lots of twitter impressions may be empty promises


Along with other tools in the social media world, a lot of emphasis is put on how many followers hook onto a Twitter account and its related messaging. The follower count is the one metric that provides an obvious measurement of the awareness of the Twitter account and its posts. Not surprisingly, this status then usually gets translated into an assumption that followers for businesses will automatically mean sales. Unfortunately, that’s a dangerous leap in logic.

Businesses can be quick to get caught up in the social media “follower” or “friend” race, translating the metric into some kind of barometer of activity success. While it does mean that consumers awareness of the business and its Twitter postings is increasing, the number of Twitter followers doesn’t automatically mean that sales increase as well. This is a critical point to understand; the return on investment of time, energy, and communication needs to mean something to be beneficial to a business.

Extrapolating Impressions

There are some tools like Hashtracking, for example, that extrapolate even more awareness impact a Twitter account can have, which tends to make people think they are having an even greater effect on consumers. From a marketing perspective this sounds like gravy. The approach essentially takes the hashtag originally created by an author and calculates how much twittering has occurred on that particular message thread. Then, with some further number-crunching, the number of consumer impressions is then multiplied against the aggregate number of tweets. That in turn gives a user a metric that seems like a very powerful marketing reach.

Numbers are Relative

Like the TV commercial depicting a corporate board and one vice-president states to everyone he can make numbers say anything, the Twitter impression metric can be made to seem like a really powerful impact on market reach when in fact it may just be an empty number that means nothing. At some point, for all that Twitter activity and retweeting to mean something for a business, people actually have to connect to the business and buy something. If hours and hours are being spent managing tweets and not one message read converts into a sale or new customer, then the entire effort is waste for the purposes of a return on investment. The 2012 Forester Research Report “The ROI of Social Marketing,” gives an average conversion rate among small to mid-size businesses of 1.5 percent. Subscription sites experience similar to slightly higher rates, around 2.9 to 6 percent. At the end of the day, it’s not a matter of whether you are above or below the “industry average” – instead it’s about the financial success of your business.

Now, the above said, a marketing perspective may argue the opposite, arguing that by increasing awareness sales too will eventually increase. Consumers will have the business in mind when they think of a particular product or service and eventually will seek out the company. This is fine and dandy to say, but even the marketing department has to eventually be paid for. Only hard sales actually produce the money to keep a company going and growing.



10 thoughts on “lots of twitter impressions may be empty promises

  1. Excellent observations!
    Ive sold advertising for the last 20 years (i normally describe it in more exciting terms, but hey!) and this is a conversation Ive had for that entire time!
    Its not the medium, its the message.
    Im sure Twitter and Facebook will get you results if you run your campaign correctly, just as traditional media like TV will be a bust if you give the creatives a bad brief or more likely refuse to give them a good one! Its not where you advertise or market your business that counts, its how!
    Genuine engaging interaction will win the day, as will red hot offers and invitations to come and do business. That just depends on what the objective is.
    And this often is at the core of these issues. Business buys ‘profile’ or awareness generation and then sits back and bemoans the lack of response!
    A direct response campaign needs a strong call to action, and an awareness campaign a point of difference – basic marketing strategy.
    Its not what you say so much as how you say it too!

    • Very True Tony and I appreciate you sharing your insight. A key you hit on, “basic marketing strategy,” many SMB’s do not understand what that is and many of the so called “marketers” of today who they are seeking advise from do not either. Junk-in = Junk-out, then the mud gets slung on marketing as a whole…

      • Thats a very salient point actually. Unfortunately there is no test or license for people professing to do marketing strategy commercially, so goodness knows who you might end up with!

  2. This is a great post, Randy. This reminds me of the Dot Com era … it was all about how many “eyes” were on your stuff. And then what happened … ?!
    It’s not about the eyes, it’s about the conversion. So it doesn’t matter if you have 10 followers or 10,000, A) not all of them are seeing your message, B) hardly any of them care about your message, and C) the ones who do are the ones you need to start the conversation and relationship building with to nurture the relationship and possibly make them convert. It more work than just getting those followers or eyeballs – but that’s lost on so many peeps for some reason.
    (I guess marketing and targeted marketing is too, then!)

    • You got it Brooke! I love to see the many programs, platforms, APPs that arrive daily, it is all very exciting to me and I love to look at the opportunities they may bring, as with you I am sure. But, so many rush to drink the Kool-Aid before testing or vetting. (ex. Klout/Influence measure)

  3. Randy, you just keep giving material to draw from. I am very leery of using “numbers” as an indicator for success. This is such a bigger issue than just flaunting ones numbers, Susie Parker put out a great post today on Steamfeed.com, read my comment…JUST SAY NO. I am not ready to put pen to paper so to speak, still formulating my ideas. Maybe a chance for collaboration…There are problems with the “numbers” approach on many levels. Any report using numbers as it’s sole basis can easily be manipulated to show desired results. Great job here…thanks

    • Thanks Gerry. I have grabbed onto this topic a bit of late and have another post in the morning that may give you a little more to chew on. My SteamFeed.com post on Saturday takes looks at it from another angle. I did read Susie’s post this morning and agree with her assessment…

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I, too, have fallen victim to the whole idea that the more followers you have, the more chances you will have of sales. I’m ashamed to admit it that before I read this blog, I had no idea what the function of hashtags was! Very informative :)

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