Why are they doing this? Because Twitter is popular, and seen as a bandwagon on which to jump. Such knee-jerk thinking betrays a lack of strategic thinking within the business. The plain fact is, there is no point being on Twitter unless the company's marketing strategy provides a specific purpose for being there.
Having said that, let's examine a common use of Twitter by business. It's often seen as an ideal notification medium. And in fact Twitter's primary purpose is to notify other people about what the Tweeter is up to.
Popular Twitter celebrities such as Stephen Fry (1.9 million followers) use the medium for (I suspect) personal amusement. This is why you'll find gems on his Twitter page like this one: "Wet and windy. Then I looked out of the window and saw that the weather is too."
The difficulty for business is to translate the success Stephen Fry has had on a personal level, into a viable business strategy. It's simply not useful for a business owner to tweet about his/her epic boil lancing session. The most common Twitter strategy is...
- Gain as many followers as possible (usually with minimal thought given to who those followers are, why they're interested, and how to convert apparent interest into profit)
- Tell those followers about every new blog article, marketing initiative, shindig, and product the company launches
- Most of the 'news' isn't inherently interesting outside the company because it's self-serving and self-agrandising (yawn)
- The followers are almost always competitors or free-loaders rather than actual viable customers
- The nature of the content and its followers makes it unlikely a tweet will go viral
Successful tweets are those that get retweeted by other users. And the challenge for most business owners is to find content that is retweet-worthy.
Put another way, under what circumstances would you retweet an announcement by Company X that it has just launched Product Y? Here are a few reasons why you might...
- The businesses' own followers are inherently interested in product Y. The Apple iPad is an example of a product that was, in and of itself, exciting to a specific group of people
- A tweet that offers a very attractive special deal available only to Twitter users who retweet the offer and prove they've done so (naturally the offer must be for something the target market actually wants)
- Something so juicy it can't be ignored by those following the business on Twitter, such a link to a YouTube clip of the company chairman running naked down the street while being chased by bears. Sadly, there are very few company chairmen that find themselves in this situation. And even fewer that caught on film
The plain fact is, most business owners are far more interested in what they're up to than the rest of us. A dentist may like to think the wider world is interested in his/her new comfy chairs, or the redecorated waiting area. In reality, none of these things are retweet-worthy. Most of us are simply too busy to care.
Even a business that employs a social media marketing expert to manage it's Twitter presence will struggle to find retweet-worthy content. It's difficult to come up with genuinely compelling ideas. And even harder to have it infect the 'Twittosphere'.
But even if a business down come up with something retweet-worthy, and it does catch on, the question of its own target market remains.
Will the business attract genuine prospects in its target market, or merely act as a source of useful information to its competitors, time-wasters (literally) and marketing free-loaders?
If a business can't attract it's target market, there are far more profitable ways to invest it's marketing budget.