Skip to main content

Who’s winning the war for growth – Twitter or LinkedIn?

Both Twitter and LinkedIn posted Q4 2013 earnings results this week, and both saw sharp declines in their stock price. But what other comparisons can be made from the usage data they made available?

User numbers

Although the two firms use different methods of calculating active users (Twitter has its own Monthly Active Users metric, whilst LinkedIn relies on its own membership data and Comscore measurement), a comparison can easily be made.

Users

Much has been made of Twitter’s slowing growth, but LinkedIn’s growth has slowed even further (a mere 1.6% increase on Q3 2013, which actually showed a sharp decline).

Winner: Twitter

Activity

Again, both companies use different measures of activity. Twitter has its nebulous ‘timeline views’ whereas LinkedIn relies on Comscore’s calculation of page views.

Views

This would account for the marked discrepancy in the absolute numbers seen above, so it is better to look at the growth/decline over the last quarter. Here we see that whilst both platforms have declined, it is actually LinkedIn that has dropped the most:

  • Twitter: Timeline views down 6.9% quarter-on-quarter and up 26.5% year-on-year
  • LinkedIn: Page views down 8.2% quarter-on-quarter and up 9.8% year-on-year

It’s also worth looking at these absolute activity number relative to the user base.

Views per User

Again, a direct comparison between the numbers themselves is not helpful, because of the methods each platform uses to track activity. The trend is interesting though:

  • Twitter saw a 10.5% decline quarter-on-quarter (3.5% down year-on-year) in timeline views per active user
  • LinkedIn saw a 9.6% decline quarter-on-quarter (9.2% down year-on-year) in page views per unique visitor
  • Over the full year, timeline views per active user on Twitter actually increased by 11.8% whereas page views per unique visitor for LinkedIn saw a massive 24.9% drop

Winner: Twitter

Revenue

From the data above, it seems odd that Twitter’s stock price fell by a quarter following its results, whereas LinkedIn’s fell by only (!) 15 per cent. Looking at revenue trends might help.

Revenue

LinkedIn is the clear winner when it comes to net revenue, out-gunning Twitter by a factor of almost two. But Twitter is beginning to close the gap; its net revenues are up 117% year-on-year compared to LinkedIn’s 47.3% growth compared to the same quarter in 2012.

Revenue per user shows the same story.

Revenue by User

In Q4 2013 LinkedIn brought in $2.39 of net revenue per user/visitor compared to Twitter’s $1.01. But yet again, it is Twitter that is seeing the fastest growth in this area, putting on 38.4% quarter-on-quarter (66.5% year-on-year) compared to LinkedIn’s 12% quarter-on-quarter (21.8% year-on-year).

Winner: TBA

So whose stock would you buy?

5 ways for brands to use Jelly (and 1 to avoid)

JellyLogo-TealOnWhite

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a new social network (from an old social network entrepreneur, Twitter’s Biz Stone) on the block. Jelly is an image-based Q&A app available only on a smartphone which, according to the launch blog post, “changes how we find answers because it uses pictures and people in our social networks.”

Here’s the use case that the founders clearly have in mind:

Say you’re walking along and you spot something unusual. You want to know what it is so you launch Jelly, take a picture, circle it with your finger, and type, “What’s this?” That query is submitted to some people in your network who also have Jelly. Jelly notifies you when you have answers.

The reality a few days in is somewhat different:

photo

That said, it’s an active community already. All the questions I have asked have got answers very quickly, and not necessarily from people in my immediate network but those in their networks.

Obviously there’s going to be a bit of silliness going on in the early days, as people test what works and where the limits of what’s acceptable lie. But there are undoubtedly going to be early adopter brands jumping in (most likely with their boots first).

There will be some advising caution, but after a couple of days use here are five ways I think brands could begin thinking about using Jelly:

  1. A/B testing: Jelly could provide a quick, inexpensive way to test alternative visuals (adverts, packaging, logos, etc.) amongst a small but influential group of people
  2. Market research: Have a simple yes/no question to run by consumers? Jelly could provide the answer (quite literally)
  3. Answer questions: Nothing to stop brands answering questions (yet), so offer up an answer if you have something to add. Just remember it’s not about promoting
  4. Monitor answers: No search facility (yet) so don’t expect Jelly to start popping up in your social media dashboard. For now, you’ll need to use the app to see if people are mentioning your products.
  5. Fun and games: Jelly allows people to draw their answers on the picture in question. I’ve already played pin the tail on the donkey and spot the ball!

And the one to avoid:

Posting pictures of your own products! (I am sure the Jelly guys will find a way to let you advertise eventually).

