What is Twitter Good For?

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Twitter has caught on as a social network for several reasons—it’s free and open, connects people, gives them power, and is incredibly simple to use (Li & Bernoff, 2011). It is also suitable for mobile phones, which allows people to post updates from anywhere. As a result, “it’s rapidly become a key part of the groundswell—driving, reporting on, and extending activity in everything from blogs to social networks” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 197). According to a mid-2010 survey, only 7 per cent of online American adults are tweeting (Li & Bernoff, 2011). With such a small amount of participants, why give Twitter a second thought? 

Why Twitter is Important

The reason Twitter is so important is because this 7 per cent is constructed of the most influential people online. As shown in the Social Technographics Profile below, twitterers “are three times as likely to be Creators, more than twice as likely to be Critics, and half-again as likely to be Joiners compared with typical online consumers” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 200). Additionally, 10 per cent of influence spread among social networks comes from Twitter while more than 70 per cent of twitterers say they tell their friends about products they like, which is way above average (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Lastly, “tweeters make more money, are more optimistic about technology, and are better educated than other people online (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 200).

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How to Incorporate Twitter

With such promising statistics, you may be wondering how to incorporate Twitter into your overall social strategy. The key is to establish your primary objective first. It is also important to note that once your company begins connecting on Twitter, people will expect you to “listen and respond, not just broadcast” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 201). Here is how to use Twitter for each of the five groundswell objectives:

  • Listening: Listening is essential on Twitter in order to identify what you’re getting yourself into and to help gain insights about your brand and overall marketing strategy.
  • Talking: Talking on Twitter is easy; however, unless done well, it can be boring and useless. To be effective at talking on Twitter, “think about what you can offer that might get picked up and repeated by others” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 203).
  • Energizing: Energizing on Twitter also includes listening. This allows you to discover the users you want to energize. Additionally, energizing involves creating content that your followers can share as well as responding to your fans and retweeting them.
  • Supporting: More and more companies are using Twitter for support. The reason being is that people expect you to respond to them when they have questions or problems—even if you’re not there.
  • Embracing: Embracing is the most difficult of the five objectives, especially on Twitter. However, using strategies like surveys, providing incentives and most importantly, engaging through dialogue, can drive an effective embracing objective on Twitter.

Twitter Advice

Once you’ve chosen a clear objective and have developed a strategy to achieve this objective, it is also crucial to understand the expectations of Twitter users. Here is some advice to consider:

  • Lock up your handle.
  • Listen first. “Know what people are tweeting about before you start posting” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 210).
  • Be ready to support people.
  • Follow others.
  • Be ready for a crisis. When a crisis occurs, people will look to your Twitter account for a response.
  • Respond, retweet, and link. This will allow for an overall rich Twitter experience for your fans.
  • Staff it. Twitter needs to be someone’s job. The account can’t be left unattended.
  • Check with legal and regulatory staff. Twitter is public and searchable so checking with legal and regulatory staff will ensure your tweets are appropriate.
  • Having gathered a following, don’t waste it! When building interest for an account, have a plan for what you’d like to do with it.

Overall, Twitter is a simple yet powerful social tool. In order to effectively harness its power, ensure to seamlessly integrate it with the rest of your social channels.


Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.


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