I speak to groups about social media marketing a lot. The audience make-up can vary greatly when it comes to social adoption from very advanced marketers looking to take their activity to the next level to small businesses trying to grasp what this ‘social media thing’ is and how it can benefit their brand. 

For fun, as I walk through various networks I often ask for a show of hands to see who’s active on what. With the latter group — the small businesses — the hands often universally shoot up for Facebook. However, when you ask about Twitter most sheepishly drop their hands. As I make the case with Twitter’s use numbers and other stats I can see them adding it up in their eyes — if none of my peers are on Twitter, why in the heck should I be?

This could seem like a tough case to make. However, recently a new data set has emerged that makes this point clearer than ever before.

The Twitter Gap

The soon-to-be-released Social Habit series from Edison Research reveals a sizable gap between those on Twitter and those who know about Twitter. The study found that though only 10% of Americans use Twitter, 89% know about Twitter. Reread that if you missed the distinction but clearly the latter group — those not using Twitter — are still aware of the existence of tweets because of their reach across other traditional media platforms such as television and print, where errant celebrity and political tweets regularly make the headlines.

This is nothing new. In fact, it’s the third year Edison has reported a gap like this. (You can read more about this from Edison VP Tom Websiter on his blog brandsavant.com.)

What This Means to You

When small businesses scan a room seeing others’ hands down, it obviously — though somewhat anecdotally — reinforces the Edison use number (10%) but it’s not a complete picture of the impact Twitter can have for your brand. As the ‘know about Twitter’ stat suggests, tweets have a way of making it into our collective zeitgeist. Bottom line? Your tweets could have extended reach and potential beyond your follower count.

In addition to Twitter’s community-building benefits as a real time content-sharing and conversation stream, it’s also a key traditional media access point — even for smaller, local businesses and movements. I’ve personally experienced public relations enriched at the local level by forging strong connections with reporters and media outlets via Twitter.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet, That is the Question

Does this mean you should tweet because your Twitter feud with a Kardashian could make it onto tonight’s TMZ? Not exactly. Rather it means that the other hands up in a room isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of Twitter’s value. As is the case for most social channels, it’s getting increasingly difficult to say that just because your friends aren’t on a particular network that the same also holds true for your customers.

Your customers are growing and evolving. Make sure your social media strategy is as well. If you’re ready to join the conversation, you can follow me at Twitter.com/NickWestergaard.

Photo via Flickr user Nathan Jongewaard