By @TheMarkDalton

Some of you may who follow me on Twitter may have seen me send out a series of tweets about how I rank social networks currently in the landscape of attention.

It is important to take note of where users currently are and make sure we market ourselves or our content in the space where people are paying attention. So, to make things completely clear, I am going to explain why I think Twitter is still a crucial tool for businesses but why it also ranks at the bottom of my list on the scale of user attention.

Why Twitter is still a crucial tool for businesses

When someone who runs a business or is starting off in business asks me about what social platform they should start out on, my answer is Twitter. That tends to surprise people when they find out that I rank it well down the list in terms of networks when you want to reach as many people as possible.

However, Twitter has managed to keep something unique, it is not solely a content publishing platform. Twitter gives people and businesses the chance to have a voice if you use it correctly. Should you choose to use Twitter exclusively as a content publishing platform you won’t necessarily be a failure on Twitter but you won’t get as much out of it as you potentially could have.

Twitter allows businesses to initiate a relationship and a conversation with a customer without coming across like a stalker. It is the only place online in terms of social networks where you can jump right into the conversation uninvited and reach out to random potential customers without looking like spam.

How many of us have tweeted about a business, and I mean not actually used their ‘@ handle’ in a tweet and just mentioned them but still have them jump in and respond to you? It has happened to me multiple times – Virgin, UPC, Eircom, Vodafone, AIB, Barclays – just some examples of companies who I have been talking about on Twitter, not talking to directly, but they have jumped in to initiate a relationship anyway.

They do this by utilising social listening tools on Twitter so they can detect when you are talking about them not just when you are talking to them. As a business, picking up on these conversations and jumping in to offer opinion or assistance could be crucial when it comes to growing your online presence.

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Twitter’s search tool allows you to search keywords relevant to your business, pick out relevant tweets in real time and then join in the conversation. When you are building your brand on Twitter it is important to remember some important steps.

1. Make sure you have a profile photo, banner photo, contact information and website link. Think of your Twitter profile page as a business card and make sure you have all the important information on there.

2. Use Twitter’s search feature to locate keywords relevant to your business and jump into the conversation.

3. Provide value. This is not just about trying to push people to sell your shit or to look at your website or read your blog. Don’t just spam the living hell out of people and constantly post links to your website. Help people, give value to who you interact with. If you do this then people will naturally be interested, check out your profile and then they will decide if they want to follow you or check out your website.

4. Don’t auto DM other users or send them messages asking them like your Facebook page or check out your website. This is unsolicited junk mail. Everyone who sends me an auto DM gets unfollowed straight away. I have taken the time to check out your profile, tweets and content. Then I have decided to follow you on Twitter because I like your stuff and in reply I get an automated message asking me to download your free e-book or connect with you on LinkedIn or like your Facebook page. Please, if you use the auto DM tool, please, for your own good. Stop using it!

Remember, you need to be patient. You may only get one interaction from hundreds of tweets you send. Be patient, it doesn’t happen overnight and you need to keep at it if you want to grow followers and have more people interacting with you. Don’t get too disheartened.

So why do I rank Twitter so low compared to other platforms?

Well if you remember my tweet at the top of this article, I rank social media sites in terms of attention and marketing importance as follows.

1. Facebook
2. Instagram
3. Snapchat
4. Twitter

Now in this list I am only including the main players, I haven’t included LinkedIn because it is not great for organic reach and engagement. Then you have other networks I use such as Peach, Anchor ect. But they are on my “social networks to watch list.”

Facebook

Facebook comes in at the top because of course it has the highest number of users registered to the site, the highest number of active users and most people will check Facebook every day. It is the big player, combined with the best advertising ROI platform that exists online at the moment.

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If you are a business dabbling in social media but not on Facebook, or not paying attention to what you can do with Facebook ads then you are missing out big time.

Instagram

Instagram is a surprise to people when they see it coming in second. Instagram is owned by Facebook and as of late 2015 it was celebrating 400 million plus monthly active users. People are engaging and consuming content at a phenomenal rate on Instagram and if you, as a business or a content creator, use Instagram smartly then you will see it work wonders for your organic reach.

