Twitter came on the scene only a few years ago, and although it was originally intended for communications among individuals, it has become a popular marketing platform for some of the world’s largest brands. Companies including Starbucks, ComCast, Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines, Dell and Best Buy are actively using Twitter to communicate with their patrons. Using Twitter is a fabulous way to broadcast alerts, special offers, and other meaningful information to consumers. Given the growing number of third party applications that provide easier ways to monitor the Twitterstream and stay in touch with followers (such as TweetDeck), it’s obvious that Twitter is an outstanding tool for marketers. With all of the recent benefits and buzz, and the ability for consumers to follow updates on their mobile devices, many companies are also turning to Twitter thinking that it is also a mobile marketing platform. Although Twitter does include SMS capabilities, there are several key aspects of traditional permissions-based SMS marketing solutions that Twitter lacks:
1) Opt-in of an Opt-in: You’re not guaranteed to hit users on their cell phones. When you follow someone on Twitter, by default the mobile updates are turned off when following via the web or third party application. Consumers who wish to receive messages on their phone, they must first follow the company and then additionally turn on this mobile update feature. This presents a huge barrier to ensuring you reach the consumer via mobile. In addition, Twitter only allows for a 140 character message, where with SMS marketing you can send a much longer, 160 character message.
2) Not everyone tweets: Twitter is a blip on the radar screen relative to the number of mobile phones capable of receiving SMS messages. According to recent data from ComScore, Twitter has roughly 20 million monthly users on the service in the U.S. There are over 154 million cell phone users in the U.S. that text message on a regular basis, and this number is growing steadily. This is a significant gap. Why limit your messages to a relatively smaller group of Twitter users who may not even get SMS updates?
3) New media means interactive: Twitter is a one-way street, meaning there is no mechanism in place to collect information or have a dialogue with your end consumers. Data collection enhances SMS marketing because you can ask questions, send surveys or polls, and gather valuable data such as email address, gender, or zip code. Gathering information allows for further segmentation, and more targeted messages and offers in the future. SMS marketing provides multiple keywords which can help determine how people found out about your offer, and which ads are most effective. Twitter is a broadcast to everyone who’s following you, data cannot be collected, and segmentation and targeted offers are not possible.
4) It’s all about ROI: There are multiple coupon redemption tracking methods offered via reputable mobile marketing firms, allowing marketers to track and measure the ROI of their offers. A unique coupon code can be sent with each message, which bears several benefits, such as minimizing fraudulent redemption attempts, enforcing expiration dates, and tracking capabilities. On Twitter you are not able to auto-generate coupon codes, nor can you track redemption activity. Both of which are valuable elements to any mobile marketing program.
5) Find the tipping point: Mobile marketing platforms are equipped with viral tools that allow consumers to forward offers to friends, multiplying the effect of campaigns. Referral offers have a much higher conversion rate relative to normal opt-in rates because the offers are relevant and come from a trusted source. With Twitter, you could forward a tweet to your friends; however there is no tracking and you cannot send direct follow-up offers to the new referral.
6) Twitter is only Twitter: Twitter is not a mobile marketing firm, and it is unclear how the company will continue to grow its product and services portfolio. A clear business model has yet to be defined for the company as they continue to make relatively meager profits. This makes Twitter a high risk long-term partner for any company looking to use them as a platform for ongoing marketing and customer relationship management. Is it safe to assume Twitter will always be around? Will the fad end in favor of something else? Are you, as a marketer willing to place all of your eggs in one basket? It would be a much safer bet to partner with a mobile marketing firm that not only has a clear vision and services offering, but can also help your business with a comprehensive mobile strategy. Integration with existing marketing and promotional efforts is key; without it a mobile program will fail.
7) Ancillary features: SMS is often the first step into the mobile world for a major brand, but what about a mobile website, or a mobile application for the iPhone, Blackberry, and other popular platform? A comprehensive mobile strategy should consider all of these components, in addition to evaluating how mobile can be integrated with existing email, online, and other marketing programs. It should never be viewed as a one off channel
Twitter is a fantastic service, providing a tool for all of us to stay in touch with each other, our favorite companies and websites. It’s a great way to answer that one simple question that the company was built on, which is, “What are you doing?” However, from a mobile marketing perspective, Twitter is severely lacking in features and functionality, and has several disadvantages vs. a full-service mobile marketing company. Twitter should absolutely be incorporated in your social media strategy, but never as the primary avenue for ongoing mobile customer relationship management.
Working with a reputable mobile marketing firm, your message will be delivered directly to the mobile device (guaranteed), and will be as targeted as needed to ensure it’s effective. Data can be collected from the consumer, reporting and analytics tools for ROI tracking are top notch, and you can even drive traffic to your Twitter and Facebook accounts as well. Twitter and mobile marketing work well together, but they are not the same.
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