Time to give Twitter a second chance

Touch Agnecy Twitter Info Graphic headingThere has been much buzz in Social Media geek circles this week about Twitter finally making it to centre stage in website land.

The main reason is a change to the way Twitter handles links that users put in their tweets.

Another reason is that user numbers are up, engagement numbers are up and search engines are still referencing tweets amid general search results, despite Google choosing not to renew its deal to pipe Twitter content directly into its search engine.

So what does this mean for website owners and people marketing their businesses in the Northern Territory?

I think it means two things in particular.

Humans are herding animals

If there is one thing we learn in marketing it is that trends and new products need to reach a tipping point and then the bulk of the population (or market) follows (or adopts) pretty quickly.

Twitter is at that point.

When Twitter first emerged, it was a novelty. It put SMS habits on steroids by sharing SMS-length messages with a world audience for free as opposed to just your friend on another mobile device for 25 cents.

Touch Agency, a UK company, recently published research and an infographic on Twitter usage (Twitter has proven an elusive beast for definitive statistics) and reported that:

  • There are now 200 million registered Twitter users
  • One billion tweets are shared weekly (or 1650 per second)
  • Just over half of all users check Twitter every day with a quarter checking more than twice each day
  • Around 40 per cent of tweets are made on mobile devices
  • There are 18,000 search queries every second
  • Close to 70 per cent of users are OUTSIDE the USA
  • Almost one third of users have household incomes of more than $100,000 per year
  • One million people view tweets about customer service each week and 66 per cent of such tweets are critical
  • Two thirds of questions on Twitter have commercial intent

The sheer numbers of people involved and messages being sent and received means it is wise for us to take notice, even if you think your part of the Top End might be immune from such nonsense. When you consider that the NT News, the bastion of digging Southerners on their precious little habits is a prolific source of Tweets, it is a sign that this Social Network is becoming part of the fabric of communicating in 2011.

Unlike the early days when statistics were showing people tried Twitter and then disappear, it appears that last year’s refreshing of the interface has help develop the habits of users more solidly and that once you get involved it is easy to stay involved now. With 21 million mobile devices in Australia (far out stripping landline phones) and with most of these having mobile internet connections and/or free access to services such as Twitter and Facebook, it is very difficult for a business person serious about their future to ignore this communication development.

Of particular note for business owners is the volume of searches being performed on tweets, the commercial nature of many questions being asked and the velocity with which reviews of your business can be shared across the world. Twitter is really becoming like a hoard of consumers walking past your store who don’t mind if you eavesdrop on their conversation and are happy for you to butt in with helpful suggestions/advice when they ask a question of relevance to your business.

A river of links

The latest change to Twitter is the way that links are handled.

When users share a link to your website or a news story, etc, Twitter has modified the coding so that website analytics programs can now correctly identify Twitter as the source of that traffic.

What this has meant is that almost overnight, Twitter (or, technically, t.co) has become a major referral source of traffic to websites around the globe.

If you check your website analytics regularly (I am sure you do, at least monthly is my recommendation), cast  your eye over traffic sources. If you see t.co in the list then this relates to people clicking links to your website that you or others have shared on Twitter.

This is a very clever move by Twitter because now that we can start seeing how active Twitter users are in sharing links (and being at the receiving end of a shared link is as valuable as gold for your website because search engines like Google highly value your site when others are linking to it).

The more that website owners see this, the more attention they will pay to crafting content for Twitter and the richer the array of Twitter material will be.

I have long been sharing with clients and workshop participants the wisdom of the founders of Twitter who said that first and foremost, Twitter is a broadcast channel.

So, while you can develop more intricate strategies and tactics for Twitter, their advice and mine is to simply start by opening an account and sharing links to your interesting or valuable content  with regularity. Just like a long term investment with compounding interest, you are sure to start building a profile in search for your site because at least the search engine crawlers will be prompted to note these links to your material. That is a start. The icing on this social cake comes when humans follow and reshare these links.

Note, I said interesting or valuable content. Just sharing links to boring material will be as brutally ignored by humans, as it deserves. How do we define interesting or valuable? That is only able to be judged through the eyes of your target market – the ultimate benchmark for any business. Time to revisit some target market segmentation, some listening and some thinking through the sorts of questions and needs your most valuable, potential customers share.

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