In only six years, Twitter, has morphed from an instant messaging (IM) platform on steroids to take its place among the world’s most important social media tools. And like other truly global platforms, Twitter has quickly added language support. Companies who have embraced more traditional social media like Facebook and LinkedIn, however, still have a ways to go when it comes to effectively harnessing Twitter’s global potential.
Twitter’s concept is simple: provide users with a personal and “present tense” microblogging tool. Like SMS or IM platforms, Twitter postings must be very short and contain only 140 characters including spaces, hashtags and @ identifiers. Unlike SMS and IM, Twitter’s has a wider reach because users can follow and interact with other registered users, not just a short list of friends.
The platform launched officially on July 15, 2006 and tweet volume reached one billion by 2008. In 2009, a Nielson Online graph pegged Twitter’s annual growth at a staggering 1,382% as compared to Facebook with a YOY growth rate of 228%. Today, Twitter’s volume has grown to one billion tweets every three days.
Clearly, not all that traffic is in English.
Developed in the U.S., English was Twitter’s mother tongue but it didn’t stay English-only for long. In April 2010, Twitter announced that 60% of Twitter account registrations came from outside the U.S. and that the company had websites in six languages. In February 2011, Twitter unveiled the Translation Center, a crowdsourcing initiative intended to ramp up language support on the platform.
Despite Twitter’s multilingual marketing power, multinationals have been slow to cash in on the platform’s potential. A 2010 report by John Yunker, a recognized language industry expert, demonstrated that a surprisingly small percentage of the multinationals studied tweeted and even fewer did it well.
Flash foward to 2012, and some companies are still wondering what all the fuss is about. Admittedly, Twitter is new, hip, and now. And Twitter is multilingual. But with all the social media platforms available — Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn are just the tip of a growing iceberg — why should your company invest in yet another?
Like other platforms and even your company website, Twitter provides an opportunity to build your brand. It can also help you reach out to your existing customer base and better serve their needs and, at the same time, reveal and attract potential new customers. But Twitter does something better than the other platforms you use:
- Twitter is all about transparency. And that’s scary. But it can also be an asset and, increasingly, a requirement for your company in a world where authenticity matters.
- Immediacy is Twitter’s middle name. If you use it right, the platform can provide news hot off the wire, real-time information that might have an impact on your company, your business sector, your client base and your competitors’ activities. Twitter’s coverage of Tropical Storm Sandy and Rover’s tweets from Mars clearly demonstrate that the platform has “legs” and reach. And that goes both ways. Much faster than a press release or a (frequently unnoticed) Facebook or web page update, with a skillful Twitter campaign, you can disseminate critical information to a wide swath of stakeholders.
- Twitter, be there or be square. “Everyone’s doing it” didn’t work when you were a kid. For a company, it’s even weaker as a policy driver. That said, if people are talking about you on Twitter, you should be part of that conversation. As inbound marketing strategist Alonso Chehade writes, “With over 340 million messages per day, chances are there is already a conversation about your business, product or service happening on Twitter.”
So, how do you build a winning Twitter strategy?
- Get a grip: That means mindfully and proactively developing your strategy before your local resources do it for you.
- Go to the streets: As a more “personal” social platform rooted in the present tense, an effective Twitter strategy requires local, informed and informative resources.
- Get creative: particularly in a global context, broadtweeting “one-size-fits-all” message points translated wholesale just won’t cut it.
- Learn the ropes: Remember that the media is the message. That means your message needs to respect the platform’s limits, proper SMS syntax, and use hashtags to up your SEO quotient count.
The sheer volume written about social media, including Twitter, demonstrates that the true impacts of the phenomenon may take years to analyze. Some writers are predicting that Facebook will fade away and that Twitter will live on; others crow that corporate enthusiasm for social media is cooling across the board and rightfully so.
As usual, the truth probably lies someplace in the middle.
Photo attribution: wharman