Twitter profits, immature markets, failed policies, bots and spam
Twitter revenue (or the lack of it)
I joined Twitter relatively late, but since then it became my favorite social network. Although I love using Twitter everyday (@spyrosth), from reading the news to getting the latest memes from Greece, it seems that the platform in general is a bit of a failure (compared to Facebook). This failure represents the lack of profitability for the company Twitter. Why Twitter cannot make enough profits from its users? My answer focuses on the immature digital market of Greece and it extends to Twitter failed policies.
Immature markets and failed policies
In Greece, which is an immature digital market, the majority of my parents' friends (and Greeks above 40 in general) joined Facebook in the last couple of years, but nobody joined Twitter. Well the numbers are different since a lot of people from Greece joined Twitter recently but there is only one reason for doing that: Eleni Menegaki. Menegaki has almost half a million followers on Twitter, but the majority of them are not using Twitter except from retweeting her. On the other hand the majority of middle aged Greek Facebook users upload a lot of silly posts everyday on their timeline, like other silly posts, and of course interact with Facebook ads.
|Google search for Twitter in Greek|
If you Google Twitter in Greek (τουιτερ) the top results are all related to Menegaki's show on Alpha TV. Menegaki is the "Greek Oprah", the hostess of the most popular (used to be morning) afternoon show. She represents the "average Greek housewife", so she didn't have any social media presence since recently. But when Menegaki joined Twitter and started to give away gifts, all the middle aged housewives of Greece joined Twitter too. You just have to retweet one of her tweets presenting a gift offer to enter the competition. It's free, you just have to sign on twitter, follow one account, and click one button.
Καντε retweet κ 3 απο εσας κερδιζετε απο 1 δωροεπιταγη 50€ MAC 💋💋💋💋❤️ pic.twitter.com/5pxshcdCdb— Ελένη (@Eleni_AlphaTV) 10 November 2016
Every giveaway tweet of Menegaki gets around 20.000 retweets within minutes, in a very small and immature market like Greece, where the top accounts struggle to get more than a thousand engagements within days.
So the question is: if you are a Digital Marketeer who wants to promote a product on Twitter will you use Twitter Ads or a giveaway on Menegaki (combining TV and social)? No second thoughts here.
Even if you wanted to use Promoted Tweets, remember that the majority of Menegaki's fans don't properly use Twitter at all, they don't read their timeline, they don't tweet, nor interact with other users (except from replying on her tweets). If you look at the detailed view of her tweet, you will see that even spammers who reply to her tweets get at least 4-5 interactions (no paid tweets, no policy to prevent them either).
Another thing worth mentioning is that Menegaki's twitter account is not verified (who cares?), and that she is not on Facebook. I mean why is she not on Facebook when almost 100.000 people talk about her?
Answer: because Facebook has strict policies about promotions:
Promotions may be administered on Pages or within apps on Facebook. Personal Timelines and friend connections must not be used to administer promotions (e.g. "share on your Timeline to enter" or "share on your friend's Timeline to get additional entries" and "tag your friends in this post to enter" are not permitted).
Twitter not only allows black hat marketing, but it provides black hat marketeers a free, non penalizing platform to deploy.
On the other hand Facebook (like Google), has restricted black hat techniques as much as possible. So if you want to be advertised on Facebook you will have to pay its Marketplace. Well done Facebook for keeping my timeline clear from shared posts promotions, while making enough profit from a small market like Greece. Besides losing money Twitter makes its platform user unfriendly. I have muted Menegaki, and I am sure a lot of regular users in Greece have done the same, either that or there is no chance to have a normal timeline.
Spam and bots
The second thing Twitter fails to cope with, and that also leads to losing profit is spam and bots.
Twitter's still completely useless in ferreting out botnets, unless they're actively spamming. They haven't really evolved too much, either— Asteris Masouras 正义 (@asteris) 17 November 2016
Let's go back again to our Digital Marketeer in Greece who has the task to promote a Twitter account. The first thing that will come to mind is contacting Menegaki's team or any other similar celebrity.
Is his/hers second option Twitter Ads? No.
His/her second option is hiring a cheap "social media guru" or a "social media specialized agency" that can guarantee instant results to our marketeer. Yes, black hat marketing, spammers, bots, botnets, twitter eggs, call them whatever you like but you cannot avoid these on Twitter.
Let's see another example. The General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) joined Twitter in 2013 (@gsee_gr) but until last week the account didn't have many followers nor interactions. A tweet GSEE made on October 31st got 0 retweets and 0 likes:
ΔΕΛΤΙΟ ΤΥΠΟΥ-Οι δυνάμεις της εργασίας και της επιχειρηματικότητας απαιτούν εμφατικά τη ... - https://t.co/2dWG1WxlLd pic.twitter.com/DATSybr2dF— Γ.Σ.Ε.Ε (@gsee_gr) 31 October 2016
On the same day GSEE made another tweet, but after asking for help from a "social media guru". So by adding a GIF image the tweet managed to get 256 retweets and 146 likes. Good job isn't it?
Απέναντι στα κάθε είδους «παπαγαλάκια», εμείς #ΣπάμεΤουςΜύθους για τις Συλλογικές Συμβάσεις Εργασίας pic.twitter.com/qbKuDzypzq— Γ.Σ.Ε.Ε (@gsee_gr) 31 October 2016
Well no. The majority of the retweets were made in November, by new users (joined in November) who use their full (typical yet random) Greek name, with a very cute profile photo, and they only retweet GSEE, aka BOTS. Just a small sample of the accounts that currently interact (only) with GSEE:
Bot 1, Bot 2, Bot 3, Bot 4, Bot 5, Bot 6, Bot 7, Bot 8, Bot 9, Bot 10 went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine (hundreds).
Conclusions about Twitter failed policies, profits and bots
Twitter enlarged its user base in Greece in the recent years, yet it fails to make any profit out of it. From the almost half a million followers (5% of the Greek population!) of Menegaki, Twitter gets no ads, no profit, no quality content, and almost no other action except from retweets. It seems that Twitter almost sponsors the Greek TV shows that uses its platform to promote products for free. The platform hosts millions of users without profit.
Why Twitter fails to make a profit?
If you want to get your product advertised on Twitter you just pay an account with many followers to do it (failed policy).
If you want to get more followers and interactions you just pay a botnet, that is cheaper and can guarantee instant results (failure to copy with spam and botnets).