Be in the Moment or Be Somewhere Else: How Brands Should Leverage Twitter

Opinion: All activity should be in service of taking advantage of the immediacy of the platform

Twitter can still be a worthy investment bgwalker/iStock

Regardless of what you’ve heard, Twitter is not dead nor dying. If you’ve watched the news or read a BuzzFeed article within the past 24 hours, you’ve seen screenshots or embedded tweets that helped tell that story.

That’s because Twitter is the destination to discover what’s going on, right now, in your world.

This story may not sound new. As a colleague remarked in late 2016, Twitter is best in the moment and, once the world (and Twitter itself) owns this, magic will happen. Well, Twitter finally received its Hogwarts Letter.

Twitter closed out 2017 with its first-ever GAAP-profitable (generally accepted accounting principles) quarter—achieved by spending the past year refining its focus to the here and now and expanding content opportunities to support.

Every change was an effort to keep it fresh and keep consumers coming back, thus creating more opportunities for brands to be creative with mobile video and incorporate better data, and machine learning, to further enhance their targeting, building relationships at scale.

There is no denying Twitter lacks the scale of Facebook, and it doesn’t capture attention for as long as YouTube and Snapchat. According to the most recent Pew Research Center study on social media behaviors, consumers don’t use Twitter nearly as often as the other platforms, coming in fourth with 46 percent of daily active users, barely edging out YouTube at 45 percent.

However, Twitter can still be a worthy investment. By leveraging the real-time strength of Twitter to relate brand equity to cultural conversations in the moment, your business can find success on the platform.

Here are four areas where brands should focus on Twitter for maximum return on investment:

  • Live and events: Achieve reach and scale in real-time.
  • Cultural moments: Where trends and brands intersect.
  • One-to-one relationships: Humanizing the brand through conversation.
  • The second screen: Capturing viewers with premium content partners.

Supporting live and events

Investing in live and events moments builds reach, scale and gains in share of voice during critical moments. Paid media support is generally necessary, but it can be expensive. However, the higher spend thresholds allow brands to conduct attitudinal measurement studies to further prove return on investment.

Key tactics for supporting live events include:

  • Promoted trends: A branded hashtag position above the top trending hashtags that lasts for 24 hours. These typically come with a high sticker price and should be coupled with a strong promoted tweet campaign, which requires ample creative to tease, build and maintain momentum throughout the trend.
  • Influencer support: Promoting, retweeting and engaging with influencer content. These costs are usually negotiated prior to the activation and will vary based on influencer audience size and level of activity.
  • Live video: Streaming owned live video has no upfront media cost and can be promoted at the desired spend level. Opportunities exist to sponsor or partner with existing live programming such as TicToc by Bloomberg, a unique feed that marries a video livestream with a curated Twitter stream, creating an in-application “second-screen” experience.

In addition to compelling content and a sufficient media budget, in order to truly capitalize on live events, brands need to ensure that the right staffing and tools are in place.

This means having community managers ready to monitor the conversation and respond in real time. A command-center environment is ideal—bringing together the appropriate brand, agency and legal teams to facilitate content creation with accelerated workflows.

Activating cultural moments

The purpose of activating around cultural moments is to drive engagement when relevant trends and brands intersect by joining existing conversations.

Few brands have the capability to start their own cultural moment and must resist the urge to jump on every trend that could potentially relate to the brand. Social consumers have evolved and are not afraid to call out brands for inauthentic pandering. A “brands being brands” recap is not where you want your client to end up.

The two main approaches to activating cultural moments are:

  • Proactive: Planning content ahead of time and using social intelligence tools to identify and forecast trending conversations. This can include broader timeframes such as #BackToSchool, or specific days like #NationalCoffeeDay.
  • Reactive: Creating content in real-time around topics that trend organically, or when your brand is mentioned in pop culture, such as a song lyric or a celebrity shout out.

Quality reactive content is Twitter at its best. Supporting these moments does not require media investment, but the average time an organic tweet lives in feed is only 24 minutes. Paid support will provide incremental reach beyond the trending hashtag and organic engagement.

Building one-to-one relationships

The ability to interact with consumers and humanize the brand is what separates social from other media channels. If a brand is on Twitter, the below three tactics absolutely need to be included in the strategy:

  • Brand love: Responding and engaging with current customers to further their relationships with the brand.
  • Surprise and delight: Rewarding loyal fans with branded and/or useful gear to cultivate brand ambassadors.
  • Customer service: Actively addressing customer complaints and providing troubleshooting support.

When it comes to scale, these above tactics do not require paid media support. The main investment here is in overhead. Employing the appropriate staff to be able to address the volume of mentions and using SMMS (social media management system) software to streamline processes are table stakes.

As machine learning and natural language processing improves, bots and automation tools will play a larger role in increasing response rates and improving timeliness.

Capturing the second screen

The concept of the second screen is not new, but Twitter has two specific products* to reach second-screeners who watch content via Twitter—if media budget allows:

  • Twitter Amplify: Six-second pre-roll bumpers before publisher or broadcast video to capture viewers with premium content partners.
  • TV targeting: Promoting content with unique targeting sets intended to reach those engaging with specific TV shows before, during and after broadcast.

*These tactics are not for every brand and must be evaluated within the context of a brand’s larger media objective.


The strength in leveraging Twitter is to relate brand equity to cultural conversations in the moment, and all activity should be in service of leveraging the immediacy of the platform.

If timeliness is not the most critical component of the message or does not fall within the four categories outlined above, brands should reconsider their channel approach.

Chris Quintero is manager of social strategy at global marketing and technology agency Digitas.