I recently conducted a survey of 78 business users, 72 of them actively using Twitter for their business. The survey was conducted between June and October of this year and users were solicited through request on LinkedIn and Twitter. This post provides the results of the survey.
Summary of Findings
- The majority of these respondents were small businesses in the service industry.
- Over 75% were using Twitter to generate leads (among many other goals), and 91% of them did this simply by following people and hoping they would get followed back.
- Despite their efforts, most, 44%, had ten or less actual customers following them on Twitter. Another 21% had 50 or less.
- 84% of these users did not track the retention rate of customers following them, nor track whether their customers were actively using Twitter or had abandoned it.
- Of the ones who did track the status of their follower’s accounts, 37% reported that 50% or more of their customer’s Twitter accounts were inactive.
If you’re using Twitter for business, check out the Conclusion for suggestions on using Twitter more effectively than the majority of these respondents.
About the Respondents
The vast majority of the respondents to this survey were:
- service providers (79.2%)
- very small businesses (70%)
- in business 5 years or more (44%). The remainder were: 2-5 yrs old (22.1%), 1-2 yrs. old (18.2%), <1 yr. old (15.6%)
- international (46.8%), with the remainder divided almost evenly between local and national businesses
Thus, this survey mainly provides a picture of small businesses that sell a service.
Twitter Use and Goals
The respondents time on Twitter varied:
I asked these business users what their goals were with Twitter:
Businesses users clearly have a lot of reasons they are interested in using Twitter. The highest ranking were:
- Building a reputation, 86%
- Building a community, 81%
- Staying in contact with existing customers, 76%
- Finding leads, 75%
The lowest ranking goal was providing support to existing customers, with only 62% agreeing that this was a goal. 13% disagreed and 25% counted themselves neutral regarding that goal.
How Businesses Find and Track Customers as Followers
Of the 72 respondents to my survey who were actively using Twitter for business, a full 81% reported having existing customers or qualified prospects following them on Twitter. That’s a very high number. I asked how these folks gained their followers, and they obtained them through a wide variety of means:
Overall, though, these business users didn’t have a large number of customers following them. I provided ranges and asked respondents to pick the range that indicated the number of customers they had following them. The biggest segment of these small businesses reported having 10 or less customers following them on Twitter. Less than a quarter had over 50 customers following them:
Over 75% of respondents were using Twitter to generate leads. I asked business users specifically how they were getting leads. Just under 9% were using software to find and mass-follow users (this survey was begun before Twitter cracked down on that). 91.2% reported they find leads by following people and hoping they will get followed back.
It’s one thing to get users to initially follow you on Twitter. It’s another to keep them. I asked respondents whether they tracked the retention rate of their followers. Only a scant 16% did. 84% did not track follower retention and had no idea whether their customers were still following them. The good news? Of the 16% who did track retention, 75% of them reported that the drop-off rate of their Twitter followers was 10% or less.
Aside from retaining customers as followers, another important question is how many of one’s followers are active on Twitter. With a reported 60% drop-off rate, these business users might well have “followers” that are just dead accounts. I asked how many respondents knew whether their followers were active users. The same results applied. 84% of these business users had no idea whether the customers following them were actually ever seeing their tweets, or were just dead accounts. Of the 16% who did make the effort to find out, a lot had disappointing numbers:
- 37.5% of those who did track the status of their follower’s accounts found that 50% or more were inactive.
- Only 25% of those who tracked the status of follower accounts found that 75% or more were active.
These are the numbers for business users actively tracking. I’d theorizie that these businesses are generally more engaged and saavy about Twitter, and are likely to be more proactive about engaging and thereby keeping their followers at higher rates. If that is the case, then I would expect these rather dismal numbers to be even more dismal for the 84% of businesses that aren’t tracking the status of their followers. In other words, there’s a good chance that most business users who have gotten customers to follow them on Twitter are now being followed by large numbers of dead accounts.
If you’re using Twitter for business, you need to monitor your followers. There are various tools that can help you track your followers and determine whether they are actively using their accounts (try Twitoria for that). Failing to do so will likely result in your investing time and energy tweeting good content that your target customers will never see. That’s a lot of waste time and energy.
Even better, I suggest that beyong just obtaining customers as followers, you put effort into retaining them and helping your customers to find value in Twitter. Twitter’s new List feature is a great tool to help you do that. (I know, because we created TweetPackage.com, a precursor to and now largely superceded by Lists, with exactly that goal.) Use Lists to create a Twitter Solution (read here to see how) and give your customers a reason to check Twitter out and keep using it.
If you’re really interested in retaining your customers on Twitter, actively follow them on Twitter, check their streams regularly, @ them, and work to connect them with other resources on Twitter. Lists can be a tool for this, too. (See this post.) But you are the main source.
Investing time in the early stages of your customers’ Twitter use will pay off later. By helping to get them hooked on Twitter, you ensure they stick with it, and thereby see your Tweets and stay in an active, online relationship with you.
Besides, Twitter’s terrific. Help spread the Twitter love!
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