Why Twitter is over-rated for startups and SMEs

By Craig Reardon

It must be one of the most baffling aspects of social media to the smaller business operator.

Because Twitter appears to be everywhere.

Turn on the television, there are twitter feeds on the bulk of live programs. Same with radio and media websites. Broadcasters everywhere ask for your tweets.

Tweets appear to be the language of the consumer right?

Well, not so fast.

For all the exposure given to twitter, as far as the SME is concerned it remains a minor player.

Seventh on the table

For the record, according to SocialMediaNews.com.au, Facebook is by far the biggest social network with approximately 14 million users in Australia.

In the meantime, sexy but not-so-popular Twitter ranks a surprising (and declining) seventh of all social networks, with a comparatively paltry 2.7 million users.

Admittedly this website mistakenly classifies second-placed Youtube (a free video publication platform) and third-placed WordPress (a blogging platform) as social media sites but the point remains.

Only 2.7 million users in a population of 24 million? Whats all the fuss about?

The fuss is about this.

Twitter as source

Twitter is the social medium for the person on the go. Celebrities, athletes, journalists, tradespeople (yes tradespeople) and cab drivers.

Pretty much anyone who isn’t deskbound seems to be a Twitter user.

It appears that folk on the run don’t have the time to pore through the images and relatively lengthy text of Facebook, instead preferring the short, sharp digital bursts that Twitter provides.

But from a commercial perspective, the amount of attention given across to Twitter makes no sense at all.

A numbers game

In such games dominated by audience numbers and hence (usually) advertising dollars, giving so much prominence to the seventh ranked social network doesn’t seem to stack up.

I mean, why quote the users of a social network which is used by five times fewer users than the most popular network?

The answer seems to lie in the fact Twitter is the most used platform by the media itself.

What appears to be happening is that because the professionals responsible for creating the content use Twitter so extensively, they assume the public are doing the same and so favour it when it comes to asking the public to engage with it.

Awesome research tool

From a research or information gathering perspective, the use of Twitter by these media professionals makes perfect sense.

Because so many celebrities and other newsmakers tend to comment on twitter, it provides them with direct access to comments and quotes directly from celebrities.

This is why so many news reports across all media quote from Twitter feeds directly from their sources.

However, many television and radio programmes tend to publish Twitter feeds from the public – and this makes far less sense.

Facebook is numero uno

Facebook is clearly the social medium of choice for Australian consumers, so if you wish to engage with them, Facebook is clearly the social medium you need to use.

Whether the reason for such Twitter-centricism is a technical one, or just one of ignorance or laziness is hard to pinpoint.

In the meantime, ignorance of the 14 million-strong Facebook user base is a bit like covering a suburban league instead of the A grade of your sports competition.

It may hold some interest for a few, but it is chicken feed compared to where the real action is happening.

Relevance to SMEs

Hopefully the media will realise this before it alienates too many more of its audience by engaging using a decreasingly relevant social medium – particularly to smaller business.

As far as most SMEs are concerned, Twitter remains a minor player compared to other networks. However, given it costs little more to distribute your messages to Twitter whilst distributing them to other social media, it probably does little harm in the scheme of things.

In fact to some segments of the market, it remains an important and low cost promotional and communications channel.

It’s really prioritising it ahead of Facebook that is the real crime here.

For SME operators it’s a matter of understanding your market and its use of social media and applying the correct strategy accordingly.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.

This article was originally published on SmartCompany.

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