Why brands need an always-on approach to Twitter



An always-on approach – both in terms of overall patterns of Twitter activity and use of paid media – is the most effective. That’s the key finding from a piece of research we carried out for Twitter.

We found that always-on brands (those with a consistent, high level of Twitter activity) get:

  • 2 times as many total @mentions;
  • 2.3 times as many total retweets;
  • 9% higher positive sentiment;
  • 2.5 times greater share of voice;

compared to those with a campaign approach (a baseline of low volume Twitter activity, with sporadic episodes of higher volume activity).

Adding paid media into the mix also had a positive effect. Brands with an always-on approach that use promoted tweets, account and trends on a consistent basis get:

  • 4 times as many total @mentions;
  • 5 times as many total retweets;
  • 3.2% decrease in positive sentiment;
  • 5 times greater share of voice;

compared to brands taking a campaign approach and using paid media sporadically, or not at all.

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We’re not suggesting that there’s a ‘one-size fits all’ pattern of social media activity that will lead to success (if there was we’d be selling it, not blogging about it!) but we did come to two main conclusions:

1. Brands should take an always-on approach

The best approach is to tweet frequently and consistently. Occasional spikes aren’t a negative, unless they’re part of an overall pattern of infrequent activity. Campaigns are effective, and are even more so when framed by an approach that’s always-on overall.

Always-on is a more strategic and customer-focused approach: it acknowledges that the relationship with customers is always in development and that there should always be avenues open for conversation. In comparison, a campaign-based approach is more tactical, and more geared to short-term business priorities (e.g. boost sales now!) than customer needs.

In practice this doesn’t mean that simply tweeting a lot is the key to success. It means that it’s worth investing time in finding customer-focused reasons to tweet regularly.

The study didn’t look at different styles of Twitter content being used and it’s likely that this is a key factor for successful brands. A news outlet broadcasting breaking news updates, or a service provider offering customer support would both tweet at a fairly consistent high volume, but for very different reasons, and in very different ways.

The key to success is finding the right always-on approach for your customer’s needs. Do you have enough new, interesting things to say to justify a broadcast style? Should you be replying to each and every user that mentions your brand? Should you be asking users for their opinions and contributions? Thinking about the customer decision journey can be beneficial in helping to map out all the different kinds of contact customers have with your brand, and their needs at each stage.

2. Editors and content teams need a budget for ads.

An always-on paid approach has an overall positive effect on engagement, advocacy and share of voice.

The results clearly show just how effective always-on paid activity is in distributing content or amplifying a message – roughly doubling engagement, advocacy and share of voice.

Overall, the data gives a strong indication that always-on paid activity can be used effectively as a tool for content amplification and distribution, as well as for brand advertising. If these findings were replicated across other platforms it has implications for the ownership of social advertising budgets.

Far from being a tool that should be controlled by ad teams or paid media teams, we feel paid activity on Twitter should be used tactically by social media teams, editors and content teams. Paid social media advertising is often met with a poor response, and achieves poor results because of this. This could be because budgets sit with teams and agencies that are focused on advertising and treat social media like it’s just another ad platform, rather than acknowledging that it requires a different approach.

Paid media is an essential tool in the box, but not the first tool that you should be picking up. In a content supply chain way of thinking about the world, you need to have strong distribution tools. But they come at the end of a process that starts with the customer journey. For content to be truly successful, you need an understanding of how to meet the customer’s needs with content and experiences, and then distribute that content and signpost it in places that they will be looking for them.