Do B2B Editors Get Twitter?

As with other business-to-business content creators these days, there are few trade press editors who don’t have—and at least occasionally use—a Twitter account. The obvious promotional benefits of this social media tool have led most trade publishers to insist, rightly, that their editors use it. But how many use Twitter not just for promotion, but for its most valuable benefit, social engagement? There’s no authoritative answer that I know of. But my own unscientific survey suggests that the number of editors who really get Twitter is small indeed.

What piqued my curiosity was a blog post earlier this week by Colin Owens called “Finding the Value of Engagement on Twitter.” A marketer for the Hay Group healthcare practice, Owens tells how after a year of using Twitter as a glorified bulletin board, he realized that he was not using it productively. “In order to truly be engaged in the Twitter cocktail party,” he writes, “I needed to dive into the conversation. I needed to tweet, retweet and reply with determination and personality.”

After reading Owens’s post, I wondered how many B2B editors have experienced such a moment of Twitter enlightenment. Though casual observations suggest that few of them have, a more rigorous analysis seems in order.

Since a full-scale study is beyond my resources, I chose a small division of a large trade publisher for a quick-and-dirty analysis. From among the 15 magazines produced, I looked for any senior-level editors who tweeted at least once every business day on average, or 22 tweets per month. I only considered Twitter accounts that were transparently associated with a single, identifiable editor. I found seven who met this standard.

After separating each editor’s Twitter posts for a one-month period into tweets, retweets, and @-messages, I categorized each into one of three types:

  • Promotional. Tweets or retweets that link to the editor’s own articles or other content from the publisher’s brands.
  • Curatorial. Tweets or retweets that link to or contain content from sources other than the editor’s company.
  • Conversational. Tweets that don’t link elsewhere, but just make a statement for comment or reaction. They will tend to be more personal in nature than links and thus more conversational. Of course, @-messages, directed to individuals, are by definition conversational.

There’s probably no ideal ratio of these three categories, but any editor who gives them roughly equal treatment is probably maximizing the benefits of Twitter. As the following table shows, only one of those studied, Editor 6, came close to a balanced distribution.

Editor Total Posts Tweets Retweets @-messages Promotion Curation Conversation
#1
22
13
6
3
64%
18%
18%
#2
31
12
19
0
48%
52%
0%
#3
42
41
1
0
83%
17%
0%
#4
45
36
8
1
73%
24%
2%
#5
127
117
8
2
86%
5%
9%
#6
181
41
115
25
24%
54%
22%
#7
238
238
0
0
100%
0%
0%

One of the striking results here is the huge variance among editors in the total number of tweets in a month, from a bare-minimum (for my study) of 22 to an impressively high 238. Is 22 tweets a good number? Hubspot’s Dan Zarella says yes—provided it’s 22 tweets per day. That may be excessive for most editors, but if you’re going to bother with Twitter at all, you should probably tweet more than once a day. Zarella’s research suggests that “users who tweet between 10 and 50 times per day have more followers on average than those that tweet more or less frequently.”  Even 10 tweets a day may be a challenge for many busy editors, but the closer you can come to that number, the better.

Most of the seven editors here lean heavily towards tweets—only two, Editors 2 and 6, devote a significant part of their efforts to retweeting. By its nature, of course, retweeting is a social activity. As Owens notes, retweeting creates a social bond: “it makes me feel validated when I see that someone else has retweeted one of my posts. And often, it does the same for others.” Retweets tell you that the editor is not just talking, but listening as well.

It’s clear that for all but one of these editors, promotion of their own content is a driving force behind their use of Twitter. For Editor 7, it’s the only motivation: all 238 of the tweets link to the editor’s publication. The other editors do at least a little curation of outside content, but only two, Editors 1 and 6, are much disposed towards conversation.

While this analysis suggests that many editors may not be making the best use of Twitter, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are not effective at social media in general. An editor who sends out nothing but promotional tweets, for instance, may engage extensively with readers through blog comments or through a Facebook page.

If they want to ensure that they are making good use of social media, though, editors and their publishers will subject themselves to analysis something like what I’ve done here. They may find that even active users of Twitter are not taking full advantage of the platform.

3 thoughts on “Do B2B Editors Get Twitter?

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