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“Why Market? I’ll Just Use Twitter!”

Twitter is all over the internet these days. Everywhere you turn there’s a new celebrity or business who’s joining Twitter or some other social media site, and it’s tempting to join in with them. After all, who doesn’t want to be on the cutting edge of technology? If something works, why not do it, right?

It’s especially tempting when you consider how many users are on Twitter. Twitter is the 12th most popular website in the world. Imagine having access to that kind of audience for your business! And it’s free! It’s a business owner’s dream come true, right?

Here’s a very telling chart from Business Insider that may change your opinion:

There’s a reason that web design companies focus their attention on Google. As we see here, the average person who views Twitter will account for less than a dollar of revenue, whereas Google visitors account for a little over $18.

“Well, yeah, but Twitter is free!” you may reply. “Everyone is using it, so there are a lot of people there already! Plus, a big marketing plan is expensive! If I can make a little bit of money off of something that’s free, why not use it?”

That’s true. The upfront cost of social media is negligible. However, consider this: How much time do you have during the day? Do you have time to tweet important business information several times a day? How much is that time worth to you?

There are a few other reasons that putting all your eggs in the Twitter basket isn’t really worth it. Let’s break a few of them down.

1) 140 character limit. How much can you say in 140 characters? Consider the size of your normal text message. Are you able to get a lot across to the recipient? Are there sometimes things that get left unsaid because there’s no room to say them? Do you sometimes have to split that message up into a few chunks?

Now imagine that being your sole marketing plan. Unless you’re an amazing copywriter, getting your message across in 140 characters is virtually impossible to pull off. You’re going to have to break it into several parts, and you’re also going to have to use other media to support your message, which costs money. That puts you back at square one.

2) URL shorteners. Let’s say your website is “fabulouswidgets.com.” You’ve released a new product called Megawidget, and you have a page on your site that’s called “fabulouswidgets.com/megawidget” to promote it. You would like to post a blurb about the new Megawidget along with the link.

Look at that address again. That’s 30 characters right there, or 20% of your total Twitter message. In other words, you now only have 110 characters to explain what the Megawidget does and why it’s important to buy one.

There are alternatives, though. Twitter automatically uses a service called “bit.ly” which will shorten your link. Instead of being 30 characters, your address is now about 15 characters. The problem? Instead of having your own information in it, “bit.ly” makes your address look like this: “http://bit.ly/JEeO”. Now, your link doesn’t have your website on it, but rather has an address that tells you nothing about where it’s going. You’re basically inviting your customers to click a blind link in the middle of nowhere with no indication of where it’s going.

That’s a pretty high level of trust. Will your customers be willing to click on a random link even if they know you, internet security being what it is?

3) What people use Twitter for. Twitter messages are meant to be digested quickly. Think of them like M&Ms. If you have a pile of M&Ms to go through, you don’t stop when eating them and say, “Wow, that M&M was surprisingly delicious!” You just eat them without thinking specifically about what the individual candies taste like.

Likewise, Twitter messages are tiny. You’re just supposed to grab them, read them, catch up on what’s going on, and move on. You’re not supposed to ruminate on them, breathe deeply of their wisdom and consider them over a cup of tea. It’s a fast service for a fast-paced world.

Keeping that in mind, do you want customers merely skimming your content, making a snap judgment and then moving on? That’s not the kind of customer that sticks around for a long time. You want them to notice you and learn about what you do. Twitter may not be the best place for that.

4) The nature of Twitter. Marketing depends on figuring out who your product or business appeals to (your marketing persona) and targeting them specifically. It’s like walking up to someone on the street, shaking their hand and introducing yourself. Those people, in turn tell others about your business and introduce other people to you. It’s the way marketing has worked for a long time because it works.

Twitter isn’t like that at all. Instead, it’s like firing a flare gun into the air while tens of thousands of people are also firing flare guns into the air. If you have the biggest flare gun, people will notice your flare, but if you have an average-sized flare gun, it’ll probably get lost in all the other flares littering the sky.

Yes, there are a lot of users on Twitter, but there’s no filter. Everyone is basically talking to everyone else. Sure, you can get followers on Twitter who will receive your messages, but those people have to find you first, and in the cacaphony of flares, that can be a tricky proposition.

Is Twitter bad? No, not at all. Twitter is actually a pretty cool service. It connects you to a wide variety of people in one of the most wide-open environments the internet has seen. Should it be your sole form of marketing? Absolutely not.

Different social media services have popped up in the past, like Friendster and MySpace. They’re still around, but their influence has dwindled. Those who put all of their efforts into those services have nothing to show for it. However, those used a real marketing plan in conjunction with a good SEO package are able to move quickly to a different service if need be. That’s what internet marketing is all about these days, and it’s important to not obsess over one specific part of it.