There is so much wrong with the conclusions eMarketer has drawn from a LinkedIn and Harris Interactive study of Twitter, it's hard to know where to start.
The results of the researchâ€"conducted in June among US advertisers and Internet usersâ€"led eMarketer to conclude:
While marketers, advertisers and members of the media have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, the average US consumer has not. And without broader consumer acceptanceâ€"not to mention awarenessâ€"it can't be considered an effective marketing tool.
This assertion is based on these findings:
- Only 31% of Web users are familiar with Twitter compared to 83% of advertisers
- 58% of advertisers found Twitter very effective or effective as a marketing channel
- 50% of consumers found it to be a very effective or effective marketing channel
Here's the standard eMarketer graph of one of the key bits of the LinkedIn/Harris report:
eMarketer's belief that Twitter is ineffective is based mostly on the fact that only 31% of Web users are familiar with it. While this suggests that Twitter has not yet become the take-it-for-granted infrastructure some believe it has (what percentage of the Web population is familar with Facebook?), it does not diminish its potential as a channel for marketers who use it well. After all, the idea in social media marketing isn't to reach your consumers directly, but rather to reach influencers. Early adopters are generally seen as influencers who share their opinions with their networks, which are not confined to Twitter.
Then there's the notion that one of Twitter's best uses for companies is in establishing and building relationships, not traditional marketing. Comcast's initial "Can I help?" outreach to complaining customers is one example; the army of Dell employees who build communities is another. And despite a rocky start, the concept behind Best Buy's Twelpforce is a bold oneâ€"front-line employees volunteering to respond to customers who send them questions.
Speaking of Dell, the $2 million earned by the Dell Outlet based on tweets announcing special offers may be chump change in the overall scheme of the company's earnings. But it's $2 million they wouldn't have earned without the Dell Outlet Twitter account and the effort involved in generating that $2 million was minimal.
On a side note, I have to wonder about the 50% of consumers who find Twitter effective, since only 31% are aware of it at all. I assume that's 50% of those who are familiar with Twitter. But it's something of a specious argument, since Twitter continues to grow at an astonishing rateâ€"from May to June alone, Twitter added about 5 million users, according to Nielsen. Greater awareness is coming.
The Nielsen/Harris study also suggests awareness of Twitter is greatest among younger Web usersâ€"even though Nielsen's data shows that just 16% of U.S. visitors to Twitter are under 25. This group represents 25% of the total active base of U.S. Internet users.
And finally, when half or more of respondents tell you they find a channel effective for marketing, isn't it a bit of a stretch to conclude that the channel is ineffective?
This is why research needs to be taken with a grain of salt.