January 14, 2009
WHEN I first heard of Twitter, I thought about it much like many of you probably still do. It’s just noise. Who needs to know when someone is having a pizza?
But I’ve had a few epiphanies along the way that have changed my thinking. The general background is on my professional blog with link above, so I won’t repeat it here. I also posted a piece on my Fastcompany.com blog. The bottom line for me is that Twitter is a great news source, a great place for learning about social networking and a great place for tracking general noise in the blogosphere, whether it is about you, your company, your competitors or any topic of general interest. If it is worthwhile, someone will be tweeting about it. And the noise level behind something is a good indicator of general interest.
There are two major things that you can do right now via Twitter from a metrics standpoint. The first is, measure what is happening with your tweets. The second is, what is the noise about your clients?
Using Twinfluence.com, one can get the equivalent of a research run, showing reach, velocity and social capital of leading Tweeters. Barak Obama shows up with the most “reach” (followers and their connections at one degree) at over 15MM. However, he has not sent a message since the famous post-election victory declaration and now the question is whether in fact it was him or his PR machine. Blogger Jason Calacanis is #2 with over 13.5MM “reach”. Due to a factor called retweeting, Twinfluence rationalizes that the followers of followers could quickly be reached through an important message being forwarded or retweeted. In fact, many of the rankings of importance of Tweeters take retweeting into account. (When they retweet you, your ranking goes up).
Some other metric companies include TweetRush, which can give you an idea about the total volume (running about 300k people per day with about 5 Tweets per person); Tweetlists, which shows the most popular “conversations”; TweetVolume, where you can find the volume of a word or brand; TwitterGrader, which measures your rank (happy to say I am in the top 5% based on reach and authority); and Twitterrank, which for some reason does not rank me as high as TwitterGrader. (By the way, my Twitter address is mediadls.)
As mentioned above, another major use of Twitter is following noise about clients and client campaigns, as well as your own company. The easiest way to follow the noise about your client is Twitter search, which is search.twitter.com. Type in your company, a client’s company or a competitor and see what the chatter is. If you click on the advanced text link, you can add keywords to do with a campaign or many other factors. In fact, when the rockets started shooting from Gaza, I searched for “within 150 miles of Gaza.” Very interesting to see the tweets from both Gaza and Tel Aviv on one page. This parsing of Twitter is key to the future here.
In the future, we should be able to measure the metrics of individuals on Twitter and understand how much traffic they are getting, setting up the potential of an Adwords-type situation where the writer and Twitter share in revenue. We should also be able to do the same for individual topics written about, thus facilitating keyword advertising. Technologies for both of these situations exist today; it’s just a matter of Twitter deciding to open up APIs and to determine what this small company of 25 people who have achieved major influence wants to be when they grow up.
David L. Smith is CEO and founder of Mediasmith, an internationally recognized digital media agency with expertise in targeted media planning, execution and measurement.