Twitter: the should-be conversation channel

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Twitter: the should-be conversation channel
Twitter: the should-be conversation channel

Twitter users are neglecting brands in their social dialogue. In The Conversation Index Volume 5, Bazaarvoice reported that the volume of daily tweets has skyrocketed 143% from 2011 to 2012 but that tweeted brand mentions have trailed behind, increasing by 113%.

“I'm not sure that brands have really figured out how to be conversational on Twitter,” says Ian Greenleigh, manager of content and social strategy at Bazaarvoice. “I think good content and engagement will generate activity. Although [brands] seem to be getting better, our data shows that they're not keeping pace with the inflation of activity on Twitter overall. They're not doing the things consistently that lead to more engagement, and they're not making their content as socially sharable as it should be in a lot of instances.”

Bazaarvoice compared 26 million tweets to more than 8,000 TV and radio mentions, 17 months of stock price data, more than 18 months of Google search data, and 270,000 consumer generated content from online reviews. All of the data points, which were acquired through the help of Gnip and, stemmed from the same 13 brands, which included Adidas, Clinique, Colgate, Gillette, Hugo Boss, Nike, Pampers, Pepsi, Ralph Lauren, Samsung, Intel, Tesco, and Sony, according to the report.

Based on the research, Twitter followers are providing brands with less consumer insight than before. In fact, the proportion of original tweets containing brand mentions dwindled from 85% in 2010, to 82% in 2011, to 78% in 2012, according to the report. Greenleigh says that this decline could be the result of a few Twitter users dominating the conversation.

“I think this has to do with the influence of the average user increasing. One hallmark of someone having a lot of influence is that their content will be retweeted and shared more frequently,” Greenleigh says. “That seems to be happening more and more where a few users are driving a lot of conversation about brands, and a lot of that conversation is in response to what they've tweeted—and a lot of the time its verbatim.”

However, the report claims that Twitter users want to put in their two cents and discuss their personal experiences with a brand. The report compared search terms to Twitter mentions and discovered that Twitter users were inclined to use self-identifying words such as “I” and “my” and to mention products and campaigns. Yet, when Bazaarvoice compared Twitter mentions to search interest, the company saw no correlation or even a decline in search interest. To ensure that a brand is engaging in a two-way conversation with a customer rather than a one-way dialogue, Greenleigh suggests looking at each channel's purpose and function differently.

“People are going to those channels for different things—the language and the activities across those channels, they're going to be different depending on what you're looking at,” Greenleigh says. “Tweets about brands are higher up in the purchase funnel, if they can even be considered part of the purchase funnel in some instances....It doesn't really indicate any desire to purchase a product or service;  whereas, if you're searching for a brand, it's likely that you're looking to purchase a product from that brand, so it's a little bit lower down closer to purchase in that funnel. So the ad that you buy in your SEM strategy should reflect that and the ads that you buy on Twitter and the content that you're tweeting should reflect that different use case, as well.”

To highlight Twitter's function as a center for conversation rather than for a vehicle for transaction, Greenleigh highlights that Twitter users who mention brands are including fewer links. According to the report, 68% of Twitter brand mentions included links in 2010; this number dipped to 55% in 2011 and 51% for this first half of 2012.

“I think what that is showing is that people are spending more time on Twitter engaging in more of a conversational way,” Greenleigh says. “When they're talking about brands it's not just saying, ‘Hey I want to buy this,” and sharing the link, which would then cause that user's followers to leave, It's not a portal anymore to a shopping experience; it's more of an ongoing conversation about those brands that's self-contained for the most part.”

To keep consumers engaged, Greenleigh advises brands to tailor their Twitter accounts to their customers' needs.

“In general, they shouldn't just have one Twitter account. They need to have more than one account engaging with different groups of users for different reasons. For instance, maybe one account dedicated to customer service, so that fans of the brands aren't just seeing a stream of apologetic tweets and they're actually getting the content they really want from a different account.”


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