What I mean by this is that if you take a photo on Instagram and you stick a few hashtags on it then you may get little to no interaction at all. However, I have been testing something on a dummy account for the past month or so which I have just started testing on my main Instagram account and that is long form Instagram posts.

Makes no sense right? Why would long form content work on Instagram? Well really it shouldn’t work that well on Instagram however from trying it out I can tell you that long form posts are over indexed on Instagram and Facebook Pages. So using long form means that you can extend your organic reach. This is one of the reasons why Gary Vaynerchuk has been asking users to review his book on Instagram in around 12 sentences.

Try it for yourself if you are not sure, post a photo to Instagram with around 12-15 sentences in copy and watch what happens with your organic reach. Try it a few times and you will see that reach grow. The same applies to Facebook Pages if you want to try it out there.

Snapchat

I have made it clear by now how I used to feel about Snapchat and why those feelings have changed. If you missed it then you can catch the full post here. However, Snapchat is where the attention seems to be heading at the moment and 12 months down the line, if it continues to grow at the rate it has been growing at so far then it is going to be massive.

If you ever wanted a shot to place yourself solidly on a platform as a brand, be it personal brand or a business brand then you need to wake up now and realise that the time to get on board and get snapping is today. The problem people are going to have with Snapchat is that it is a different language. Other social media platforms use a feed to present content whereas Snapchat uses photos, videos and swiping from screen to screen. Right now, people have ‘aged down’ the platform and feel that their customers may not be on it. They feel like they may be too old for Snapchat and I completely understand why. I get it, I felt that way this time last year.

However, the age demographic is rapidly changing. What used to be 14-18 year olds has shifted up to 19-25 year olds and is currently shifting up again to 26-35 year olds joining in massive numbers. Some of my favourite Snapchatters right now are in their 40’s and 50’s because they get it. They understand where the attention is moving and they are downloading the app to get in the game. I was ignorant to it but I woke up just in time and realised that if I want to establish myself before it becomes overpopulated then I need to get into the game.

Shoutout to the people who actually spent time time helping me realise how I can use the platform for me and to help grow my personal brand (if you happen to be reading this you know who you are) as opposed to the idiots who told me it was the best thing for companies going but couldn’t actually give me a single reason or show me why that was.

Snapchat is where 124 million users go each day and spend approximately 30 minutes of their time on the app. That is a huge amount of content consumption and while this platform is not going to be for everyone at the moment you may still want to pay attention to what is happening.

I’m not saying that as a content creator you need to download Snapchat to get in the game but I am saying that if you, as a content creator, don’t pay the slightest attention to where users are going, then you are creating a big vulnerability for yourself. There is as much video traffic on Snapchat as there is on Facebook and soon that will overtake Facebook so it might make some sense for you to have some idea on what they hell is going on over there.

So why do I rank Twitter as fourth despite describing it as an important tool for businesses?

Simple really, Twitter is the smallest in terms of active user numbers when put side by side next to the big players and despite all efforts on their part it is not growing at all. They have been passed very quickly by other networks setup long after them and at the moment they are hanging around 320 million monthly active users.

Twitter seems to have hit a wall over the last number of quarterly reports and Wall Street is getting angry. Twitter’s growth may not necessarily be a bad thing as such. Do they need to be as big as the others to be a success? No. They don’t need to be Facebook, they don’t need to be Instagram, they need to be Twitter.

However, the reason why I put it at the bottom right now is because we need to understand that at the moment we are playing in a small corner of the internet. At the Gary Vee event in Dublin last Monday, Niall Harbison from Lovin Dublin spoke about how most of their traffic comes from Facebook and how a lot less of the traffic comes from Twitter.

That doesn’t meant that Twitter is not an important tool and that we should stop using it. As Niall himself said – “its not dead, its half dead.”

People will see different trends with their own analytics, some people may look at their traffic and say “well there isn’t much difference in where my traffic is coming from.” However when you start using the advertising platforms to promote content then that is when you could start seeing a big difference between the two.

When it comes to creating content we need to focus on the areas where the attention is first, then we are maximising the organic reach of the content we are putting out there.

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