Twitter brand head: ‘Engagement on its own is meaningless’

Melissa Barnes

Twitter’s Melissa Barnes

Social media “engagement” on its own is meaningless and marketers must focus on achieving results, the global marketing head of Twitter told a forum of marketing professionals yesterday.

“I hate meeting with brands and asking them what their goals are and they tell me it’s “engagement”, said Melissa Barnes, Twitter’s head of brand and agency advocacy, who delivered a speech at the Mumbrella360 conference in Sydney. “Engagement doesn’t mean anything”.

“At some point the CEO is going to look at what you’re doing, and so you’ve got to figure out a way to show how you’re moving the business needle.”

“A mistake we see brands make is that they approach Twitter like you would display advertising, and they hit someone with something super-promotional, that doesn’t make sense within the context of the conversation, and people feel like they’re getting an ad. It’s a missed opportunity”.

Barnes also argued that while there will always be some degree of risk when using the platform that should not deter brands from using the medium to increase their customer reach.

“When you think about promoting a tweet, conceivably it could go any sort of way. You don’t know where it’s going to go,” she said.

“You’ve got to get brands comfortable with saying things that not everyone’s going to like… one of things we do when we first meet with brands is to help them understand what’s the baseline of sentiment right now for your brand at the moment, get comfortable with it because guess what, there are probably going to be some people out there who don’t like you .. the opportunity [on Twitter] is to shift that sentiment”.

Barnes had offered some tips for brands to employ when public sentiment starts to turn against them.

“Often when you’re looking at an issue on Twitter, there are a couple of considerations that we tell people to look at. The first is that you want to check momentum, is the issue growing, are there more people talking about it, is it building?

“You also look at influencers. If influencers enter the conversation, that’s sometimes a sign that you should get more involved because they’ve got a lot of power and a lot of influence”.

Her comments come as Twitter strikes a data marketing deal with WPP, just four months after the advertising giant’s boss knocked the social network for not being an advertising medium.

WPP group CEO Martin Sorrell said in an interview in February that Twitter was “not an advertising medium” and lacks depth. It is a vehicle for PR, he said.

The deal will see the launch of new data products and services, Twitter training for WPP staff, and integration of Twitter data into WPP media and analytics platforms.

Sorrell said in a press release: “Twitter’s relevance continues to grow – not only as a social platform, but also as a window into consumer attitudes and behaviour in real time.”

“We are delighted to announce this very wide-ranging strategic partnership and to ensure that Twitter data is a key ingredient in many of our disciplines. We look forward to leveraging the platform in a variety of ways for our clients around the world.”

Julian van der Zee


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella Asia newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing