While recent coverage of Twitter has focused on the company's growth woes and challenges, the platform remains a hugely valuable source of insights and opportunities for brands. More than half a billion tweets are sent every day - around 6,000 every second - while over 310 million people use Twitter every month. What's more, Twitter still remains the place to be to get the latest breaking news and live event coverage. Last September, the MTV VMAs became the most tweeted about non-sports event in the platform's history, while just recently, an interview with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a new Twitter record for total Tweets during a live news TV interview.
While the wider sentiment suggests that Twitter has lost some of its shine in recent times, it remains one of the key platforms for all brands - either through direct communication with their target audiences or for research purposes.
Basically, if you're a brand and you're not on Twitter you're missing out.
But for small businesses in particular, what are you actually missing out on?
To find out more about how Twitter users are interacting with SMBs on the platform, Twitter enlisted research firm Research Now to survey over 5,450 people from around the world that follow a small or medium-sized business on the platform in order to get a sense of why they follow these businesses and how that activity relates to their actual purchase behaviors as a result. They've incorporated the findings into a new research whitepaper - here are some of the key highlights.
Of the 5,450 users Twitter surveyed, 90% of them are active on the platform weekly, with 57.6% using Twitter every day, making them a fairly indicative group, in terms of platform use and relative exposure to brand content. The users in the research group came from the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Pacific, Brazil, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Australia, Japan and Singapore, though there's no specific breakdown as to how many users were from each region.
The first note Twitter highlights is that of the users in that group, around 30% of them are regularly seeing tweet content from SMBs.
From this exposure, 66.4% of respondents indicated that they've discovered new SMBs on Twitter, with the majority of that discovery actually coming from the platform's "Who to Follow" recommendations.
This is somewhat surprising - Twitter's often been criticized for the lack of focus in the "Who to Follow" section with the highlighted accounts being relatively random or only vaguely associated with your on-platform actions, though they have worked to update their algorithms in this regard (most notably with the recent move to highlight more relevant tweets in your timeline).
The data here also underlines the value of re-tweets as a means of generating exposure, coming in as the second most common SMB discovery method, while promoted tweets also rank relatively high on the list.
And for those newsjackers out there, seeing a tweet in a hashtag conversation also comes up as a prominent discovery method - worth considering in your Twitter strategy planning.
Path to Purchase
So what do Twitter users do after they've discovered a new brand via tweet?
According to the research, more than a quarter of users have gone on to make a purchase from a brand they've found via the platform, while almost 40% have visited their store.
Importantly, after that initial discovery is made, Twitter users become increasingly likely to engage with those brands, with almost 80% of respondents indicating that they've subsequently made contact with brands via tweet.
And brand responsiveness is of the utmost importance - the true power of social media is that it provides everyone with a voice, a means to get their voice heard, and that element is reflected in Twitter's data. 83% of users that got a reply from the brand/s they'd tweeted felt more positively about the brand as a result.
The Value of Followers
While follower counts can sometimes dismissed as a vanity metric, Twitter's data shows that there's definitive value in the people who genuinely choose to follow your brand.
Based on their responses, up to 93% of users plan to purchase something from an SMB they follow on the platform, while almost 70% have already purchased something from an SMB based on what they've seen from that business' tweets.
The stats underline the value of Twitter engagement - this is not to say that every brand, everywhere will see immediate sales value by being active on Twitter, as it's relative to your, specific audience. But if your customers are active on the platform, if your target market do engage via tweet, the data shows there's clear potential there.
The findings support many other research reports on Twitter as a customer service and outreach platform - customers turn to Twitter to get answers, and those brands that are active and respond are well-placed to win new business via the platform. In this sense, it's worth having an active Twitter presence just to ensure you're being found by those users who may be looking for your business, and monitoring important keywords and mentions to stay on top of relevant exchanges.
Those who are active in their related Twitter communities will also be more likely to show up in the "Who to Follow" listings, further increasing their exposure and marketing potential on the platform.
As noted, you need to do your research first to get an understanding of whether your target audience is active on the platform and what types of information they're seeking via tweet. But for those that take the time, it can be well worth the effort.
The full Twitter "Value of a Follower" whitepaper is available here and includes a range of additional insights, including data on the effectiveness of Promoted Tweets.