Is Twitter a Failed Business Strategy? The Overweight Doctor Dilemma

The Overweight Doctor Dilemma

Have you ever had this experience?

You move into a new community and you are looking for a new doctor.

Having no one to give you expert guidance, you do a quick Google search and choose a doctor with a strong reputation, a large practice and a convenient location.

However, upon arriving for your scheduled appointment, you are greeted with a dilemma when you finally meet the doctor.

He may be a recognized expert in his field, but you can’t help being concerned when the doctor is nearly as large as his practice.

I have nothing against overweight doctors necessarily.  But if a professional is advising you on good health, should he not practice what he preaches?

The same can be said of some of the larger professional agencies in the Social Media arena.  I call it the Overweight Doctor Dilemma.

The Overweight Doctor Dilemma

Let’s review Twitter as an example:

The Top 10 Social Media companies, as rated by, are listed in the Table at the end of this post.  These are all fine companies, with enormous revenue and substantial clients, and like all experienced online entrepreneurs I respect them mightily.  But upon closer examination of their actual Twitter results for their own companies, it begs the question:

Why are their Twitter followings so small?

Twitter or NotEither Twitter must be a failed business strategy, unworthy of their time and attention, or something else is amiss.

In the Bible, Luke 4:23, it is said:  “Physician, heal thyself.”

The phrase alludes to the readiness and ability of physicians to heal sickness in others while sometimes not being able or willing to heal themselves. This suggests something of ‘the cobbler always wears the worst shoes’, i.e. cobblers are too poor and busy to attend to their own footwear.

Alternatively, it suggests that some physicians, while often being able to help the sick, cannot always do so and, when sick themselves, are no better placed than anyone else.

So What’s Going on Here?

None of the companies listed below are too poor to attend to their own footwear, to use the Biblical context. In fact, according to, they had combined revenue last year of somewhere between $39 million and $62.1 million.

So, are they too busy?  Perhaps.  But also according to they employed between 348 and 500 full-time employees.  Seems like they are neither overworked nor understaffed.

That leaves us with only two choices:

  1. Either Twitter is a failed strategy, not deserving of their time and attention, or
  2. These are physicians who need to heal themselves.

By definition, none of these companies believe that Twitter is a failed strategy, because at least to some level they are recommending Twitter to their clients.  More likely, the reason is that they may be less experienced with Twitter than they might be.

In a recent post entitled Women’s Social Media Success Stories — Kraft Foods and Irene Rosenfeld, I quoted Steve Forbes asking Ms. Rosenfeld of Kraft’s success in Social Media:

“What have you done internally and with the agencies you use to really push that forward?”

Her response was instructive.   She said:

… we’re demanding that we think about what we call 360 marketing from all of our agencies, which means we want to make sure that we are addressing all the potential touch points for each of our brands as we market them.”  She continued, “And increasingly, we’re finding some of our agencies are not as able to make that leap as others. I think we started when we began though there was a sense that we wanted to try to find one-stop shopping and I think increasingly, we’re discovering that there are different places that have different skill sets and we are well served to be able to capitalize on the strengths of each of them.” (Bold type mine.)

Twitter is a Strategic Choice

Not every Social Media Strategist believes in Twitter.  It is a strategic choice.  For my part, I believe that Twitter — or the next variation on the same theme — can lead to a major strategic advantage.  I feel so strongly about this, that the strategy I have developed over the last year (the E 13 Social Media Strategy) endorses Twitter as a core element.

What are the take-aways from the Table below?

I have devoted a full year to the development of Jericho’s Twitter campaign.  As of today (May 9, 2011), we have nearly 40,000 engaged Twitter followers, more than the Top 10 Social Media Companies combined.

I believe Twitter is a singularly powerful business strategy.  If you share this view, we should be joining forces to prosper your business.

The Facts Speak for Themselves

Take a few moments to review the Table below, and please drop me an email or call with your opinions.

Michael R.H. Stewart, President, Jericho Technology, Inc.

