Four Ways to Hedge Against Twitter Platform Instability

-Twitter Logo-Tom Johansmeyer is the Senior Content Director at enter:marketing. He also blogs for Cigar Reader, of which he is co-founder, Gadling, and Luxist.
The “fail whale” just isn’t cute any more. Back in the middle of 2008, it took the edge off, but those days of end-user kindness are distinctly in the past. Now, more people are using Twitter – and they are using it more aggressively. For those of us in the social media marketing world, Twitter has become a particularly important tool in helping our clients communicate and gain visibility. When the microblogging service isn’t available, we notice.

On June 9, 2010, I turned to Twitter to push a link from Cigar Reader, one of my personal blogs (not even a client undertaking), and I saw the notorious whale and the excuses it implies. For several hours, I bounced between Twitter.com and Ubertwitter on my BlackBerry to cobble together a solution … but to no avail.

Particularly vexing was the fact that this debacle came on the same day that Twitter announced its new URL shortening feature, “t.co.” Twitter is advancing its capabilities – and encroaching on the ecosystem that has served it so well as a growth engine – but it’s not addressing the basic stability issues that have nagged the company throughout its period of aggressive growth.

For social media marketers, this presents a dilemma. The development of new features, especially those designed to push traffic (like t.co), hit our sweet spot. Yet, they are rendered far less effective by a platform that routinely struggles with capacity issues. This tension between Twitter’s investing in innovation and “keeping the lights on” must factor into a marketer’s analysis of the social media marketing environment and determination of where to apply time and resources.

So, what can you do to beat these occasional frustrating situations on Twitter? Here are five ideas to get you started:

1. Diversify your social media environment: This principle isn’t just for the investment folks. Use several social media platforms, and don’t be afraid to duplicate relationships across them. If Twitter lets you down one day, you can always fall back on your Facebook or LinkedIn marketing environments.

2. Bet heaviest on what you can control: Usually, your blog is where you have the greatest ability to control your fate – especially if you host it yourself or have a rock-solid service-level agreement. You aren’t relying on a third party that doesn’t exist specifically to advance your marketing needs. Remember: social media marketing through platforms like Twitter and Facebook entails taking advantage of an opportunity that isn’t intended to be a pure marketing environment.

3. Add a management layer: Use a solution such as HootSuite to manage your tweets and other social media content. This won’t protect you from Twitter outages, but you will be able to track what content was published and be able to quickly reschedule what wasn’t pushed out. You’ll get back up to speed faster when Twitter stabilizes.

4. Plan post-outage engagement: Don’t try to cram three hours of tweets into the first ten minutes of resumed availability. Instead, reengage with your followers and use one or two tweets to let them know the various blog posts that they’ve missed. Instead of trying to pick up the lost clicks with several tweets, make up the lost ground by bringing people to your blog and letting them click around on their own.

It’s easy to forget that Twitter isn’t a marketing platform. We use it as such, but it is really a tool for social engagement among “civilians.” Marketers are piggybacking that intention, and it provides greater reach, engagement and traffic direction. Doubtless, Twitter will need to improve its stability and availability as it generates more revenue – and as its investors seek a liquidity event. Until this happens, the best move is for social media marketers to be ready for the outages and hiccups that are bound to come.