Twitter works best if you are already well-known

Obama and Winfrey

Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Cristiano Ronaldo all share a common feature; they are amongst the Top 15 people in the world on Twitter. Between them they have over 89m followers. Plus their Tweets are amongst the most Retweeted items worldwide. When Barack Obama won his second term as President of the United States of America his Tweet about it became the most Retweeted item ever.

But there is something else these individuals share – we all knew about them before Twitter became popular. Indeed many people knew of Oprah Winfrey around the world before the World Wide Web itself was invented.

The success of these individuals on Twitter and other social media is linked to their success in the “real world”.

And that’s not just the case for celebrities and Presidents either. Look at the top commercial brands on Twitter in terms of their reach and you find names like McDonald’s, Nike, Adidas, American Express, Coca-Cola and Starbucks in the Top 20 list – all companies that existed before the Internet began.

Social media success follows real world success. If you want to do well on social media, then your business needs to be well-known in the real world first it seems. As ever, offline branding is important.

This is made clear in new research which analysed how news organisations use Twitter to spread the news. The study found that the best performer in terms of length of life of their news Tweets and the amount of Retweeting which went on was the BBC. In comparison, Forbes magazine performed less well on Twitter as did The New York Times.

The BBC is helped because it is a global brand – people have heard about it everywhere and it is available worldwide – and has been so for decades, well before the invention of the Internet. The New York Times, in comparison, is less well-known as a global brand. True, many people will have heard of it, but they will probably have come into contact with it less frequently than they have done with the BBC. In other words, the offline presence of a brand appears to have an influence on its online presence too.

Whether you are a celebrity or you run a business it seems the impact of social media is greater when you are already well-known. That means if you are trying to use social media to improve your business and grow your sales you will actually do better if you concentrate your efforts in getting your business known in the real world first – and then using the likes of Twitter to improve things once that has happened.

Picture credit: By vargas2040 (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_0861.JPG) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
RT @bstormdigital: “Never forget social media is for reach but email is for revenue.’ – Brian Eisenberg #emailmarketing #brainstormdigital - 4 mins ago
Graham Jones

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