Email and Phone

Ranking Company Twitter Followers (5/9/11)
1 Intrapromote 2,398
2 4,563
3 WebiMax 201
4 ThinkBIGSites 584
5 Customer Magnetism 1,461
6 Conversion, Inc. 2,887
7 Web Advantage, Inc. 478
8 Reprise Media 663
9 Mint Social 1,115
10 Ketchum, Inc.

Total 14,350

By Contrast

PepsiCo 60,502

ForbesWoman 357,607

AARP 13,168

Ford (Scott Monty) 53,174

Jericho Technology (July 9, 2011)

About Michael R.H. Stewart
"Give me faith, freedom, resources, and a little time ... and I will make things happen that matter." Michael R.H. Stewart is a respected Internet executive with broad experience in all aspects of online business, with an emphasis given to social networking development, and company management. He has over 131,000 engaged Twitter followers. He enjoys 22 years of direct experience with corporate, entrepreneurial, governmental and non-profit clients, having advised them on all aspects of their online initiatives. Prior to his Internet career, he served as a Senior Vice President of AIG Marketing, doing business in 135 foreign countries as well as the United States. Stewart is an experienced public speaker and communicator, with worldwide experience; an expert on corporate branding; an accomplished writer, a creative thinker and problem solver.


10 Responses to “Is Twitter a Failed Business Strategy? The Overweight Doctor Dilemma”
  1. Keri says:

    The answer to your question is…

    If you let it be.

    Where LinkedIn is the elegant dinner party of social media, and Facebook the backyard barbeque, Twitter is the trendy cocktail party. Or…the social telephone.

    In my opinion, Twitter is largely misunderstood. It is hard for people to get their head around the limit of 140 characters, and all the little symbols that give tweets gusto. Plus, in it’s limited space, Twitter’s not broadcasting — At least not successful tweeting.

    It’s about two-way exchange. Sharing information. Developing relationships.

    The tendency is to throw an advertising message out there without regarding the idea that it’s all about them – your audience (not about you). This is where a trained social media practitioner is so important!

    For some, I think they begin to question the potential of this 140-character platform if they do not see immediate results. So, if a C-suiter or entrepreneur experiences frustration, that was the easy social network to let go or not pursue, since a lot of hype has been placed on Facebook.

    Now that the State Of The Social Media Marketing Industry Report for 2011 is out, and we can see that social media is indeed “showing us the money,” I think we’ll see some different consideration to all social media. Twitter included!

    Big numbers or huge dollar signs are not necessarily impressive on their own. I want to know how we got to that point — why is that number so groovy? What percentage of followers are actually engaging and why? Those considering help with their social media campaigns are well advised to ask those questions.

    I’m a quality over quantity kinda girl and very much appreciate those that practice what they preach. There are a lot of social media consultants out there simply preaching. I don’t find that here.

    At the same time, there are many Top 10 lists out there. My question for you, Michael: How did you obtain or form your list in the article above?


  2. Keri,

    As always, your remarks are accurate, prescient and encouraging.

    When the Social Media dust settles, there will be a few of us who — like Edison in his 899th experiment with the commercialization of electricity — have continued trying despite the initial frustrations.

    Suddenly, without warning, all of the lights will go on — and history will have been made, once again, by the pioneers who never gave up.

    For the fortunate ones who follow Idea Girl Media, the victory will be a resounding one, and it will be worthwhile for them, and for you, beyond anyone’s expectations.

    The title of “Thought Leader” is overused and seldom appropriate, but in your case it is a mantle you wear with distinction and humility.

    Thank you for spreading the light.


  3. Hi my friends!

    I really agree with you Keri, there are a lot of social media consultants out there simply preaching. I know that you are walking your talk. I look forward to get to know you more Michael and thank you for this great post, very thoughtful!


  4. Fatima says:

    you amaze me every time I read something you wrote. Wow I am not giving up on twitter or blogging as you are living proof that it can be successful. thank you

  5. Chris C Fox says:

    I think it is a big mistake to assume that success on Twitter is simply a question of follower numbers.

    With so many people following follow-back policies, it is easy to get lots of followers by simply following lots of people.

