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Sales low; intelligence high

Submitted by: MikeC (Admin) on 01-Mar-10 03:06:36 PM

Twitter icon It would seem that the business case for using Twitter – in hard currency terms – is low, according to a survey of twittering energy assessors; not only for gaining it, but for giving it, too.

On the other hand, measured in terms of gleaning useful business intelligence, most respondents find Twitter valuable.

No blog is complete these days without at least one post extolling the virtues of using Twitter or imparting “guru” advice on the best way to use it. I thought I’d bring something of substance to the table before I jumped on the bandwagon – something that speaks directly to energy assessors.

And so here it is, the results of a survey I conducted last week asking Twitter “followers” both why they use it, and whether they’ve actually sourced any sales directly from it.

A massive 13 responses out of an audience (at the time of survey) of 59 known energy assessors using Twitter answered five questions in total. It has to be said that most of the 59 assessors (now 64) have not been active in some time - which may in itself say something - and others, for one reason or another, may have missed calls to participate.

The uses and successes of Twitter by energy assessors
Do you use Twitter to attract business? 11 2
Have you sourced EPC leads using Twitter (not sales)? 3 10
If yes to Q2, did those leads convert into sales? 3 N/A
Sales aside, do you feel Twitter benefits your business? 9 4
Have you bought anything from your followers? 2 11
Does Twitter provide useful business intelligence? 11 2

Cash or intelligence?

Like most, I think, I have always been sceptical of the claims made by self-appointed “social media experts” whose livelihoods depend on their perceived guruness. Few, if any, tackle the tough question businesses want to know: Where’s the cash?

In the cold light of day, these results are not encouraging. Although if you do happen to bag a lead, chances are it will be red hot with a 100% conversion rate; at least according to the lucky three above.

Business intelligence

In a warmer light, most respondents think Twitter provides useful business intelligence (Twitter is definitely good for “speed news”). But how much is business intelligence worth?

It’s one of those unquantifiable commodities that make us all paranoid: ‘If I’m not with the crowd, I might miss out.’ But being amongst the first to know does not often translate into profiting from it (unless you’re working the stock market perhaps!).

But then again, intelligence-gathering can keep you out of trouble, too - unless you’re Bush or Blair, that is!

Is Twitter worth it?

All that aside, I do enjoy Twitter and the folks who use it meaningfully. The survey was far from scientific and most energy assessors only joined fairly recently; so still early days to draw any financial conclusions.

The platform does offer the potential to build useful contacts, however, which might prove useful in the long term – if one invests the time to use it intelligently.

Don’t however, believe the hype: I’ve seen previous darlings of the media - Digg, MySpace, Bebo, plus others I’ve long-forgotten - disappear into the long-grass after the stage-lights were turned to other platforms, like Facebook. People are also fickle and the attrition rate is huge, with most accounts lying dormant after a short period of time.

Twitter mistakes

Rather than evangelise on how to use Twitter for maximum effect (I’ll leave that to others – much of it is nonsense), I’ll just list how not to use it if you want to be taken seriously by those following you.

Don’t continually tweet about your services; it is boring, annoying, invasive, will be ignored and will eventually ensure you’re unfollowed (and possibly reported for spamming). Don’t drop your URL in every tweet either.

Don’t follow everyone and anyone: Who you follow says a lot about you; keep it focussed. Someone who follows thousands (or even hundreds) of people can’t possibly keep-up with it all. It also indicates they don’t care about their network (and by extension your extended network) and displays an air of desperation. I want to engage with people not compete for someone’s attention – it’s about the conversation and building relationships.

The chances are someone following thousands of others will end up re-tweeting lots of stuff you’re not even remotely interested in, too (although you can choose to block that person's re-tweets - re-tweets are the viral element).

Be wary of users with thousands of followers: Unless they are a celeb, don’t believe the numbers; many are non-human bots auto-following people because they’ve mentioned a keyword in their tweet. Others are the people mentioned above, hoping people will follow them back. I have blocked many many such followers. It also indicates they don’t care about their network.

Mercilessly block those who have no possible reason or interest in following you - remember, your followers also says a lot about you, too.

