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Twitter and Business Go Together When Elephants Fly

The amount of usable information that a brand can extract from discussions on Twitter is questionable.  Customers are more likely to tweet a complaint to a business than to praise it publicly.  Buyers cannot tell you what they want when they themselves do not know what they need.  Tracking impressions is not simple when your product is still too low key to be generating massive amounts of discussion.

The idea that Twitter can be used for monitoring the impression a product is making in a market then has always been a bit weak, to say it kindly.

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Social media can be used to spread a brand’s name.  It can be used to communicate with lots of customers at the same time.  It can be used to build a conversation and a community around a product.  But as a way of looking at how customers regard a product, it has always been too distant and too difficult to deliver anything more than the most general of impressions.

Which is likely to be one reason that Twitter is rolling out surveys.  Working with Nielsen, Twitter is currently experimenting with a kind of promoted tweet that invites users to push a button on a check-listed menu.

If it all works out, from 2013, you will start to see in your Twitter stream the sorts of polls that users largely ignore on blogs.

It all feels very old-fashioned, as though Twitter is rolling the Internet back to the days of Netscape and Lycos.  And it is also difficult to see how it can work.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter does not possess large amounts of data about its users.  The short bios do not reveal age or profession, and while it is possible to deduce a user’s interests from his or her  tweets, the ad targeting on Twitter is always going to be clumsier than the targeting of Facebook’s ads — and those ads are not exactly known for their magic bullets.

A survey sent out to a selection of people across Twitter is going to be fairly useless unless you know something about the demographic of the sample who answered it — or unless the survey carries the brand’s name, in which case it is an ad disguised as a poll.

If you really want to gauge what your followers think, ask them.  You will not get many replies, perhaps as few as 3 percent of your followers will answer.  But you will be able to take a look at the timelines of each of them and you can be sure that anyone who does answer is a pretty big fan.  Those with large follower numbers will also be top influencers, the sorts of people you want spreading your message.

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Ask questions on Facebook, too.  Again, only a small section of your followers will answer but every time someone does they will be promoting you to their friends and raising your profile.

And look at your sales figures because that is always the best way to know for sure which of your products your buyers want the most — and what they think about them.  I still think, for business, Twitter is a piece of crap…to say it not so kindly.

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