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How Twitter Learned to Compete with Email Marketing

When it comes to measurable digital marketing, nothing beats email.


For every post that goes to Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, a single email newsletter is more “valuable,” because it’s more trackable. For all of the engagement opportunity that social sites present, they are all notoriously difficult to measure outside of network growth.

By contrast, email marketing lets us see when an a message has been:

  • received
  • bounced
  • opened
  • clicked (+ what was clicked)
  • unsubscribed
  • socially shared
  • and forwarded

This is why you hear the expression “build your list.”  In short, it’s extremely trackable.  As an email list grows, marketers can begin inserting ads, for additional revenue.  Based upon what people click, a marketer can segment its audience.  Most social sites can’t compete with that…

Here’s how Twitter will learn to compete head on with email marketing.

Changes in incoming messages: The Follow -vs- The List

Twitter has essentially two forms of messages: public and private.  It’s one of the things that makes the network so appealing to so many: simplicity.

Direct Messages (Private messages) can only be initiated from the followed, to the follower.  Said differently, you can only send private messages to people that are following you.  To a certain extent this equates to an email opt-in, or at least that’s how it could be…

At one point in time, the “follow” made sense.  That time was years ago, and well before following more than 100 people.  Since then, the follow has lost some of its luster and the Home Feed quickly became a noisy playground of randomness. The only way to clearly follow multiple topics or interests is to create lists. With the advent of lists, the “follow” has become less about who’s content you want to receive, so much as it is opening up the opportunity to receive direct messages from the entity you follow.

Lists are currently capped at 20.  But Twitter is smart, and following in the footsteps of Google+ circles, will remove the limit to the number of lists you can have.

Twitter will begin treating the follow as an opt-in and will begin marketing it as such, while simultaneously encouraging the creation of lists to curate content.

How Twitter takes on Email Marketing

To take on email marketing Twitter needs to be able to offer targeted, trackable messaging at scale.  This means that it’s not enough to make it trackable, it has to be easy and scalable.  That means sending to multiple people simultaneously.  Can you imagine if email marketing made you send newsletters one-by-one?  The way Twitter will take on email is to enable mass direct messaging with tracking.  Remember, the follow is now treated as an opt-in.

To illustrate how it works, I’ll use an example.

I’m a Knicks fan, so I choose to follow the Knicks on Twitter.


The Knicks decide to put me on one of their lists called “Out of Town Fans.”  One weekend the Knicks are set to play a home game at Madison Square Garden, and notice that ticket sales have slumped a little.  They decide to offer a weekend getaway package in conjunction with the Holiday Inn.  They populate a direct message and send it out to the list called “Out of Town Fans.”  Only the people on the list that are following the Knicks will receive the message.

I wake up, look at my direct messages and since I follow the Knicks, I notice the message. I open it up, click the link, hit the landing page and decide to take advantage of it.

On the backend, the Knicks drop into a Twitter dashboard, which they pay a yearly fee to access (#revenue). In that dashboard, they are able to see the results of that particular tweet campaign.  They can see clickthrough rates, who unfollowed (unsubscribed) and if someone deleted it.  Much like an email marketing campaign, these individuals would all be tracked.  The Knicks would know exactly who opened, clicked, unsubscribed, etc.  Twitter will also build this dashboard to easily integrate or export to various CRM systems.  Smart, eh?

Furthermore, the dashboard lets the Knicks see through a Twitter search, if anyone reshared it publicly.  They can combine all of this data with their website analytics data and get a pretty clear picture of how things are working using Twitter.

Oh, the Spam

So maybe you are wondering, what about all those spammers?  Well, simple enough…unfollow.  It’s just like an unsubscribe.

If you really want to see what Nicki Minaj has to say but are sick of getting her ridiculous Direct Messages trying to sell you pink wigs, glitter and fake butts, just unfollow. You can still follow her public insanity by putting her in a list.

What do you think, does this give Twitter a shot?

If you like this idea, send this post to Twitter by clicking the button below.

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Go any other suggestions for this idea?  Sound off in the comments.



Join The Conversation

  • Dec 26 Posted 4 years ago CXthecloud

    Hi, Jeff! I loved this article! Personall, as a social media marketer, Twitter is my favorite platform and has generated by far the most leads for me--being able to direct message your followers is a really great way to get a genuine, meaningful conversation going! Thanks!

  • Romona Foster's picture
    Dec 25 Posted 4 years ago Romona Foster

    Very interesting, Jeff.  I love the idea of "tweet campaigns."

  • Dec 24 Posted 4 years ago MDwebpro (not verified)

    Insightful document Jeff.And this will facilitate marketing of medical services through twitter.


    Erick Kinuthia


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