Do I have to use Twitter?

Using Twitter like going to the dentist?

Around the office this morning, several coworkers were lamenting about the inescapable feeling that they absolutely, positively have to use Twitter as a part of their jobs.


This confused me a bit, being that I am the person responsible for Digital Marketing in our company and I never push social media participation on those who don’t want it. So, I asked questions.

“Who told you that you have to use Twitter?”

“Have you used Twitter before? Why the strong reaction to using it now?”

“Why do you feel like you have to speak to Twitter as part of your job?”

The answers were fairly typical, things like “Well, our clients use Twitter so we need to know all about it” to “Everyone else is using it so I should too.”

I personally don’t believe that you should feel obligated to know everything about social networks to be a good digital marketer (and the lines between digital marketing and traditional marketing are being blurred). Nor have I found Twitter to be essential in any of the campaigns I’ve been involved in for clients. Twitter can be a great tool for lots of things, but using the right tool for the job, or in this case, the right medium to reach audiences and meet strategic objectives, should always be your overriding goal.

You shouldn’t start with the premise that you have to use Twitter (or Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ etc) but instead ask yourself, “how can I reach the people I want to reach in the most effective way” and “what tools are most effective for ME to use to reach people.” Believe me, if you compare your time signed into Twitter to getting your teeth pulled at the dentist, then it is going to show in your tweets (and no one wants to follow a grouch, believe me I know).

Learn from my failures

Here is an example from my own experience with Twitter, from where I started to where I am today.

Being an early adopter, I jumped in the Twitter bandwagon back when it was released at SXSW in 2006. Like most, I didn’t quite get it and even to this day there are times when I ask myself what Twitter is actually trying to be. Is it “text messaging” for the Internet? Is it an advertising platform? Does Twitter even want to be a conversation hub? Was it a photo sharing service?

One the problems I think people have with grasping Twitter is that it aspires to be so many things to so many different people.

Okay, so I have struggled over the years to really know how to use this tool effectively. My initial thought was to use it to meet new people and converse. Then, I decided I wanted to see if I could use it as a way to drive leads into client businesses. Then, it became a tool I used for crowd sourcing information (have a question, ask the crowd). Most recently, I’ve tried to tap into Twitter as a way to establish my thought leadership in digital marketing, search engine optimization, WordPress, video games, you name it.

Twitter and Cats

When all else fails, tweet a picture of a cat to find responses.


Through it all – through all of these different use cases, I have found that Twitter isn’t essential for me, an individual or an in-house marketer, to accomplish my objectives.

Twitter is merely adequate for conversation. I’ve talked about it many times before, but the fact is that while the limitation on tweets at 140 characters can force you to think more critically about what is actually worth writing, that it isn’t great for actually discussing super substantive topics. That, and the frequency in which people miss messages directed at them when they aren’t reciprocally following is annoying. In many ways, I feel like Twitter was an accidental success.

Twitter isn’t super efficient at driving leads in my experience. Generally Twitter users are less engaged than Facebook users, spend less time on your site, bounce more often and buy less. It seems like they are generally just more casual.

For crowdsourcing, Twitter used to be wonderful. Back in 2006, when there were fewer people on the network and the ones who were there being more technically savvy, early adopting and less casual, you could tap into a wealth of information. People were more likely to see your questions being that there was a lot less noise in their Twitter feeds. Today its very difficult to compete with the automated sharing services (I’m guilty too, I love Buffer for scheduling things) and people seem to be far less engaged in watching their feed, content to just check occasionally or, sometimes not at all.

My experiments with building thought leadership on Twitter have yielded some unsurprising results. Don’t expect to get much attention to your articles unless you have literally thousands of followers. Don’t expect clicks on links unless you are adept at writing headlines. Don’t expect people to spend time helping to promote your content unless you spend a disproportionate amount of time helping them promote theirs, and then, don’t necessarily expect them to notice that in the first place.

Quality over Quantity hasn’t helped.

I’ve been pretty selective about the number of people I follow on Twitter . Literally, the number is hovering at around 100 because any more and I feel like I can’t keep up with all the tweets in a meaningful way. I also used to spend a lot of time cultivating my followers list – if you were a pornstar, I’d block you. If you were someone that I had literally nothing in common with professionally or was selling something, I’d block you. Therefore, I should have a very specific list of followers who are pre-disposed to being at least casually interested in what I say and what I write about.

Typically, the number of people who click on anything I share on Twitter is low – less than 1%. Most of the time, that number is 0%.

“Do I have to use Twitter?”

I’d say the answer is not necessarily, but you should give it a try first. Like anything else, it is hard to make a decision without information. You might be pleasantly surprised with Twitter, or you might decide it isn’t worth the time. For me, I spend sparingly little time with it and have drastically pared down my expectations. Instead, I use the time I would be tweeting to write posts like this one, wondering whether or not Twitter is worth it!

What conclusions have you come to from using Twitter? Do you feel like it is an essential part of your marketing and if so, why?