Counterpoint: Engagement On Twitter Isn’t Everything. But Advocacy Is.

It’s easy to forget that Twitter isn’t a one-size-fits-all communications channel. What works for one brand isn’t necessarily the right strategy for another. That observation may seem obvious but tends to get lost amidst the various case studies of success that frequently capture marketers’ attention.

Every brand is distinctive. Its digital and social media marketing strategy needs to be customized in a way that matches its unique marketing needs and customer peculiarities.

I bring this up after reading a post in All Twitter last week by Percolate Brand Strategist Kunur Patel in which she advocates that brands tweet more often in order to acquire “millions of followers.” She uses @WholeFoods and its three-million-plus Twitter followers and multiple humorous and interesting tweets each day as a brand exemplifying that strategy.

Any brand can acquire thousands, if not millions of followers. But unless that effort fits within the ethos of the brand it has little value to its overall marketing strategy.

Tweeting all day for a brand like Whole Foods makes sense but it is not a holistic social media marketing strategy. Most brands do not benefit from tweeting that often.

The issue boils down to how Twitter users follow brands’ updates. Increasingly they do so via targeted lists, whether through or third-party apps such as HootSuite and TweetDeck.

A brand like Whole Foods is not likely to be placed in a list by most of its three million followers, so it wants to catch users at the sporadic times when they check Twitter. It makes sense, therefore, for Whole Foods to tweet often.

But that strategy can’t necessarily be replicated with the same success for other brands. There are too many variables in play.

The other canard in the tweet-often-for-followers strategy is that engagement is the “holy grail” of social media. While a laudable and important goal, engagement is a start, but isn’t everything.

True success in social media comes from how brands capitalize on their interactions with consumers. They must turn engagement into advocacy.

Advocacy and word-of-mouth marketing from a consumer’s friends and trusted sources are the “holy grail” of digital marketing. Both are far more valuable to brands than its number of Twitter followers or retweets.

We are long past the days when social media is merely thought of as an engagement tool for brands. Companies should think of social media as one part of their broader digital marketing strategy. It should be used to yield advocacy, tee up customer acquisition and, yes, generate sales.

Whole Foods is no doubt a model for successful digital brand marketing. But its strategy on Twitter isn’t one that can or should be blindly replicated for every brand.

Success in social media isn’t found solely through frequent updates and engagement. Success comes from what brands tweet, how they engage with their followers and the value those followers find in that engagement. That doesn’t necessarily require a lot of tweets each day but it does require a strong social media strategy built with goals in mind beyond acquiring millions of followers.

Brands need a content and engagement strategy – not just a blast broadcast play.

Do you agree?

Steve Goldner is senior director of social media marketing at sister digital media and marketing agencies MediaWhiz and Ryan Partnership, part of the Hyper Marketing Inc. network. Follow him on Twitter @socialsteve.

(Follower image from Shutterstock)