When it comes to Twitter, conversational marketing is a hot topic, but for how long? What's its staying power? Depending on who you ask, we're either under-utilizing our options, or we need to zip it. 

What Do Consumers Want?

A study by 360i found that while 43 percent of all tweets from consumers are conversational (a.k.a. employing the '@' symbol), only 16 percent of brands return the chatter. Is a lack of reciprocity doing a disservice? eMarketer's Nicole Perinn seems to think so. 

"Consumers do want information from brands, and the highly informational content in marketers’ tweets is likely helpful to many followers," she said. "But brands must also be ready to actively engage and chat with their followers and potential followers if they want to exploit Twitter’s full capabilities."

Too Much Talk, Not Enough Walk

On the other hand, perhaps it's not chit-chat that consumers are looking for.One argument floating around is that the majority of consumers get their product information from search engines such as Google, and that social media platforms are for consumers looking for some peer-to-peer action (consumer product reviews, suggestions, etc.). In this scenario, blatant advertising on Twitter would become less effective, and engaging more difficult.

Social media consultant Jason Falls of Social Media Today comes from a slightly different angle. While he acknowledges the importance of engagement, he also states that "In the world of business, all that talk will get you exactly nowhere. Conversations do not ring the cash register. Engagement does not sell more product. Talking with people just means you have to take time to listen which prevents you from spending valuable time selling more product."

With specific regard to Twitter, Falls says that it's far more important for brands to entice their followers to subscribe to an e-mail newsletter, or redirect them to a blog. He uses the success of Bill Marriott's blog, the sales Southwest Airlines attributes to it's social media activity, and Dell's reported earnings from its Twitter account as examples.  

What Happens on Twitter Doesn't Stay on Twitter

Falls knows well enough that his claim goes against the popular vote, but he may be onto something. A study by ExactTarget revealed that Twitter is mainly a springboard to other mediums. Here's a numerical breakdown of what Twitter users do with the information they get from the platform: 

  • 72% publish blogs at least monthly
  • 70% comment on blogs
  • 61% write at least one product review per month
  • 61% comment on news sites

"While the number of active Twitter users is less than Facebook or e-mail, the concentration of highly engaged and influential content creators is unrivalled - it's become the gathering place for content creators whose influence spills over into every other corner of the Internet," said Morgan Stewart, principal, ExactTarget's research and education group.

Further, the study found that Twitter users are six times more likely to publish articles, five times more likely to post blogs, seven times more likely to post to Wikis and three times more likely to post product reviews at least once per month than non-Twitter users. 

Perhaps, in the end, it depends on what you're selling. What's your personal experience with engagement via Twitter? Let us know in the comments below how it has or hasn't helped grow your business.