Industrial marketing, Twitter and why we don’t think they’re necessarily always a fit

Jon Franko by Jon Franko

I’m a big fan of Twitter. I think it’s great. It never ceases to amaze me that messages limited to 140 characters have changed everything from corrupt governments to the way we use the restroom. Next to the Internet, Twitter (which to me is almost one in the same with the Internet) might be my pick for the best invention/innovation of the past 30 years.

If you follow me, you know that I use Twitter for everything from sports rants to restaurant reviews to Tweeting about hunts and haunts around town. I get the majority of my news from Twitter. I can’t watch sports, or TV in general, without it. And it’s my go-to for making a recommendation on a movie, book, magazine or musician. Lately, my stream seems to be all about the Missouri Tigers…the SEC East Champion Missouri Tigers, that is.

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But what I’ve come to realize is that I don’t like Twitter for marketing. Well, at least the kind I do – that of industrial marketing.

I know, I know, a marketer that is telling you that your company’s Twitter use COULD be in vain.

“Blasphemy!”

“Are you crazy?”

“This can’t be true!”

It’s hard to believe, right? Well, to a certain extent, it is for me as well. But at Gorilla 76, we’ve carefully watched the traffic patterns and we’ve concluded that at least right now, our time is best spent in other online marketing endeavors.

Gorilla 76 and our use of Twitter for industrial marketing

Before I can go on a rant about how Twitter simply isn’t working for our clients, I first should preface how we’ve been using it for said clients.

In short, we’ve been using Twitter the right way. Or at least in accordance with what all the social media pundits are recommending. We Tweet 4-5 times a day. We send links out to our own content, as well as links to curated content. We interact with industry thought leaders, potential customers, brand champions, members of the press, etc. We’ve grown our followings, being careful to actively block out spammers and inactive accounts. And we’ve always responded immediately to a response or request.

We’ve studied this stuff like mad and guess what. It’s not really working.

Fruits of our labor

At Gorilla, we’ve always believed in the importance of marketing with goals in mind. And currently, for all of our clients, our goals are to grow lead lists. This happens from on-site conversions – stuff like white paper downloads, newsletter signups, case study inquiries, etc. And from the numbers we’re seeing, Twitter simply isn’t acting as the conversion vehicle we thought it would.

For instance, for one of our clients, year to date, three, I repeat, THREE, leads have been gained from all of 2013’s Twitter use to date. And guess what – they weren’t good leads. One was a competitor, one was a vendor and one was a marketing agency (probably trying to sell the “power of Twitter”!). That same client, however, via Organic Search, had received 54 conversions to date this year. That’s 18 times more conversions. So think about it – where should we be spending our time? On Twitter? Or signed into the company blog writing keyword rich content increasing our chances of showing up in search? We decided on the latter.

Let’s look at another example. A large local industrial painting company. This client has seen less than 300 visits to their site this year from Twitter. Worse than that? Zero conversions. That’s right, no one has come from Twitter, submitted information and entered their sales funnel. The result? We’ve adjusted strategy and allocated more time to blogging, LinkedIn and other online endeavors.

One final example. This one, well, it’s actually not a client at all. It’s us. Now, one would think, for a marketing agency, even if it’s a B2B industrial marketing agency, Twitter must work well….wrong. The results are slightly better than what we’ve seen with the other clients, but since February of this year, we’ve seen 20 conversions from Twitter. Zero have been sales qualified leads. For Gorilla, we’re going to continue to play in the Twitter sandbox, keeping expectations within reason. But for our clients – it’s pretty much on pause across the board.

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Time investment for Twitter

Sure a Tweet might only be 140 characters and realistically doesn’t take that long to type, but finding the material, crafting the right message, and doing this several times a day…well…it all adds up. Not to mention there’s the account maintenance (constantly finding new people to follow and interact with), there’s the monthly scheduling out of calls-to-action on your site, there’s the scheduling out of company content and there’s the immediate response that’s needed if someone pings you. There’s the daily constant monitoring to see if anyone is speaking good, bad or otherwise in the first place. There are the journalists and industry thought leaders that you constantly try to connect with as well as the job-seekers and students that seem to inquire often.

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Long story short, using Twitter for industrial marketing requires serious human capital, and honestly, we just don’t think it’s worth it. To us, it’s very hard to dedicate 15-20 hours a month to something from which we’re not seeing results. We think it makes a lot more sense to instead focus on efforts that are paying off, increasing results in those arenas two- and threefold.

Too much buck, not enough bang

So, a lot of work requires a lot of money. A lot of money is, well, a lot of money. If we’re truly being good stewards of our clients’ money, how can we possibly recommend that they continue to use Twitter, when we know it’s simply not delivering the results we once were hoping for?

We can’t. At least if we’re smart we can’t.

Because while Twitter isn’t performing up to our expectations, other marketing avenues are. LinkedIn, content creation, Facebook (yes, Facebook) are delivering the results we’re after. We’re seeing high engagement rates as well as significant conversion rates (yes, we track everything to see how it leads to on-site conversions, etc.)

To do the above and to do it right, significant time must be allocated to Twitter use every month for our clients. After running campaigns for several of our clients for several years now, we’ve finally decided, it’s simply not worth the time investment. At least right now, it’s not. It’s our job to figure out when it’s relevant again for the industrial marketing space.

So social media doesn’t work in industrial marketing?

No. That’s certainly not the case at all. For our client base, we’re currently seeing great results with Facebook and LinkedIn.

Facebook is a great tool for fostering internal company culture and engaging the local community. Is it driving conversions on site? Well, technically no. But there’s still a high enough engagement rate that we can still justify using it as an awareness tool.

LinkedIn is perhaps the most valuable tool in our social media toolbox right now. We’re seeing the best traffic (meaning most conversions) come from LinkedIn. Our guess is that it’s due to the mindset of the audience. When signed into LinkedIn, one is in the business mindset. It’s business time.

Twitter and Gorilla

At Gorilla, we’re going to continue to play in the Twitter sandbox as far as our own marketing is concerned, keeping expectations within reason. But for our clients, we can’t afford to play around.

Now – share your thoughts and let the onslaught begin!

Jon Franko

Jon Franko

Jon is a founding partner of Gorilla 76. Jon was named to the 2010 St. Louis Business Journal’s “30 Under 30” class and was named as one of St. Louis’ “Top Young Entrepreneurs” by the Small Business Monthly. He's a passionate Missouri Tiger and loves to spend his spare time hunting ducks and fishing for fish. Jon is a founding board member of Launch St. Louis, Friends of Clifton Park and is a board member for Brightside St. Louis. He’s a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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  • Alex Sagi

    We should Tweet this article @jack (Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter) and @smb2b (the guys who wrote “The B2B Social Media Book”) and see what they say.