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Business, Featured - Written by on Friday, August 27, 2010 10:56 - 3 Comments

Denis Hancock
You don’t have to engage in conversations to succeed on Twitter

It seems that every day a new article (or blog post) comes out about how brands are using Twitter wrong. This article from a few weeks ago delivers this message in a typical way – saying that Twitter consists “primarily of two-way conversations – marketers can be doing so much more to participate fully in this two way medium” (and the Twitter whitepaper it links to is fairly interesting). Marketers are being told to engage and converse – and to do so quite frequently.

But I have a different perspective, and believe that many brands (and companies) can succeed on Twitter without necessarily engaging in conversations, or being particularly active. Not only that, but I believe the hypothesis that customers necessarily want to be engaged in conversations with brands needs to be challenged, as I don’t think it’s true as a blanket statement.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on this recently, but today I’ll just provide a few different Twitter accounts that appear to be doing very well, in terms of followers, without engaging in conversations (or doing any of the other things most people are recommending they “should” do on Twitter).

@woot:  A quick glance at their Twitter page reveals they typically post once a day (occasionally 2 or 3 times). This post is a link to a daily deal. There is simply no conversation or two-way engagement. They have over 1.6 million followers (#90 overall, between Biz Stone and Penn Gillette), and have been listed 7,000 + times. This makes woot one of the most popular brand accounts on Twitter (out of companies that actually sell stuff).

@zappos: this account is operated by CEO Tony Hsieh, and Zappos is frequently mentioned as one of the leading companies in delivering compelling customer experiences, and engaging in social media. But if you look at his actual activity, there are few signs of conversation to be found. It’s mostly some quotes he finds interesting, a few links, and some seemingly random thoughts. He also doesn’t post that often – less than once a day. He has over 1.7 million followers (#72 overall, between inStyle and Serena Williams), and has been listed almost 10,000 times.

@mashable: Mashable is the online guide to social media. If anyone was to be using Twitter “correctly”, you think it would be them – and this account is run by Pete Cashmore, the CEO. It is popular – @mashable has over 2 million followers (#45 overall, between Pete Wentz and Mandy Moore), and has been listed almost 50,000 times. But again, just look at the activity – a continuous series of links to various articles. More active then the two examples above, yes – but conversational, absolutely not.

You might think I just cherry picked these examples, and that they are the exception to the rule. But I didn’t – there are many more examples where these came from. And as for the rule, well, I think the rule is wrong.

That social media can be used to engage in conversations is absolutely true, and many people and companies are doing that effectively. I don’t dispute that. But somewhere along the way, there seems to have been a near consensus emerge that:

a) two-way conversations is the only way to use Twitter.

b) two-way conversations is what every customer wants on Twitter.

I don’t believe it. The fact that so many people seem to be interested in so many accounts that do the exact opposite is rather telling on this front. And as more and more people engage on Twitter (and other platforms), and create more and more connections, with the potential for more and more messages, I truly believe we’re going to see more and more people realize that “conversations” isn’t what it’s all about.


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Dan Thornton
Aug 27, 2010 11:27

Totally agree there’s not just one way to use Twitter, and as an example, I have my personal account with conversation, an account for all the links I share via Google RSS Reader, and then one as a feed from each of my sites. And all have links to the others in the bio, meaning people can choose what they prefer, rather than me prescribing it for them.

Birger Hartung
Aug 27, 2010 13:52

Agree with your post. I think this is based on misunderstanding and miseducation by “Social Media Gurus”. THEY thought Twitter is all about conversations. THEY have to believe this, because thier job is about communication (includes conversation).
I know that Twitter is an ad-hoc organisation tool only. Inside this status messages conversations may be possible. As status message with a question mark is a misuse of the service. Period.

Sep 22, 2010 4:21

I definitely agree. It’s also about search engine optimization, consistently acting as a useful resource for relevant content, and showing up on people’s feeds (so that they are reminded of your brand). Great examples!

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