Twitter’s future might be up in the air with companies as diverse as Disney and Salesforce rumored to be considering an acquisition, but brands have grown increasingly clear on how they use the platform — which has helped topple governments, but failed to become a mainstream gateway for e-commerce.
If a customer has a bad experience at Victoria’s Secret or a question for Nike, they are likely to turn to the brand’s Twitter account and brands are increasingly there ready to answer.
“Many brands have shifted their investment toward customer service, which contributes to the large volume of posts we see occurring on the platform,” said Taylor Malmsheimer, research associate at L2 .
Twitter accounts for about three quarters of brand posts across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but less than 2 percent of interactions with users, said Malmsheimer, noting that Twitter is not a place where brands are going to generate engagement.
Advertisers report that more than 80 percent of their inbound social customer service requests happen on Twitter, according to the site.
Research by Twitter and Applied Marketing Science that was released today found that responding to a customer’s tweet boost that shopper’s willingness to spend by up to 20 percent.
The study that the fastest responses generated the greatest revenue impact. For example, in the telecommunications industry, customers are willing to pay more than $17 per month on a phone plan if they receive a reply within four minutes.
Even negative tweets are a good thing — perhaps even better than a positive tweet. Researchers concluded that 69 percent of the people who tweeted something negative felt more favorably when a business replied. And in the telecom industry, conversations that began over a negative tweet ultimately resulted in a three-fold increase in customer willingness to pay for their monthly wireless plan compared to those who tweeted something positive.
Twitter researcher Wayne Huang said that consumers perceive Twitter as significantly less frustrating than other customer service channels, and even prefer it slightly more than in-person interactions. He added that research from McKinsey & Co. that said interactions on social media cost one-sixth of those in a call center.
“Combined with the revenue potential, favorability, satisfaction and recommendation impact of these interactions, businesses can benefit significantly from investing in helping their customers on Twitter,” Huang said.
And so, the platform has doubled down on customer service tools, such as an update that allows brands to display estimated response times and customer service hours on their profiles, L2’s Malmsheimer said. It also added a message button so that customers know they have the option to start a private conversation.
“Since tweets are inherently text-based (unlike Instagram, where the default post is a photo), it is easier and cheaper to generate large volumes of content on Twitter,” Malmsheimer said. That hasn’t stopped Twitter from also pushing heavily toward more visual content, such as live-stream deals and video advertising.
In L2’s annual report on digital leaders, Victoria’s Secret came out on top for its approach to social media. On Twitter, it has about 10.1 million followers, compared with 46.1 million on Instagram. Recent tweets show that the brand is both tweeting links to buy products — a product catalogue through a Twitter feed, so to speak — and responding frequently to customers who mention the brand on Twitter.
Nike’s Twitter account has 6.6 million followers compared with 63.7 million on Instagram. It regularly tweets out videos in addition to responding frequently to fans and customers.
According to eMarketer, Twitter’s share of social network users in the U.S. is dropping. In 2016, it estimated that about 28 percent of total social network users in the U.S., or 52.2 million people, used Twitter. Facebook claimed almost 90 percent, or 167 million in the U.S., while Instagram garnered 36 percent, or 67.2 million.
“It’s clear that Twitter has struggled over the past couple of years in terms of performance and its ability to compete with other social channels, said Toni Box, who is senior director of social media and content at PMX Agency.
Even if the company is sold, it is expected to remain widely used as a customer service tool and a contextual news source. Box said that a sale could be “exactly what it needs to shake things up.”