THE BLOG
08/21/2015 10:30 am ET Updated Aug 20, 2016

Is Marketing on Twitter Worth the Investment?

The world of social media marketing seems to grow more diverse by the day, as new social platforms emerge and older social platforms add new functionality that makes them bigger and better or just harder to approach. There's no question that investing in a social media strategy can pay off, if done wisely, but choosing the right applications for that investment is the tricky part.

For example, Facebook's dominant user force of more than 1.1 billion active monthly users and its robust advertising platform make it an efficient marketing channel for nearly any business that seeks to use it. But what about Twitter, arguably Facebook's closest rival? Is it worth the marketing dollars it would take to build a decent campaign?

Twitter's Unique Advantages

While I do describe Twitter as Facebook's closest rival, it's actually a very different kind of social platform. Unique in functionality, user mentalities, and posting activities, Twitter holds a number of distinct advantages that no other social platform can touch:

  • Twitter is far more public than Facebook, which has a number of benefits for brands trying to market to an audience. For example, you can find new potential followers quite easily and follow them directly in the hopes of getting a follow-back. This quality makes it easy to build a following quickly. Plus, you'll have the opportunity to get to know your demographics better by seeing who else they follow and how they interact.
  • You'll get more opportunities to post. Twitter loves rapid-fire posting, which means you can post all day if you'd like, and nobody will cite you for being spammy or annoying. The only flip side is that each post gets less visibility.
  • Sharing is lightning fast. Retweets and favorites on Twitter work quickly and easily, making it easier and faster for your posts to go viral. You'll still have to work hard to ensure the maximum shareability of your posts, but once one takes off, it will take off hard.
  • Hashtags exist and can be taken advantage of. Whether you're making your own hashtag as a promotional technique or you're capitalizing on someone else's, hashtags can be powerful if used properly, and Twitter is the perfect platform to use to do it.
  • Twitter lists are a convenient way to make the most of the platform. You can organize your followers into segmented demographics or select lists of industry influencers that you can engage and network with. This makes it easier to follow a solid long-term strategy on either the marketing or networking side of things.

Where Twitter Falls Short

Unfortunately, Twitter's unique structure also makes it vulnerable to a number of disadvantages:

  • Twitter's "promoted tweet" function serves as its unique style of advertising for business. It does have a number of analytics and tracking functions, and in terms of pricing, it's relatively affordable. However, the impact of its advertising compared to Facebook simply isn't competitive, and the lack of robustness in its platform leaves it in a distant second.
  • The fleeting nature of Twitter's posting structure means that while you'll have access to a greater range of potential followers, the relationships you build with those followers will be less meaningful. Twitter is a less personal, less developed, more moment-to-moment platform, so it's hard to use it for building a stronger reputation.
  • B2B marketing isn't very effective. As a B2B company, you can definitely use Twitter to find new connections, build influence, and share content, but in terms of directly marketing a product or service, it's almost useless, especially compared to the B2B-specific functionality of LinkedIn.
  • Despite having an impressive number of active monthly users, at 302 million, it still pales in comparison to Facebook's 1.1 billion. That means no matter how effective you are at using Twitter, you'll still only have access to about one-third of the total demographics that Facebook can offer.
  • There's no real specialized audience. The demographics do tend to skew younger, but other than that there is no "average" Twitter user. This makes Twitter a generalized social media platform, which makes it inferior to specialized platforms if you have a specialized audience. For example, Snapchat is far more effective for teenagers and young adults, and Pinterest is far more effective for female audiences, while LinkedIn is far better for reaching business owners, executives, and professionals in high-skill industries.

What's in the Pipeline?

It's also worth mentioning that Twitter is a constantly evolving platform, and it has many new functionalities in the works. It recently acquired Periscope, an app that allows users to stream a first-person video in real time, and is integrating that functionality with the average Twitter newsfeed. The company is also developing a feature called "Moments," which until now was referred to as "Project Lightning," which hopes to aggregate user data to report on news and live events in real time.

Some of Twitter's upcoming projects are interesting and all of them are advanced, but the majority of them are skewed toward its user base. Few updates to its advertising platform are predicted, and it's unlikely that these changes will favor businesses.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Twitter is an excellent complementary platform to major forces like Facebook and LinkedIn. Building an audience and syndicating content on it will yield significant, measurable traffic increases. However, its advertising platform leaves something to be desired. If you're investing in social media strategies, put your time into Twitter as a platform, but put your advertising money somewhere else.