A couple of weeks ago, I was out with a friend of mine in Soho, London. This friend is a bit of a Soho legend. He was famous back in the 80s as a Soho club owner and was no doubt involved with a whole manner of scandals. I hadn’t realised just how legendary he was until we gatecrashed the opening of a new hotel and restaurant. We hadn’t been invited yet everyone was fawning over him – even the owner of the hotel, who didn’t seemed fazed that said legend had arrived with a random bird. To be honest, I might as well have been invisible. My friend is a flamboyant character and stands out at around 6ft 5ins, and with everyone shouting his name and wanting to talk to him, the experience felt a little dizzying until we met Mr. Fry.
Stephen Fry is one of those people that everyone loves – he is intelligent in a way that harks back to the old days when people spoke eloquently, wittily and with finesse. Stephen Fry is one of those men that most men could only hope to be. He is admired and revered by many. So why, when my friend introduced me to him, could I only think about Twitter. Luckily I was too star struck to say anything more than ‘Hello, lovely to meet you’ and kept my thoughts where they belonged – inside my head. But I kept wondering if he had tweeted about the evening, what he had said and what he would be saying next. Here I am meeting one of the most famous celebrity intellectuals known in Britain and all I could think about was bloody Twitter.
It’s actually not too strange. Stephen Fry (1.1 million followers), along with a host of very active celebrity tweeters, such as Ryan Seacrest (2.6 million followers) Demi Moore (2.3 million followers) and Ashton Kutcher (4 million followers), have helped Twitter balloon by 2,680% to 3.3million users in October 2009 from just 121,000 in October 2008 (according to Nielsen Online). But with all this tweeting, is there a value perceived or real to companies tweeting. It makes sense for celebrities who seek to indulge their egos, but does it work for brands and should brands be putting more effort into this marketing channel.
New Media Age magazine yesterday released research conducted during a in November that brands were not fully taking advantage of Twitter. According to the magazine, almost three-quarters of the 500 major brands analysed did not have any presence on the site at all. Of the 130 brands with a presence, only 50 of them tweeted daily.
In the gambling, I have noted Bodog (1986 followers), 888Ladies (1089 followers) and Expekt (1226 followers) amongst others. Each company is fairly active with its tweets, providing information about news and promotions. However, is it worth it?
New Media Age reports that Dell claims to have made over $6.5m (£3.98m) through Twitter since 2007 when it set up its first profile. I find that hard to believe, firstly is Dell so clever that it understood not only the power of Twitter at such an early stage, but also developed a fool-proof revenue generating measurement of the marketing channel – something that is almost impossible to do accurately, never mind come up with a figure as precise as $6.5m. Remember, this is the company that launched ‘Della’ (in May, 2009, its brand new site for female shoppers (yes, really I am not making this up, see the end of the article for links). Here is a screenshot:
As you can seem, the site was so extraordinarily cheesy and stereotypical that it lasted a whole week. Yes a week. The people at Dell are not that clever.
Which brings me back to whether or not Twitter is worth it. Here are some quotes from companies stating why they use Twitter:
From New Media Age
Innocent Drinks: “If we’d had a set strategy at the start and defined some sort of ROI, then it wouldn’t be successful because Twitter doesn’t deliver on that. For us it’s just another channel for talking to people.”
Orange: “We have different Twitter accounts for various digital divisions. That’s the beauty of Twitter — it’s what you make it.”
Ford: “It’s part of a larger social media strategy to humanise the Ford brand and put consumers in touch with Ford employees.”
General Motors: “Experiment at first, but now for feedback, to clarify misconceptions, hear from and talk to customers/observers who may not comment on our blogs”
Luxor Las Vegas: “Customer insights, customer service & educating guests about the new Luxor and all our new offerings and/or special promotions.”
American Apparel: “We don’t have an official goal but we’d like to give our customers a way to get in touch w/ us and give us feedback and ideas for products.”
There are so many different reasons to use Twitter, so each company needs to find out its own strategy and discover what works best for them. However, most reasons do not involve the ability to drive revenue. Most companies don’t believe it’s possible to attribute direct income from Twitter activity. As a communication channel, Twitter appears to hit the spot, but there are two problems that I would like to highlight:
- The Twitter fall out – Even Stephen Fry quit then rekindled the love a short time later. Lilly Allen and Miley Cyrus both deactivated their accounts and some companies such as Proctor and Gamble are revising their strategy so pulling the plug on brand accounts such as Oral B’s. With such a fast rise, can Twitter maintain its appeal? As one Stephen Fry follower @TheWittyGirl put it “ It’s all a matter or (sic) luck. With a 1.1 million followers it’s stacked against you that I ever see a tweet. But now I have xxx”. The more you have following you, i.e. the more popular you are, the less you actually communicate with your followers, which entirely misses the point.
- The big money question for Twitter. In September, the firm raised significant funding rumoured to be in the region of $100 million. Now, maybe I am missing something, but Twitter still does not generate significant revenue, if any at all. One of its founders, Biz Stone, said last year that it would consider charging corporate accounts. It hasn’t yet, but it knows it is a thorny issue. Twitter knows the reason that people love it is because it is free. When they eventually work out a decent revenue model, it will be interesting to see whether all the nice, warm fuzzy communication that companies are indulging in with their customers will continue. I am betting it will not.