    Twitter is just a tool. Companies should decide on their strategy first, then look at how various tools can help them to achieve that. Twitter could be an invaluable part of a strategy without requiring more than a handful of followers.

  6. Thank you for your comment, Chris. I appreciate your point-of-view and much of what you said is true.

    While I understand it, I profoundly disagree with your underlying premise.

    While, of course, it is true that Twitter followers can be amassed by gaming the system or using automation, no professional would predict success from doing so.

    It is also true that no professional believes that success on Twitter is simply a question of follower numbers.

    However, I would ask you one question: Can you point to even one company — out of the hundreds of thousands that have tried — that after making a carefully crafted strategic decision to use Twitter as a primary marketing tool has been hugely successful with a small number of followers? Ford, Dell, Dunkin Donuts, and countless others, have been successful with Twitter only after securing a large follower base.

    Look at it this way: All marketing depends upon presenting your message to a very large number of potential customers. To be successful, you must then engage their imaginations, gain their trust and earn their business. Even then, only a small fraction of those potential customers will buy products or services from you. These facts are axiomatic in business, and have remained unchanged for decades.

    Twitter has revolutionized the historical business model. Amassing a significant number of targeted followers is merely one, albeit essential step in maximizing its value.

    Finally, I would take exception to your thought that Twitter is just a tool. I recognize that many online would agree with that appraisal, but I would submit that after 20 years of successful online experience my intuition tells me otherwise. Twitter (and Social Media generally) is a nearly complete departure from the traditional, expensive, and imprecise methods business has used in the past. If it is just a tool as you suggest it is an amazing one.

    While I may disagree with your premise, I applaud your willingness to express it. By so doing, you have proven conclusively that you understand the most essential component of Social Media: The desire to engage. I commend you for that, and wish you the success you will undoubtedly achieve.

  7. Mary Miller says:


    While I undoubtedly agree with yout that success on Twitter requires so much more than amassing followers, I think you’re not placing enough value on the medium when you say “Twitter could be an invaluable part of a strategy without requiring more than a handful of followers.” How can Twitter be invaluable if there are only a few loyal fans spreading the message? Sure, they’ll reach other people but it will be an extremely slow process and probably won’t have that much of an effect on the overall profitability of the business. Those loyal fans man reply to your posts and retweet all day, but are they actually going to cut through the expansive noise that is the Twitter world? Probably not.

    It goes without saying that the greater audience a business has the more likely that business is to succeed. In addition, when a business/brand makes themselves more available to its customers and potential customers and allows these people to engage with it, success becomes even more likely. One of the most important pillars of a successful business strategy is communication with its customers. So if a business can only glean a handful of followers, albeit engaged ones, it stands to reason that business is not doing a good job of communicating.

    Do you have any examples of businesses who have seen social media success with just a few followers? I would love to hear about them.

  8. Mary,

    Congratulations for recognizing and reinforcing the central truth of my original post. It is simply a mathematical impossibility for Twitter to play any major role in business success without a substantial following.

    If you found yourself marooned on a desert island, with ten other survivors, would you spend your time building a gas station? Absurd, of course.

    But suppose you lived in a community with 300 people — no tourists, no ambient traffic, no telephones and no Internet connectivity. Would you expect success selling anything if your breakeven point was the sale of 50,000 units per year?

    The unavoidable conclusion is that the only business that can make money from a scant Twitter following, is the business selling that advice to a company that knows no better. If a business model totally ignores repeat customers, I suppose a consulting company could make it for a while. But eventually what should have been obvious from the beginning will be the death-knell of the consultant’s business, and a costly embarrassment to his client.

    Like you, if anyone can point to even one example of a business that has seen social media success with just a few followers? I would love to hear about it.

    Thank you very much, Mary, for a thoughtful addition to a very important conversation.

  9. The number of followers matters not; it’s the level of engagement and interaction between the followed and the followee.

  10. Of course I agree with your thought. Out of the 50,000 followers I have currently, I engage with 19,000 of them on a regular basis. You cannot engage with 19,000 followers however, if you only have 1,500. (Not my figure, rather it is Klout’s appraisal).

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