Don’t be sad: Few things are sadder than reading a series of daily re-tweets from people who’re desperately trying to curry favour with some celeb business person (Sarah Beeny seems to be the current flavour of the month in the property world).

At the end of the day, if you want a mass audience you’ll need to pay someone to sit there and tweet meaningful messages all day and respond to the thousands vying for your attention. Based on the results of this survey, can you afford to?

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Posts: 3
Twitter and it's ROI
Reply #1 on : Mon March 01, 2010, 15:57:53
Right then, it's simple if you are looking for the ROI in twitter then you just don't get it.

I agree with many of the points that you make Mike but I think you are missing the point when you link twitter activity directly to sales.

It's simple. Twitter is about connectivity, relationship developing that's all, what you manage to lever with that is up to you.

For example, this weekend I went out with Brad Burton the Managing Director of 4N the UK's fastest growing business network for a night of fun. It was just me him and his mate. We had a great time and when we returned to the hotel at 3am I got some invaluable coaching, direction and contacts that will deliver some really significant business as a result.

Beyond this success I have also made a friend who is an absolute heavy weight in the world of business beyond our small world of HIPs and EPCs.

This was totally as a result of Twitter as we realised we shared common connections from our past and as a result we all decided to meet up.

Is this a success, absolutely. But this could not be measured as a sale within the tight confines of your survey. What I can assure you though is that it will deliver significant business as a result.

Twitter is not about what you get out of it, its about what you put into it.
Posts: 3
Re: Sales low; intelligence high
Reply #2 on : Mon March 01, 2010, 16:35:11
I'm in broad agreement with you, Pete, there are various nuances and subtleties involved in the relationships you can build online which can either pay-off or cost you - how does one value a relationship?

But there is also a lot of pressure out there from numerous quarters on businesses to have a Twitter presence. I wanted this survey to answer the number one question they will ask when deciding if it's worth the time and effort: Will it drive sales?

There are several "social media" platforms out there today; where should one invest their time? There's only so many hours in the day afterall; and when business time is money, the question is legitimate for one can easily lose lots of productive hours for no end.

Of course, I treasure all my Twitter relations, but will you pay my mortgage? Or should I just consider it a social place, akin to the pub, where I might pick up the odd job?

I think the latter, personally; i.e., don't expect business, just go for the banter; and hang around with the cool dudes ;)

Posts: 3
Reply #3 on : Mon March 01, 2010, 16:58:35
I still don't get twitter. It appears to be a bunch of gobshites talking about themselves (even though they aren't the least bit interesting) and spamming the crap out of each other.

There must be more to it than that, and one day, if I can be arsed, I'll try and find out what that is. But in the meantime RL calls ;-)
Posts: 3
Re: Sales low; intelligence high
Reply #4 on : Mon March 01, 2010, 17:01:51
Oh, and don't forget, Pete, most people in the survey said they use Twitter to attract business; only 3 have so far gained any.

Only two people said they don't use Twitter to attract business - so there was room to accomodate your valid counter-points.
Posts: 3
Re: Sales low; intelligence high
Reply #5 on : Mon March 01, 2010, 17:03:14
I miss your Tweets, Duncan :p

Posts: 3
Re; Sales low; intelligence high
Reply #6 on : Mon March 01, 2010, 22:21:18
Duncan, to a certain extent you a right but if you take the time and work through all that it can turn up some quite interesting results.

Mike, my point is this I suppose. Using Twitter to attract business is the core goal yes, but how you go about that is the issue. As Duncan mentions spamming the living daylights out all your followers is not the right way about it as all you will do is switch people off very quickly and you will not gain much momentum or positive feedback to your involvement. Also the other end of the scale which is banality or tweeting you are going to the shops is perhaps almost as rewarding.

However, if your aim is perhaps a little less direct then the benefits are there to be taken. Hitting the world up with buy your EPC here for X pounds is never the way forward. Engaging people and giving them a reason to explore who you are a little more does make sense as they will be inclined to have a look at your site and your traffic with the obvious benefits this brings.

Work this on a local level and you have a brand development strategy. The people you tweet with might not need an EPC today but they might know someone who does and so on. Social media is not about selling to those who look at what you do but about reaching beyond them to the people they know and the connections that they have. Its the real world Re-Tweets ;)

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