Does Twitter Trump Other Social Media

by Jim James

Managing Director

EASTWEST Public Relations Group


Warren Buffett once said that it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it, and that’s probably something that maybe even President Trump is starting to wrestle with now. News that Twitter has started to fact check the President’s stories and his posts on Twitter. This is a first because up until now, he’s been able to tweet with impunity. Whether or not you agree with his political leanings and intentions, he has used the first amendment in America in a way that politicians in other parts of the world certainly would not be able to do. Twitter has some 300 million users and it’s been the channel for Trump to go directly to his base and circumnavigate traditional media.

Important Twitter statistics


The question is whether you as an entrepreneur should we invest our time in Twitter as it is demanding in terms of content and audience expectation. It seems as though Twitter plays a certain kind of role for consumers, but possibly not as influential as even Twitter may think. On the Twitter website, they say that Twitter is the number one platform for discovery; 79% of people on Twitter like to discover what’s new, 53% on Twitter are more likely to be the first to buy new products, that Twitter users spend 26% more time viewing ads than on other leading platforms. So plainly, Twitter and business Twitter is a platform where you can connect with what’s happening. And in the case of Donald Trump, you can connect with maybe what’s not happening.


Twitter does seem to be a necessary channel, and one which can be branded. You can use hashtags, and upload multiple content types, and use it for both distribution and messaging. But what people are really interested in, of course, is that you can start to interest-based target your niche audience through the targeting tools that Twitter has got. So, it is another tool that can be used by entrepreneurs, which is free, of course to start with, and you can build a community using Twitter. And you can run obviously your own your own followers, and you can create your own hashtags if you want to cut across different accounts, and to have different people follow. For example, we were talking about the #Reachfor therazor campaign just the other day.


But the difficulty with Twitter, of course, is the volume of content that flows through Twitter is so fast and so great. Some research done in America found that people in America, especially men, were not using Twitter to find out what to buy. Twitter is being used for discovery, what’s going on what’s trending and really very much like a ticker tape for headlines. Does this make it an essential part of a brand building toolkit though?


Consumers in America, according to this survey, done some time two years ago with some 16,000 consumers shows that actually men are more influenced by blog reviews than women. And that one in five men would say that blog reviews influence their in store purchases. So actually, that’s the long form article by a potentially trusted author, which is getting people to the store and to make the purchases. The question is how do people get to that in the store and to that blog? And the answer then is quite possibly on social media, and that is the role that Twitter can play.

Twitter as a messenger


Twitter really is very much a messenger. And as Trump has used it, it’s very much a messenger of good or bad, and possibly factual or unsubstantiated stories. Now, according to the research by Sprout Social, Twitter is used not by that many people in terms of actually checking for products about what they’re going to buy. But what it does seem is that Twitter is a medium for people to chat with a brand, so Twitter to some degree then can play a sales promotion and after sales function for brands, and so what we’ll see is on Twitter is consumer brands, doing flash sales to their followers. During lockdown, people are placing their orders using Twitter. Instead of having a website with an online chat to the website, then people are using Twitter. It’s very powerful, especially as it’s free. The downside of course, is that it needs management. Because the volume of content moves so quickly, you have to keep constant flood of content going on there. 


Now that raises this issue of automation. Luckily, Hootsuite software will enable you to add your Twitter, and your Instagram, and your Vimeo and your YouTube feeds all directly and you post from one publishing platform. There are many including AskEdgar, Zoho, Brandwatch and over 30 more all listed at Capterra.


Now, the other interesting thing about Twitter is this theory (‘Why Captain Tom Didn’t Walk Alone‘) of creating a viral sensation by appealing to those already in the same mindset. Twitter research shows saying that just 3% of them are influenced by celebrity endorsements, but that 30% of consumers are likely to buy a product recommended by a non-celebrity blogger or Twitter. In other words, consumers trust other consumers more than they do celebrities. That proves that it’s more important to create a story that resonates with other people who are easily influenced than it is to reach out to one or two influencers and hope that they will do the work for you, and this Twitter shows very much that that’s the case.


Now, for companies, it would be great to reach out to customers, staff, and consumers, and engage them to play a role on Twitter, to support the business, and to do that by sharing pictures and news. Of course, the real point about Twitter is the dynamism. It’s great for short term and short for information that can be shared that has an immediacy to it, for example, like a flash sale, or an opening time trying to get rid of reduced inventory, but it does take some management.


Tweets then need to come back to a longer form piece of content that’s ideally placed on a website and leading into a funnel. Twitter launched a new algorith  in 2017, which essentially changed Twitter from being about the latest posts to being the post that they believe will be most relevant for you, creating a fundamental change in the way that Twitter provides and displays information. This feature can be toggled to go to either the chronology feed or to tweets that they think will be most interesting for you. Their algorithm is now starting to send you tweets which have the highest engagement levels across the community. Engagement is a function of other people either reposting or liking, or content that you have expressed an interest in before. So, Twitter has become much more again, like Facebook where it’s sending you content that you might like. 

Top tips when tweeting


Now, as a brand owner, what does that mean? The people at Sprout Social have a toolset and some metrics where they are saying that you should be sending basically with high frequency during the day, because your continued presence on Twitter will increase the likelihood of tweets being shared and engaged. They’re looking at different timelines and suggesting that first thing in the morning and throughout the day is key; volume and frequency are key. They’re also suggesting that the content that you send in terms of the format is key. Short videos are the content that goes most viral most quickly, whereas plain text really doesn’t go anywhere.


Twitter is almost just a constant stream. If you’ve got constant, entertaining content for your brand, that is referring to something relevant for your audience, then Twitter could well be the platform for you to use. Finally, in Sprout Social, they talk about response times and people’s expectation on Twitter is that they will get a response in less than four, but most brands apparently respond in closer to eight. So, many brands are not managing the expectation within the consumers and those people looking at Twitter. If you’re going to have Twitter be prepared for the volume of content, the nature of the content, and the expectation that you’re creating of having a dialogue with those audiences.


Twitter’s to be used, but it’s also to be managed carefully, to get any kind of effect, and that’s all down to the algorithms since 2017. The new updates in 2020 that have made chronology less important than relevance and engagement. In China, people use the QR code for their WeChat and also for their Weibo, as a calling card and all of their material. That doesn’t really happen very much with Twitter, in Europe and the United States, since people are using Twitter as kind of a random messaging platform.

Why business owners should know the Stockdale paradox


Now, Trump, of course, is proving that he can be more random, and he’s messaging the most, but is he showing great leadership in his communications? As leaders, one must think of the concept of the Stockdale paradox, which is named after the highest-ranking American officer Commander James Stockdale who was caught in the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War, and it’s brought out by Jim Collins who had met and spoke with James Stockdale at length. The Paradox was that Stockdale said the people that survived, understood and had absolute faith that they would survive from day to day, and would eventually see through the situation. They were not optimists but realists, they were able to confront the challenges of what’s going on. They believed in their long term ability to get through this trouble but didn’t create false hope nor deflection of reality.


Now, with the coronavirus, people don’t really know when this problem is going to end, but there are tools like Twitter to communicate how you’re feeling and manage the narrative. And mentioned, PR is about having the COVID mindset: Compassionate, Optimistic, Values-based, Informative and Digital. Twitter represents an alternative for people to communicate directly through to their audiences without going via the media. That means it’s direct and impactful, but it also has a slight risk to it. As seen in the case of Donald Trump, his own integrity now is being undermined because a third party has started to censor him in a way that it doesn’t censor anybody else. Ironically, the 1st amendment is being upheld but censorship is in place so as to protect the reader. So, a


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