Imagine a world without Twitter. That might be easy if you are my age and remember the world before Twitter, but the thought of it simply going away might seem preposterous, but it isn’t out of the question. There was a time when it seemed like MySpace was the social media platform for the ages, after all. While there is no indication that Twitter is in immediate danger, there are signs of trouble.
In October, Twitter announced that they are looking for a buyer. The platform’s global user base declined, from 307 million in Q3 to 305 million in Q4. Investors were not delighted by this news, causing share prices to fall by more than 11% in after-hours trading, then rebounding to a 5% loss. Recently, the company let go 9% of its global workforce. In addition, the network is behind its rivals, Facebook and Snap, in terms of innovation.
Why should PR professionals be concerned about the fate of Twitter?
Twitter is an excellent resource for PR pros because it allows for sharing and collecting information. Smart brands use it to identify journalists who are looking for sources, interact with influencers, and share interesting news and content. It's an excellent way to keep tabs on what is happening in your industry, what your competition is up to, and what matters to your customers. It also gives your audience a way to amplify your message, engage with your team, and introduce your brand to their friends and colleagues.
If you have made Twitter a key part of your social and earned media strategies, losing it would surely be a blow. In fact, Forbes recently asked the question, “Would public relations survive without Twitter?” They interviewed several public relations professionals about the possibility of a Twitter-less internet. Most agreed that the impact to PR would be negative, but were optimistic that PR would adapt. We concur on both fronts.
It isn’t the what as much as the why.
Twitter is an effective PR tactic, not because it is Twitter, but because of the opportunities it presents. We’re pretty confident that the public need for the type of service Twitter provides will be filled in one way or another. There are a few reasons why Twitter is so valuable for PR folks and the public alike.
It is Real Time
Twitter is the place to go if you want to know what is happening right now. There’s no newsroom or editorial department that has to vet a story or comment before it goes live, so Twitter often is the first source to break a new story. For brands this means you can get instant feedback on your news, events, and content.
It’s Easy to Digest
There are advantages and disadvantages to Twitter’s 140 character limit, but one thing is for sure, it makes it easy to quickly scan your feed. Images and links can add context, but there is value in the practice of condensing messages into short form. In fact, if Twitter is replaced by an alternative without this restriction, we hope that PR pros don’t lose the skill of extreme editing.
It Has Critical Mass
This may be an odd thing to say, but Twitter is useful to people because people use Twitter. More than five million Tweets are sent every day, making the platform a robust source of information. In terms of PR, this means that most of your media contacts, prospects, customers, and competitors are likely all visiting the same network at least from time to time. It’s like a one-stop-shop for audience and media engagement. If it does not survive, this may be the most difficult aspect of the service for a rival to recreate.
We certainly hope Twitter survives, or if it doesn’t, that something equally effective and popular rises in its place. In either case, it pays to make sure you are getting the most out of the platform now. Here is a recap of our tips for leveraging Twitter for PR:
- Identify and engage influencers in your space. Influencers may be journalists, they may be leading customers in the market, or even celebrities. Look for accounts that are followed by many of your customers and prospects to see who has credibility with your audience.
- Get to know your media contacts. The more you understand about what the journalists in your industry are saying or sharing, the easier it is to tailor your pitches to their interests. If you are lucky, you may even find reporters who are actively looking for sources.
- Protect your reputation. Reputation management is a critical responsibility of PR professionals. News moves fast on Twitter, whether it is good or bad. If someone is Tweeting about your brand, you need to be the first to know so that you can amplify good news and react to anything negative.
- Sort through the noise. Did we mention that there are more than 5 million messages sent on Twitter every day? No one can (or probably should) try to read them all. Sophisticated social media monitoring software is essential if you want to be able to focus in on the specific posts that have meaning to your brand.
The only thing certain in technology is change. We’re sure that if Twitter doesn’t make it, the PR industry will adapt and find new ways of creating meaningful connections. For now, smart brands are taking advantage of everything that Twitter offers.
Interested in seeing how your brand's share of voice stacks up against the competition? We'd love to show you today.