Don’t let Twitter anxiety cloud your focus on key online priorities


If you’re feeling lost or left behind in the whirl of hype that has grown-up around the micro-blogging service Twitter over the last few months then don’t worry – you’re not alone.

In the same week that internet traffic monitor Hitwise announced that UK Internet visits to Twitter are up 6-fold since January (making it the 5th most popular social networking site in the UK), analytics firm Webtrends just released results of research confirming that most marketers remain reluctant to use the service.

Based on interviews with 300 online marketing managers across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Australia, Webtrends reports that so far just 2% of businesses have adopted Twitter as a means of communicating with customers. No surprise that email remains far and away the most popular means of engaging with customers online, while 6% are apparently now using blogs and podcasts.

The majority of respondents to the survey said of Twitter that they are simply “not sure how to use it, and even if they could they wouldn’t be sure of what to say, and who exactly they would be saying it to” – which seem to me like very good reasons to hold-off on adding it to their digital marketing mix.

Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve mentioned previously I do believe that Twitter has the potential to be a useful addition to the range of ways charities can engage with certain groups of consumers. However, in the light of another recent research report by website usability expert Jakob Nielsen, highlighting basic shortfalls in charity websites that directly impact on donations received, I also believe that most should have a lot of things higher-up on their digital ‘to do’ list.

My advice would be that you do keep an eye on Twitter, because it’s not going to go away. But don’t worry that you must get out there and start Tweeting immediately – especially if such Twitter anxiety clouds your thinking in terms of what your main online priorities should be.

It’s no use bringing people to your website, through whatever means, if you know that the vast majority don’t engage the way you want them to – with a donation or some other action. So, your first priority must be to optimise your site to ensure that your conversion rates are as good as you can make them. Simple improvements to things like site signposting and the all important donation page itself can make double digit improvements in conversion figures – so that has to be where you start.

And if you don’t actually know your current conversion figures, then you’ve got another top priority action – sorting-out your site analytics and reporting.

When you really understand the basics of what people are doing on your site and you have a plan for improving their experience – and thereby your results – then you can widen your thinking to consider new ways to get people to come to you. First-off, how well are your ‘traditional’ online activities working – email, natural search and online advertising?

Then, once you feel you understand these and have a plan for each, you can safely start to think more widely – into the Web 2.0 world of blogging, micro-blogging, online communities and the like.

Such prioritisation doesn’t necessarily mean a long delaying in thinking about what opportunities Web 2.0 approaches like Twitter might offer you  – but it will help ensure that when you start testing them you’re far more likely to be successful.

2 thoughts on “Don’t let Twitter anxiety cloud your focus on key online priorities

  1. Couldn’t agree more. The issue with getting the basics right often comes down to who owns the website, particularly the back-end experience. Is it IT, marketing, digital, comms, etc.

    In my experience it is rarely marketing and that leads to all kinds of issues when it comes to overhauling often very poor, out-dated, badly built, badly designed and badly maintained sites that often have pretty awful usability.

    For many charities even integrating digital comms across emails, display, landing pages and the donation functionality is fraught with difficulty. Some are there already, a few are getting there quickly, but many are bogged down by confused internal ownership and legacy technology issues.

  2. I am sure you are right, yet its amazing how we have come full circle in a few years. I remember reading Mal Warwick’s ‘Fundraising on the Internet’ about five years ago – his main thesis was that the ‘Donate’ button was no good by itself being passive, and the key to success was email, being proactive and direct. Now marketers are cautious about over reliance on email which is so easily viewed as spam and so easily deleted, and focusing back on the donation page, where, as Comic Relief found one year, a few tweaks to the layout including for example reducing the name fields from four to two reduced drop outs from the page by a whopping 45%.
    PS I can’t get any of my friends outside the world of work to show any interest in Twitter at all, and my student age kids who grew up with Facebook can’t see the point at all.

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