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Study Shows More "Babble" on Twitter Than Promotion
Despite an uptick in business activity, Pear Analytics says the majority of Twitter posts contain "Pointless Babble."
Posted Sep 2, 2009
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When conversations rise about business involvement with social media - particularly Twitter - the point of "How can my business benefit from learning what someone ate for breakfast?" usually seems to always sneak in. Bacon and eggs might not seem like challenging notions, but for organizations wanting to monetize, market, and establish social media footprints, figuring out what conversations to pay attention and which to tune out can be a real chore. Sites such as Twitter are social in nature -- filled with conversations and chatter both meaningful and meaningless. And according to Pear Analytics, a products and services company that helps marketers gain insight, businesses shouldn't expect the conversation to turn serious anytime soon. The company's August Twitter study finds that the majority of Tweets contain what Pear has labeled "Pointless Babble."

Ryan Kelly, the founder and chief executive officer of Pear Analytics, relays that the basis of the study was to find out what people are Twittering about. "Our hypothesis was that people use Twitter for self promotion," Kelly says. "There are a lot of businesses now getting into Twitter and they are over-marketing through the tool." Given that Twitter is now three-years-old, a lot of evolution has occurred with the tools' functionality, its membership numbers, and, its implications for business and personal use. Pear Analytics, before conducting the study, predicted that promotional Tweets would swim to the top of the list given the amount of businesses flocking to the site. However, according to Kelly, the promotion piece wasn't as big of a percentage as he had imagined.

To conduct this research, Pear Analytics sampled the Twitter public timeline for 10 days -- Monday through Friday, every 30 minutes from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. It took 200 samples from the timeline each day for a total sample data set of 2,000 points. Twitter posts were placed in one of six category buckets. The results are as follows:

  1. Pointless Babble: 41 percent. These Tweets share some thought or point of view, but are directed at no one in particular with no distinct purpose. For example, "Today I ate waffles for breakfast."
  2. Conversational: 38 percent. Flagged with an "@" symbol, these Tweets go back and forth between people in a conversational fashion. 
  3. Pass-Along Value: 9 percent. Flanked with an "RT", these Tweets pass along another's message or link.
  4. Self-Promotion: 6 percent. These are typical corporate tweets about products, services, or "Twitter only" promos.
  5. Spam: 3.8 percent. A Twitter's least favorite type of Tweet, these posts direct users outside of Twitter with lines such as, "See how I got 3,000 followers in one day."
  6. News: 3.6 percent. Pear sanctioned this bucket as any sort of mainstream news that you might find on a national news stations such as CNN or Fox. This did not include tech news or social media news on sites such as TechCrunch or Mashable.

Although surprised that promotional Tweets came in fourth, Kelly says, he isn't too shocked that pointless babble grabbed such a large piece of the pie. "This is primarily the reason Twitter was created, right?" Kelly says. "In fact, most social media was created so that we as friends and colleagues can share stuff very easily. It was not created as a marketing tool or as a news aggregator -- it was created originally as, 'What are you doing?' And it still stands true and that's what people are using it for." However, recently the Twitter homepage positioned the slogan, "Share and discover what's happening right now, anywhere in the world" -- a phrase that hints more at news sharing than pointless babble.

Kelly notes that as Twitter evolves and adoption grows, so does how people use it. Therefore, Kelly says he wouldn't be surprise to see shifting in the usage statistics even within a year. "As businesses are starting to join and figure out how to use [Twitter] as a marketing tool, the promotional aspect will trend up," Kelly says. "It may be that the babbling piece of it trends downward."

Additionally, Kelly says he realizes that there is a good deal of subjectivity that comes along with the categories his firm created. "It's a work in progress," he says, adding that as they continue to conduct such studies, he hopes he will be able to examine trends and growth areas on the site.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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