Consistent Messaging on Twitter Can Too Easily Become A Monotonous Drumbeat

Should your brand be active on Twitter? It’s a common question today and one that will be answered affirmatively by marketing services providers eager to bill for the incremental time.

But let’s take additional billings out of the equation for a minute. If you’re asking someone who is a deep believer in the power of social media, you will no doubt hear about Twitter’s ability to bolster customer service, how it’s all about listening now and how this new channel provides unprecedented transparency and changes the voice of the brand from something prepackaged and contrived to something authentic and real time. In other words, Twitter is powerful stuff and only a fool would stay away from it.

My own Twitter habits are well established. I maintain three accounts: @davidburn, @bonehook and @adpulp. Unlike Facebook, where I dip in and out, Twitter is always on when I have a browser window open and it is generally the first iPhone app I call up (unless I am about to take a photo). In other words, Twitter is powerful stuff and only a fool would stay away from it.

I am being facetious. It’s not all good in the neighborhood. Let’s examine this short exchange from 24 hours ago:

I am grateful to Cory O’Brien for participating in this quick chat, because it would have been sad to have this chat alone. Yet, that’s precisely what I have come to expect. A monologue, not a dialogue. The lack or real banter is frustrating. It also leads us down a path where “no response” is acceptable behavior, if not the norm in our culture.

As Fast Company and Tom Peters told us 14 years ago, we are all brands now. Brands equipped with powerful communications tools that are easy to use and practically free of cost. Given that we go to Twitter intent on building our brands, it is no wonder that no one’s listening or responding.

While many on Twitter do show up to blow their self-promotional horns, there are plenty of others seeking genuine dialogue. Brands who have been advised to “join the conversation” are definitely seeking conversations with prospects and customers. Yet, those conversations are in short supply. And they’re not really conversations. Twitter is a sea of fragments moving fast toward the digital ocean. Something resembling a one-to-one conversation can happen in the middle of Twitter, but is a rushing stream of “look at me” fragments and hyperlinks really the best place for it?

Of course, Twitter is not the only place where people and brands are talking at people, not with them. Facebook, LinkedIn and many blogs all suffer from the same problem, which is caused in part by the growing attention deficit epidemic. Many of us simply do not have time to engage with our real life friends on the phone or our digital acquaintances online, much less brands.

In the ad business, there’s an old adage about the need for the work to “break through the clutter.” The saying no longer applies. The clutter today is at a level we’ve never before experienced. The clutter has taken over completely. Ergo, there’s no breaking through the clutter. Instead, one needs to set themselves, or their brand, apart from the clutter. How? By not adding to it.

Right now there are smart people, people in marketing, using Twitter to blast out their daily monologues. There’s no need to name them, you can find them easily enough. It may seem counter intuitive, but as the noise increases the best response is not louder shouts or Tweets of your own. The need for high quality thinking, writing and sharing is dire (to say nothing of the need for some restraint). Provide it and you give people a reason to pause and consider, and possibly to act.

3 Comments

  1. Jeremy says:

    I couldn’t agree with this article more. While I do believe that Twitter is a great platform for customers to connect with brands on, I don’t believe that brands are using it in the right way.

    Twitter to me is a place where brands should have a presence and be available so customers can communicate issues and ask questions. Real-time customer service. However, most people use it to just shout things and this bothers me a lot.

    When I have never really experienced very social dynamic on Twitter and to me it has always seemed like the noisiest platform of them all. In my opinion Twitter is great as a real-time news feed and customer service tool, but not much else.

    Real conversations happen on Facebook & Google+ from what I can see, and it all depends on your interests. The average peson seems to be on Facebook while many “tech geeks” seem to be on G+. There are other platforms out there like Tumblr, Instagram and interest-specific forums but those are limited.

    It’s nice to read that someone else out there isn’t completely buying in to the social-hype of Twitter. It can work for some cases, but I just don’t think that most people are using it right. I still use it, but sparingly. I find most of my time spent on Facebook or interest-specific platforms like StreamZoo. Occasionally searching for a better alternative to Facebook as even my most personal stream has seem to grow fairly noise-y, lately.

  2. David Burn says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful commentary, Jeremy.

    I have introduced clients to Facebook and launched blogs for them, but so far, I have managed to keep Twitter out of the picture. Too much noise, not enough signal.

    I realize that there are clients that Twitter is right for, but much of what we’re seeing right now is adoption of Twitter for social’s sake.

  3. Jeremy says:

    I definitely agree that Facebook is superior at the moment, especially with how you can target certain groups of people down to very specific things with Facebook’s ad system. Facebook in general just has more information than any other social network, which in my opinion is why it makes it so useful.

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