Every so often a site comes along that, in the amount of hype it generates, blows away everything that has come before it. Not so long ago it was Second Life, then Facebook came along and now Twitter is scattering all before it in a blizzard of press-coverage that many of its start-ups peers would give their trendy offices & table-football sets for.
Here in the UK it seems like the BBC & The Guardian would cover the opening of a paper bag if it somehow included Twitter, whilst in the US it has caused enough of a stir to earn a dressing down from Jon Stewart. Meanwhile here on Search Engine Land the top three stories are all about Twitter at the time of me writing this, while Sphinn’s homepage also appears to have been hit with a Twitter bomb. And it’s not as if I’m not guilty of hyping Twitter myself. However I am slightly worried that in recent weeks things might have gone slightly out of control.
This fear was prompted by the tidal wave of coverage generated by Skittle’s recent decision to give over its homepage to the micro-blogging service (a decision which was soon revoked when, in an entirely predictable fashion, many people took the opportunity to fill the candy brand’s homepage with swear words and worse). Now, I’m not going to take this opportunity to explain why I think that this move was such a bad one. But I do want to use it to highlight the fact that Twitter is still very much a niche interest. And while this isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself, it can be when people are making decisions on whether or not to invest in marketing on Twitter based on the hype rather than the facts.
Thus the the headline of this post. While I was thinking about what to write today I decided to find out what Twitter’s audience is and ended up on Quantcast. It gives the audience in the US as 6 million which, considering the fact that this is unlikely to include all those using third party services to interact with Twitter, is a pretty healthy number. However what really grabbed my attention was the small bit of commentary next to Twitter’s rank (165 in the US):
Twitter.com is a top 250 site that reaches over 6.1 million U.S. monthly people.The typical visitor reads Techcrunch.
That second sentence is so true it hurts and you only need to go back to Skittles to prove this. Even now, weeks after the move, a large proportion of the chatter taken from Twitter is about how Skittles used Twitter, rather than ‘real’ consumers ‘discussing’ Skittles: as social media experts use social media to discuss a social media marketing campaign, it’s like there’s an echo of a reflection. And that’s simply because not that many real consumers are using it yet.
To give some proportion to the audience figure of 6 million, Quantcast gives Facebook a monthly US audience of 79 million. Now that’s what I call mainstream and, for many brands, if something isn’t mainstream then it simply isn’t worth getting involved in, no matter what all of us social media experts may say. Unless something has a certain level of cut-through the investment necessary just won’t be worth it.
None of this is to say that Twitter can’t be used or indeed shouldn’t be used as a great marketing tool. It can, is and will continue to be. But as Sky News announces that it now has a ‘Twitter correspondent’ we should remember that Reuters’ Second Life bureau is now closed and be careful that, when marketing on Twitter, we don’t end up just talking to ourselves.
Cartoon by gapingvoid
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.