The role of social networks in the B2B buying cycle

In 2009, two researchers set out to discover how social networks were being used by decision-makers in business, whether they were regarded as trustworthy and, in particular, whether they were relied on to support business decisions. Under the auspices of the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR), Vanessa DiMauro, CEO of Leader Networks, and Don Bulmer, VP Global Communications at SAP, surveyed 365 decision-makers or influencers representing 25 different countries, finding that:

  • Professional decision-making is becoming more social
  • Three leading professional networks have emerged
  • Professional networks are emerging as decision-support tools
  • Professionals trust online information almost as much as information obtained in person
  • Reliance on web-based professional networks and communities has increased significantly over the last 3 years
  • Social media usage patterns are not pre-determined by age or organizational affiliation

Specifically, they found that decision-makers are using social networks to inform and validate their decisions, disrupting traditional influence cycles. However they want these online interactions to be collaborative, avoiding the preferred sales and marketing activities of many companies. In addition, three-quarters of respondents now rely on web-based professional networks (most notably LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter) to support business decisions. They also found evidence to dismiss the common misconception that social media usage is a generational phenomenon, with 20–35 and 55+ respondents being the more active users of social platforms. In fact, what they found is that middle-aged professionals are the ones getting left behind, creating a digital void right in the middle of many organization charts.

Yet let’s put this in perspective. The traditional decision-making process is not being replaced by the likes of LinkedIn and Twitter; instead social media is supplementing it. Equally, the ‘traditional’ methods of online marketing are still the most relevant, with even those decision-makers who are most active in online professional networks saying that conducting research via search engines and visiting company websites are the most likely steps they would take to inform their decision-making. Social media is definitely creeping up on the inside though, and that is why B2B marketers cannot afford to ignore it. When around 40 per cent of executives involved in the decision-making process say that they would gather opinions about a potential supplier or look them up on social networks and read other blog posts about them (interestingly only 21 per cent would read the company’s own blog), then it is time to sit up and take notice.

Why businesses should follow their customers on social networks

shunningI was somewhat disheartened, yet not completely surprised, to see that Twitter has released a feature allowing its users to receive direct messages (DMs) from people they don’t follow. As reported by The Drum, what this really means is that businesses and brands on Twitter can now receive DMs from customers – such as when asking for account numbers or tracking numbers – without having to follow them (it also opens those brands up to a barrage of DM spam which is perhaps just desserts).

It’s a move that comes at the same time that Twitter announces the ability for businesses to schedule tweets in advance so that they “can publish content at any time without having staff on-call to Tweet on evenings, weekends, holidays, or other inconvenient times”.

These are both clear signals that Twitter is prioritising the demands of brands and businesses who simply want to use it as a marketing channel for broadcasting messages, not a way to converse and interact with their customers. It’s further evidence of the slippery slope that takes Twitter further and further from the core principles of ‘social’ media and closer to mass commercialisation.

When it comes to the DM/following issue, I just don’t get it. Why on earth wouldn’t a brand want to follow its customers, to hear what they care about, what they’re passionate about, what they think of other products and services, and even competitors? Is it really that awful for a brand to be seen to be following their customers? Is it really that difficult for the person who asks the customer to send a DM to click the ‘follow’ button as well? And what message is this ‘arms length’ attitude sending to customers about how much the brand values them?

Scheduled tweets I can perhaps understand a little more (everyone deserves time off), but I’m afraid can’t see it being used for anything other than filling our timelines with more broadcast messages – even worse, messages planned by a marketing agency – with little resemblance to, or consideration about, what is happening in the world at the time. We have already seen examples where scheduled tweets have caused unfortunate reputation damage simply because no one can predict when a crisis or tragedy might occur. Many more brands look set to join their ranks with such an easy ‘fire and forget’ approach.

For me, both of these developments are nothing more than treatment for the symptoms of lazy marketing – interruption, irrelevancy and ignorance. Brands would be better advised to follow their customers, to listen to what they’re saying, and to talk to them like human beings.

Image source: stock.xchng

The new Twitter interface: bye, bye backgrounds

Playing with the new Twitter interface, one thing struck me immediately: the increase in the relative width of the content area means that backgrounds are essentially now redundant. See what I mean below, which shows the difference between the two in a browser set with an active width of 1,268 pixels:

Before: the old Twitter interface

After: the new Twitter interface

Why is this a problem? As @joannejacobs points out, this is already an issue for those with smaller screen resolutions. Well, maybe it won’t be long term but I see two immediate issues that brands in particular will need to address:

  1. Because Twitter is rolling out the new interface on a staggered basis (for marketing rather than technical reasons, I suggest) those who have not yet been “issued” with the new interface can’t actually see the problem even though it is affecting those who have right now.
  2. Companies who use their backgrounds to impart useful information like who runs their accounts, useful URLs and telephone numbers, etc. will have to find another way to convey this info.

The online ecosystems that have sprung up around Twitter do seem to be getting kicked in the teeth with this new update. Some have already argued that the inclusion of rich media in the web interface now makes third party applications using the Twitter API redundant, and this – albeit very minor – change could well hit the advertising revenues of all the Twitter theme download sites.

What are you working on? Twitter-like tools for the enterprise

In Enterprise 2.0, and indeed as early as June last year, I talk about the benefits of internal micro-blogging using enterprise versions of tools like Twitter.

If this is an area of interest to you (and it probably should be), then I strongly recommend you read two posts from Jeremiah Owyang and Neville Hobson.

In List of enterprise microblogging tools: Twitter for the intranet, Jeremiah has started a list of vendor offerings in the area (currently standing at eight). Well worth watching I think.

Neville takes one of the offerings, Yammer, for a test drive in Twitter for the enterprise from Yammer.

Like blogs, wikis and other social software that has gone before, I advise caution. Make sure you know what you want from such tools (and also what you need in terms of security and control) before diving straight in.