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How Twitter Can be Corrosive to Online Marketing

In the past when you did something quite cool and attention-worthy people would reference it on their blogs. But now in the age of Twitter, many people mention your stuff on Twitter. This can be good if they have thousands of Twitter followers, but if most the people mentioning a topic are all in the same small tight knit space then you are only reaching a fraction of a fraction of the potential distribution you would have before the age of Twitter.

  • How many people read every Twitter update from the people they subscribe to? Very few. Since you are in a high volume aggregator the loyalty is nowhere near where it is with traditional blog subscribers.
  • Exciting news quickly falls into the archives due to the rapid nature and high volume of Tweets.
  • If you dominate a channel and keep reaching the same people over and over again that does help provide social proof of value, but after seeing the same message 5 or 10 times it becomes noise.

Worse yet, even though Twitter mentions are organic links and recommendations by highly trusted topical experts, those don't show up on the broader web graph since Google pressured Twitter into adopting nofollow EVERYWHERE, even for user profiles.

And unlike Delicious...

  • most people do not have automated mechanisms to dump their daily Tweets / Tweet links into their blog to provide trusted direct links
  • people rarely use Twitter as a bookmarking service, so it is rarely worth searching into yesterday's content. The Twitter content is very zen-like...here today, gone today.

Multiple people asked me to add their RSS feeds to the default set that in the SEO Toolbar that was soon to be downloaded by over 10,000 webmasters. And for wanting all that exposure (and future exposure) they didn't even post about it on their blog. They mentioned it on Twitter...where the same 3,000 people saw the message 20 times each. No value add whatsoever.

Out of over 21 pages of Tweets (300+ Tweets) mentioning "SEO Toolbar" in the last 3 days, Yahoo! is showing less than 10 inbound links to the SEO Toolbar page that came from sources other than direct friend requests, social news sites, or automated links brought on by that exposure. Twitter is pretty worthless as a link building strategy, even if you are giving away something that is both free and better than similar tools selling for hundreds of dollars.

Even if you have a strong launch and a product far superior to related products, the exposure you get may not matter if your coverage is stuck on Twitter. It is a connecting medium, but it doesn't make money:

Venture Beat says that Twitter made Dell a million dollars. That's nuts. Did the phone company make Dell a billion dollars? Just because people used the phone to order their Dell doesn't mean that the phone was a marketing medium. It was a connecting medium. Big difference.

Is Twitter a nice complimentary channel that can add exposure to your launch? Absolutely. But if the conversation does not leave Twitter.com then it has quite limited value in a search-driven Google-centric web. And that limited value is even less if you don't already have thousands of Twitter followers.

The "make money on Twitter" ebooks will be coming out soon, but other than the ebook authors, I doubt anyone will make much money from it (unless customer feedback helps them create new product lines).