How You Can (And Should) Spend Less Time On Twitter

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, February 20, 2017

I’m about to tell you that you should probably focus less on Twitter. 

Before I do, let me clarify that I’m still a Twitter fan, despite all their issues. Personally, I turn to it for breaking news, customer service, and to find out why the subway is delayed (again). 

For brands, we’ve used it with real-time campaigns around major activations and events, and to increase support for some of our clients’ non-profit partners. Culturally, I don’t think any of us can ignore the impact it’s having in politics and media. It’s not going away anytime soon, and using Twitter for specific marketing and business objectives makes sense. 

Unfortunately, I see many marketers struggling to maintain handles they started years ago, spending way too much time filling up content calendars and trying to come up with things to say. Meanwhile, they don’t spend nearly as much time on more active established platforms, or testing and learning on newer ones. 



Consider some of these statistics.

-       88% of social media users are on Facebook and 48% are on Instagram. Meanwhile, only about 30% are on Twitter, on par with Pinterest (eMarketer).

-       When you look at time spent, it’s even less. For example, even though Twitter and Snapchat have about the same number of active users, Snapchat users spend 5x the amount of time on the platform.

-       No one is predicting strong growth in Twitter adoption over the next five-plus years.

However, many marketers spend an inordinate amount of time and resources on Twitter relative to those numbers. 

Do you maintain a giant content calendar for your Twitter handle(s) and find yourself trying to fill it up? Do you debate which handle to post to, sometimes posting on one handle and retweeting it from another? Do you have separate handles for different audiences? Do you have a separate handle for customer service? 

If the answer to any of those was yes, I’ve got some suggestions. 

Stop filling content calendars just because you think you have to.

Unless you’re regularly posting content that’s showing a significant amount of organic activity (and you know who you are), you’re probably wasting time. Posting lots of tweets may have helped you get in front of people in the past, but with Twitter’s almost-year-old algorithm, not so much. And the algorithm is here to stay. Even though there was a cry out against it at first, only 2% of users chose to switch the function off once it was implemented. Focus on fewer, better things. Quality over quantity. 

Make an investment in those fewer, better things.

Social media for brands is advertising, and your content should be treated as such. Posting a bunch of social content without paid media is like doing a print campaign by tossing a bunch of print ads into the wind hoping they make their way to someone who cares. Use paid to test your content, leverage dark posting, hit the right targets, and boost the content that’s performing best even more. It’s an art and a science, and a lot of us could do better on the science part. When you use paid, you’ll also have access to much better metrics so you know what’s going on. 

Consolidate your handles, and don’t start any new ones.

Many brands created different handles for different audiences, dividing up responsibilities for them based on internal structure and imagining audiences fitting into neat boxes. That was in the pre-algorithm, pre-targeting, pre-paid days. Now, we consistently see that, of people who engage with a brand’s content, only a very small percentage of them are even followers. So, unless you’ve got clearly different sub-brands, products, or languages, you can use targeting and dark posting to reach the right people from the same handle. Heck, you can advertise on Twitter now without even having a handle

Combine your customer service into your main handle(s).

Twitter has made a lot of improvements to support customer service, allowing you to have a big ol’ “message” button, especially prominent on mobile, that can drive people right into a direct message with your brand whether they’re followers or not. When they get there, you can include a chatbot to welcome them, help set expectations on how quickly you’ll respond, and even help direct them to what they need on their own. If you’re not ready to get rid of your separate service handle just yet, at the very least activate the message button on your other handles and have an automatic welcome that helps people know where they should be going for help. 

We marketers have a lot of updates, opportunities, tools and technologies flying at us every day. Might be time to do a little early spring cleaning to declutter and make some room.


2 comments about "How You Can (And Should) Spend Less Time On Twitter".
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  1. Ted Rubin from The Rubin Organization / Return on Relationship, February 20, 2017 at 12:18 p.m.

    I agree it is important to be regularly reviewing where you are spending your time and resources as a brand. So do so, with an open mind, and NOT just because someone tells you a platform no longer has the value it once had. That all depends upon what you use it to accomplish, how you use it, and who/when, and why you are trying to reach people. So lets be sure you have a handle on that before abandoning or downsizing. 

    Also keep in mind that Many misunderstand the current power and relevant scale of Twitter. It is not about how Twitter scales to the general public. The most important thing about News, Content, and anything else published via Twitter, is that a great deal of the influencer, journalism, and content creating community “is” utilizing Twitter for news, communication, and discovery. This information then finds its way to other publishing mediums be it Blogs, Traditional News Media, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Google+, the water cooler, or whatever other mediums exist. Twitter is a tool that leads into other forms of social sharing.

  2. Brad Blake from Hill Holliday replied, February 20, 2017 at 1:07 p.m.

    Hey Ted - Thanks for commenting! Love your point on recognizing that it's "not bout how Twitter scales to the general public." I know plenty of people who've never touched Twitter who are certainly well-aware of things being said on it on a regular basis as it's spread through the media and other word of mouth. Before I was in advertising, I ran "new media" for the Massachusetts governor's office. We were the second governor's office on Twitter (Schwarzenneger beat us!) and I remember it was a huge deal when a TV reporter asked us a question directly on Twitter. As much as I'm saying "spend less time on Twitter", I've also pushed for it a lot, too, and have tried to explain that even though you may not see the direct scale in terms of impressions, engagements, etc., there is still that relevant scale.

    I agree that you shouldn't give up on one thing only to make room for another. I was mostly talking to people at brands who spend a lot of time posting things that aren't seen and aren't driving conversations - just filling up those content calendars because they think they have to, as if there's a whole bunch of people out there who would miss their tweets for a few days if they didn't constantly post. I'd rather see them focusing on fewer, better things that do get that conversation going that you talked about. 

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