For Anyone Looking to Market a Product, Twitter Can Be Even More Important Than Facebook
Twitter is the second-most popular social network in the world, and the ninth most-most popular website worldwide. But I believe for marketing, Twitter is the most important social media account to have.
First let me say I’m comparing Twitter to Facebook not because they are the most similar, or because I think you should neglect to promote yourself on Facebook.
I compare Twitter to Facebook because most people see Facebook as an important part of their marketing strategy, while neglecting the little blue bird.
Sure, Facebook is the second-most popular website in the world. But most of the people who use it expect it to be a personal space. Facebook is where people share photos of their vacation and videos of kittens. You are expected to have one profile for all the different “hats” you wear, encompassing what you do at work, how you spend your free time, what music enjoy and what stories you’ve been reading…the whole kit and caboodle.
Twitter allows you to brand yourself. You can have a multitude of Twitter profiles and no one frowns upon it as they would if you had a variety of Facebook personae. This means if you’ve written the book Zombies With Guns you can have a Twitter feed that focuses exclusively on weapons, ammo, and surviving the zombie apocalypse.
On Facebook, your friends and family would be irritated by your constant stream of zombie and gun info, because they are not your target audience. On Twitter, your account is specifically for that purpose, so all of your followers would be people interested in that kind of content. Sure, you can get fifty of your friends to like your company on Facebook, but on Twitter those followers are not your pals but potential customers.
Facebook has created a number of ways to compete with this advantage. They created groups, then changed, them, and are now getting rid of them. They created company pages. But in my experience, it is harder to gain followers of a Facebook company page than a Twitter page, even though many more people are on Facebook!
That’s because people go to Facebook to talk to people they already know in real life. People go to Twitter to find out what’s going on in the world and to receive updates on their favorite subjects.
Don’t Think of Twitter As A Social Network
…instead, think of Twitter as a news source. In many ways, Twitter has become what RSS promised to be: an easy way to follow all of your favorite media sources at once. Instead of logging into CNN or the New York Times, you login to Twitter and read tweets as you would headlines.
The most frequent complaint I’ve heard from people who don’t “get” Twitter is that they don’t see the relevance of the updates they’re seeing. This is generally because the first group of people they’ve followed is that of their real-life acquaintances, usually pulled in from their email contacts list.
The second batch of tweeters they tend to follow are the corporate accounts of well-known news sources. All of these are worth following, but they’re not the sort of contacts that give Twitter value. The former are going to post things that are of little relevance, and no different than what you get on Facebook, while the corporate news is going to give impersonal headlines and little more.
If A Social Network is “A Place for Friends” Then Twitter is “A Place for Acquaintances”
You’d think this would be an insult, but if you are looking to market something, you are not looking for friends. Friends are too much commitment. What you need is a space where it is both OK and encouraged to do what your momma warned against: talk to strangers.
The people you want to follow on Twitter are those you want to network with, whether it be business contacts, bloggers you’re infatuated with, nonprofits and companies you respect, or influential activists and journalists. One advantage of Twitter over Facebook is that you can follow someone without forcing them to follow you back.
The beauty of this is you can keep up with the status updates of influential and famous people that you would surely hesitate to friend on Facebook. For example, I follow Naomi Klein, Nathan Fillion, Lady Gaga, Patton Oswald and a dozen book agents I’ve not personally met.
When you find the right people to follow, Twitter can provide an up-to-the-minute snapshot of what’s happening in your industry (or hobby, or obsession). It will put you in touch with the people who are writing about, buying, or selling the thing you are looking to publicize.
In the case of our Zombies With Guns book, you would follow survivalist bloggers, zombie enthusiasts, publishing professionals, webmasters of horror sites, and book reviewers. You can organize these contacts into lists, so you can get updates on just one category at a time, or login to your main page to see them all at once. Because Twitter is low-commitment, you can freely un-follow someone whose updates turn out not to be useful without any feelings of guilt.
Twitter is A Public Space and Marketing There is Not Discouraged
As Facebook has expanded to embrace companies, they’ve moved into an awkward space. Most people still view Facebook as a personal space, even if half their friends share all of their content publicly. A post like, “Three reasons today is the day you should buy my book: [link]” feels strangely impersonal on Facebook, particularly as your previous post was “ZOMG Cathy! I love house-sitting for you but I wish your dog would stop pooping in my shoes!”
It doesn’t matter if the image you’re trying to convey is that of a professional. If you are trying to promote your goth-glam band, Suicide Pact, you’ll have the same difficulties when you want to post a happy-go-lucky status update on the occasion of your sister’s wedding.
Conversely, Twitter has always been a public space and blatant promotional messages are not discouraged. Instead of a whole lot of interpersonal fluff with the occasional status update about the projects they’re impassioned about, you get a whole lot of status updates about their projects with the occasional “life fluff” to give it character.
Everyone has a few Facebook contacts that share nothing but life fluff: what they ate for breakfast, how annoying work is, what TV show or game they’re enjoying at the moment. Many of these people aren’t interested in sharing their life publicly, their updates are for their close-knit circle. These people are not even on Twitter.
Rather than stream-of-consciousness drivel, Twitter is primarily populated by users who consciously craft their message for an audience. Most of them have something to promote, whether it’s a product, ideology or website. This has two benefits. First, no one will mind if you do the same. Second, it is clear what sort of content you’ll get by following them.
All of what I’m describing is why people describe Twitter not as a social network but as a “microblog.” If you are looking to promote that goth-glam band, you probably will not be able to write a blog post about every single thing you discover that is remotely related to your band (at least, not if these are quality blog posts).
What you can do is tweet about everything that even remotely touches on Suicide Pact—not just related bands and websites, but articles about medieval torture chambers and discount coupons for glitter boots and photo montages of broken violins and midi recordings of old sailor shanties.
As a brand, the @SuicidePact Twitter stream is a destination for all things dark but lovely, like your band. In turn, some of those authors, products and photographers that you tweet about are going to notice your band and return the favor.
You are networking not merely by adding “friends” or “connections” or “followers” in a never-ending popularity contest. No. The value is in what you do with those contacts. You are networking by creating a space where you promote your project and other projects like your own.
This is inherently more meaningful, because instead of a friendly greeting you’re providing something of value by sharing their posts with your audience, an audience that is specific to your like-minded brand.
The Best Reason to Use Twitter
One final reason you should be promoting on Twitter: it’s easy. I don’t mean that it’s easy to write a single 140-character status update a day, though that is certainly true. I mean that Twitter is so ubiquitous that many sites have automated Twitter status updates.
It is extremely likely that whatever content management system your blog runs on has an app or option to automatically push your latest blog out to Twitter. If you already promote your project on Facebook, there are tools like Hootesuite and Tweetdeck to send your update to both Twitter and Facebook at the same time.
Sites like Postly, Bit.ly, Posterous, and IfTTT allow more complex options for automatically sharing anything you can imagine on Twitter. While I don’t recommend relying on automated updates for the entirety of your Twitter presence, why miss out on free publicity that requires zero work beyond setup?