If you're looking to promote your business or brand through social media (and who isn't?!), then Twitter is the place to be in 2015.
Obviously the right social media channel for your company will largely depend on your needs and goals, but generally speaking I've seen Facebook as the best fit for most businesses over the last few years. There are a number of reasons for this: the way content is displayed, the types of content you can post on your page, the way content is shared by fans, the precise and effective advertising options available and, of course, the sheer size of the user base.
But in most of those areas (okay, not number of users), I now see Twitter taking huge steps to catch or even surpass Facebook.
The range of advertising options available on Twitter is brilliant and seems to be constantly evolving and expanding. Their three main ad products still exist (promoted tweets, promoted accounts and promoted trends), but promoted tweets have come a long way.
One of the biggest improvements is the addition of Twitter Cards, which turn a tweet into so much more than just 140 characters. It was always a dilemma before - tweets with images got much better engagement rates, but promote a tweet with an image in and you'll waste most of your money on people clicking to enlarge the photo. With website cards, you now get the image alongside your link, but wherever they click it will follow the link. Much more effective. They've also got Cards for video views, app installs and lead generation, with more to come. Just recently I saw a brilliant new 'Flock to Unlock' card for the new Avengers movie - fans could click the button on the card to send a pre-written tweet including the hashtag #AvengersAssemble - when enough tweets were sent, the trailer was revealed. Automatically a tweet with a link to the trailer was sent to everyone who had clicked the card, but also updated the tweet they'd sent previously to include the trailer. This had them as the #1 trend on Twitter already by the time the trailer was revealed.
We've already seen some of the other ad products being tested, and they look like they could be very useful.
The targeting through Twitter's advertising platform is powerful, with the ability to target niche groups. You can target users similar to followers of a particular handle and broad interest categories, as well as using Tailored Audiences from email lists or remarketing from your website. Targeting by keywords however can often be the most effective, serving ads to users when they are talking about a specific topic, product or problem that you can resolve.
Geo-targeting your ads within the UK was an issue in the past, as Twitter had very few cities in the UK you could select from. Now, their location targeting has reached new levels as you can target postcode sectors within the UK, so you can get very granular with your location targeting.
From having no native reporting whatsoever a year ago, Twitter then introduced Analytics in August and have stepped it up massively over the last few months. And, to be honest, I love it. Twitter's reports are beautiful.
Data is important, but generally, it's not very exciting. Facebook Insights give you plenty of data and it's good, but I think sometimes it gives you a bit too much information, which makes it difficult to know what to do with it - and you can't go back that far with historical data either.
If you look at your tweet activity in Twitter Analytics, I find it gives you exactly the information you need and in a simple, clear and visual way. One of my favourite things that I discovered recently is that you can download all of your tweet analytics for any range of time - so I could pull off all the data from the whole of 2014 to drive deeper into our tweet performance over an entire year. And again, it's another part of Twitter that continues to evolve. Just recently they've added a 'Home' screen for the Analytics, which gives you a 28 day summary at a glance, and a simple overview of each month at a glance. If you could pull these overviews off as a PDF, I'd be in reporting heaven because it would be doing it all for me.
While Facebook are virtually impossible to contact (seriously, try and find an email address or a phone number to get some help - good luck!) and has a help section that's as much use as a metal detector on an Easter egg hunt, Twitter are at the other end of the spectrum and surprise me with how helpful and approachable they are, considering the size of the company.
I've had regular phone calls with them discussing campaigns and new ad products. They host regular free webinars that are extremely well run and helpful for small businesses starting out with Twitter. And they have numerous Twitter handles that can help, such as @TwitterAdsUK and @TwitterUKI_SME (or @TwitterAds if you're not in the UK).
Where do they still need to improve?
While targeting on adverts has improved greatly and is generally very good, it does still have its limitations - one of Twitter's big issues is the lack of data it has on its users. While Facebook collects plenty of biographical information about its users through the information they add to their profile, Twitter doesn't have this, so doesn't actually know your age, gender, or where you live.
As for organic tweets, Twitter doesn't currently have targeting options. If you send a tweet, it goes to all of your followers (and followers of those who retweet you). This can often be a difficulty for brands with local activation, particularly on a global scale, and means many brands have to create many Twitter accounts to serve the different locations they need to speak to.
But they can do it, I'm sure - if they're now offering postcode targeting with promoted tweets, surely they can add in geo-targeting options for organic tweets?
Struggling with your own social media strategy? Thinking of using Twitter as part of your online marketing mix? Download the HPS Group's free Social Media Strategy Guide.
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