Friday, April 18, 2008

Eric T. Peterson Doubts the Importance of Twitter

Eric Peterson spoke at Web Analytics Wednesday last night at WebTrends HQ in Portland. As usual, he was engaging and animated. I'd say there were about 30 people in attendance, and Eric kept the attention of every one of them. The question and answer session went on for 20 to 30 minutes.

Afterwards, a smaller group of us, including Eric, went to Dragonfish for beer and sushi (Eric's treat -- thanks Eric!). Eventually the conversation turned to Twitter. I found myself in the unexpected position of being the only one in the room who a) uses Twitter; and b) actually understood what Twitter is, how it is used, and it's potential value to the marketing organization.

Eric actually went on record with this statement (paraphrasing here): "Twitter has no value. You can't measure it. It's just a bunch of people talking." (Cue uproarious laughter.) Eric's a friend of mine, so I'm poking fun at him here. But seriously, I think he's missing the boat.

I can think of a way that Twitter is immediately measurable with web analytics, and some ways that it can be measured or support future measurement outside of traditional web analytics.

Use it as a viral or direct marketing tool. Use a URL minimizer (or smallerizer, as I like to call them) such as Twurl for all embedded links. Twurl has built in measurement, allowing you to see click-throughs on all your links. It's just an experimental tool at this point, but there are a lot of things it's creator, Rick Turoczy, could do with it. Of course, you could put a web analytics campaign tracking code on the redirect URL to track response and subsequent site behavior, too. Seems pretty measurable.

Use it to mine past or monitor for present conversations occurring about your brand. Track those conversations across the social mediasphere as they start on blogs, move to Twitter, and then end up back on the blog again. Use this as a component of buzz measurement. Go a step further and score sentiment. Are people talking positively about your brand or negatively about your brand. Identify the influencers and model the conversations. Are you trending in a negative sentiment direction? Does a negative comment from an influencer change the sentiment of those in their sphere of influence? Twitter's APIs provide access to a massively rich source of data about conversations about your brand, and even provide the FULL TEXT of the conversation. We're not too much engineering effort away from being able to mine that data, follow the conversations to other social platforms, map out who's influencing who, and get notified who you who you should be engaging and why.

As I write this Chris Grant and John Hawbaker are having a conversation on Twitter about the the engagement model Eric Peterson has proposed.

Regardless of measurement, though. Twitter is important for the same reason that blogs you don't write are important. Your brand has an online community whether you choose to participate in it or not. (I read that somewhere, but I don't remember who said it. Citation, anyone?) Participating allows you to impact the conversation.

Update: Forgot to mention, Eric did create a twitter account from his iPhone last night while he was arguing its unimportance. Welcome aboard, Eric. ;-)

3 comments:

Eric said...

http://blog.webanalyticsdemystified.com/weblog/2008/04/now-i-too-am-a-lazy-blogger.html

Make that "pbbbbbthhhh" sound your kids make from time to time.

E.

John Hawbaker said...

Hi Aaron,

While I have to admit I'm more interested in Twitter as a personal social tool, I can easily see how it could be used well for businesses. JetBlue is a popular example of a business using Twitter and being received well by the community.

I should also say that I cringed just a bit at the suggestion that something might not be valuable just because it is not directly measurable. Perhaps I have not been in web analytics long enough. :)

John

Aaron Gray said...

Eric: I'm rolling on the floor. I'm sure I deserve that. :-)

John: Thanks for the comment (and also the follow on Twitter). I use Twitter as a social tool, too. Most people do. But in the process of talking to people, we invariably share experiences we have with the companies and brands we interact with, even if we don't realize we're doing that.

And I agree with you, I don't necessarily think that unmeasurable things are not valuable. But analytics being a measurement-driven community, folks tend to want to know how something's going to get measured.