Is tweeting for the birds?

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 09 Mar 2011

Organisations should not waste their valuable time tweeting, as Twitter adds little or no value to online business presence.

This is according to Howard Rybko, CEO at Syncrony, who believes that Internet marketing consumes an inordinate amount of time, which is the most valuable business asset.

Rybko explains that the current wave of pro-Twitter hype has left many business people feeling that they are missing a vital marketing opportunity because their business is not “spewing tweets on a daily basis”.

He maintains that there is no need for organisations to feel guilty every time some consultant or media personality goes on about how 'core' Twitter has become.

“When this kind of guilty feeling starts to creep up on you, stop it. There is no need to feel inadequate because you are not firing off tweets at every important moment,” he notes.

Rybko thinks businesses should rather take comfort from the fact that there is little they can tweet about that really matters to anyone besides their closest family and possibly a tiny handful of employees.

Twitter's hard truth

According to Rybko, the hard truth is that very few people care about tweets that don't come from big show business, sports stars or from boy bands and the like.

“Your tweet announcing the arrival of stock of your latest widget is going nowhere and, in fact, will only annoy anyone who does get it.

“I challenge anyone out there to think of any single event that happens in your business that is so important that your customers need instant notification of its occurrence. Secondly, try to think of any regularly occurring events that would genuinely continue to interest and excite them.”

BrandStrategy MD Mike Said agrees, noting that nobody needs instant notifications and most customers would probably live without them.

“What you need to do through ongoing relevant tweeting is build up trust and relevance and although people do not need to hear from you or your company, they will want to hear from you,” he says.

Said notes that despite the fact that Twitter has been around for a number of years, there still appears to be a lot of confusion regarding its place in the world.

Cocktail party scenario

“The best analogy that I can offer for Twitter is that it can be likened to walking around at a cocktail party handing out your business card and telling a few one-liner jokes. And, of course, at the same time collecting cards and jokes from others.

“Some you will like, some you won't, some people you will want to meet again or discuss things with in greater detail and some you won't,” Said explains.

In regards to Twitter use, Said points out that there are two sides to this. “Should they be on Twitter and tweeting? Only if they are certain what their objectives are and if they have a proper strategy devised.

“Should they be worried about what is being said about them on Twitter? Most definitely, and online reputation tracking and management is the answer,” he says.

On the other hand, Greg Comline, a senior manager at Deloitte, notes that Twitter certainly provides an opportunity to listen and engage with customers, clients and employees in an open environment, adding that the platform enables companies to draw deeper insights from target audiences.

Concerning instant notifications, Comline believes in a permanently connected world; time to react to all forms of communication has certainly shortened.

“The best example of this is where one gets an SMS notification for any activity on one's bank account. However, within SA, I think the public hasn't quite got to the point of instant notifications or demanding instant feedback on all communication channels, such as social media,” he says.

Relevant presence

Comline explains that within the social media environment, such as Twitter, users would expect a response from the business but would probably be tolerant if it was not immediate, as long as a legitimate response is provided.

On the other hand, he adds, if the customer expects a personal response and receives an automated notification, it can have a negative effect. “Businesses should manage this balance between personal and automated notifications and manage the customers' expectations.”

Commenting on whether Twitter adds value to a business' online presence, Comline says the value driven through Twitter depends very much on the business objectives being addressed.

“As an example, if high-profile individuals within the business or the business itself wanted to develop a platform to voice their views around their business, then Twitter can provide this platform. Accordingly, the business needs to measure the success of driving this value through aligned metrics,” he states.

Andre Hugo, director of marketing at Deloitte, also shares the view that Twitter adds value to the business, provided the organisation has something valuable to say that is aligned to the business and communications strategy.

“Tweeting for the sake of tweeting will simply create noise in the system and as a result your followers will very quickly 'unfollow' you, therefore doing more brand damage than good. That said, tweeting in isolation will not add business value to your online presence.

“Twitter needs to be integrated and consistently aligned with your whole digital strategy and footprint. By spending time tweeting or following topics on Twitter, organisations can identify what their competitors are doing, their staff and customers are saying about them and identify opportunities for product or service innovation or improvement,” says Hugo.

Tweeting smart

According to Hugo, irrespective of the type of business, customers follow Twitter feeds if they are useful.

Therefore, he explains, it is critical for an organisation to determine what role Twitter will play in their integrated communications and digital strategy.

“Once they have identified the business objectives, desired outcomes and measurement tools they should tweet. They will get following based on this process and provided that the tweets are engaging or valuable to their customers,” he stresses.

Hugo also believes that customers need instant notifications from time-to-time, arguing that we are in an 'always-on' economy, and information is accessible 24/7.

“People using Twitter and other digital platforms crave the constant stream of information. Try turn off your laptop, your cellphone and disconnect your landline and attempt at being productive.

“I would bet that within three minutes you would not be able to sit still, you would be feeling lost and more than likely you would be battling to concentrate on completing the task that you set yourself,” he says.

'Just fed my dog'

Regrettably, Said believes, a number of people will post something along the lines of 'just fed my dog' or 'I am at lunch' or worse, and this contributes to the argument that Twitter is irrelevant or a waste of time.

However, he maintains that this does not mean Twitter should be dismissed. “It is an exceptionally efficient way to spread news, introduce new topics or give a little insight into your company.

He suggests organisations should take Twitter out of the hands of their employees and put it in the hands of professionals who can help them capitalise on it.

“If you are going to keep it [Twitter] in-house, at least appoint someone to handle this for you properly,” he states.

Rybko also points out that there are instances when Twitter does add value and can be an advantage.

First, he says, it has some value in the search engine optimisation of a company's site, adding that in a more general sense, Twitter excites those members of the extended social groups who follow celebrities, media occasions, big sports and other major events.

“If you feel a need to contribute 140 characters of pithy philosophical wit to an ongoing conversation, join an uprising that topples governments or become one of a flock of followers, then Twitter is just for you, says Rybko.

He believes that if a business does not fit into any of these categories or there is no immediate application necessary, then Twitter will not be an option.