life of a tweet is 15 minutes, an hour or 24 hours. Analysis has shown that 75% of clicks on a tweet occur in the first hour. This may be true, as the visibility of Tweet declines rapidly in timeline views but increasingly Tweets are being viewed days and weeks later. Social analytics tools increasingly search for the most shared tweets in the last 24 hours, week or month. Thus if your tweet is retweeted extensively it may continue to show in such search results for some time.

6) Twitter is mobile. The IPO filing said 75 percent of users accessed the service from a mobile device (tablets and phones) or around 163.5 million monthly active mobile users. Advertising income from mobiles accounts for over 70% of Twitter’s advertising revenue.

Twitter: A Social Internet Discovery Layer

In my view Twitter is no longer simply a social network or a personal publishing platform, it is becoming an important layer that helps users discover specific content across the internet such as news, events and updates. It is a tool more akin to Google but for specific purposes, if you want to know the wifi code at an event or to know what people think about the latest episode of Breaking Bad then you are probably best starting with Twitter, especially as it is easily accessible from mobile devices.

What Does This Mean for Marketers?

In 2011 Twitter drove just 4% of all visits to corporate websites from social media sites, that has risen to 14% in 2013. It is clear Twitter is becoming more important in the way people discover content. If people are using Twitter as a discovery engine then marketers need to:

1. Create and curate content for twitter that can be found easily. Ensure you share content that has value and explain why it has value in the tweet itself. The more you provide valuable content that is helpful to people the more they are likely to curate it for their own followers. The most valuable content provides answers to questions that users may have.

2. Provide mobile content. This goes without saying. If 75% of Twitter users use a mobile device then clearly if they discover your content via Twitter then it absolutely has to be mobile friendly.

3. Create time sensitive content. Time sensitive content is critical on Twitter. Thus if there is a news event in your industry you should use this interest to your advantage, for example by providing a viewpoint from your experts. You should be careful though about news jacking outside of your area and always have value to add. You should also share breaking news. Monitor news sites and be the first to share breaking news. You can use news feeds and social sites to be the first to pick up on breaking news. Similarly you can share insights from the latest research in your area.

4. Create event sensitive content. Use event hashtags to highlight new content which is of interest to potential buyers attending the event.

5. Use Twitter as a discovery layer yourself. Use insights from Twitter to improve your content marketing. Conduct searches to review what is hot in your area,  who the influencers are and what the key trends are. There are many tools that will help you. Two of my favourite free tools are:

  • BuzzSumo - Use social insights from BuzzSumo, a free analytics tool. See post on how to use BuzzSumo to analyse what content is being shared and who key influencers are across Twitter and other social platforms.
  • Topsy - Topsy has indexed every Tweet and produces very powerful search results, sentiment and influencer analysis. See the previous post on six essential Topsy searches.

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