Three Classification Genres for Measuring Twitter
I think it’s safe to say that Twitter has progressed from frivolous novelty to productivity tool for thousands of consumers, professionals and businesses alike. Projections from eMarketer have active Twitter users pegged to reach 18 million by the close of this year. I’ll admit that I was skeptical of the value of Twitter at first. I even went as far as to publish Conscientiously Objecting to Twitter, because I couldn’t see the value. But upon experiencing delirium tremors after being locked out of my Twitter account for 18 hours last week, I’m beginning to see things differently.
Frivolity leads to efficient information intake. There’s been a lot written about how and why people use Twitter for business purposes. I won’t rehash since my fellow Forrester alum, Jeremiah Owyang has published a great blog on the do’s and don’t of Twitter usage. For me, Twitter has become my go-to source for industry news and information. My evolution to this point began circa 2000 when jumping between bookmarks to troll major news sources was my common practice. A few years later, it evolved to aggregating RSS feeds (via iGoogle) in a single portal that I personalized to meet my news interests and needs. Now in 2009 I’m firing up TweetDeck to review the latest buzz; to gather news; and to quickly find information from people I feel are relevant in understanding technology, marketing and to the measurement industry. By using Twitter in this way, it creates visibility for things that I’m curious about and calls my attention to what’s new.
A new mode of discourse comes to light. It used to be that striking up a conversation with someone meant looking them in the eye and asking them what they thought about a particular topic. Twitter (and social media as a whole) has shattered the geographic limitations of conversation. This medium offers both individuals and brands the chance to pose their questions to thousands of potential listeners and receive feedback at scale. The conversation, which may have involved just a handful of people, now includes many. This offers great potential for understanding sentiment, sharing ideas and generally interacting with multiple people in an efficient way. European brands including Cadbury and Vodafone are leveraging Twitter as a new means of interacting with their customers through promotions and clever events. This exchange of information is fueling ideas, products, and adding incremental value (as well as entertainment) in an exponential way.
Twitter ushers in a new era of consumerism. The New York Times recently wrote, “America’s first Twitter Christmas got underway in earnest on Friday”. The article speaks of Black Friday shoppers using Twitter to reveal bargains, lodge complaints and even disclose parking availability at the Mall of America. Examples in the article illustrate that consumers are circumventing traditional channels and turning to social media. This poses significant threats for organizations because service issues are aired for all to see and the appropriateness of response can likely ripple extensively to shape the opinions of thousands of listeners. Best Buy is one organization that is out in front of the social networking craze and has developed “Twelpforce”, an employee driven service that responds to Twitter inquiries. According to the NYTimes article, the Twelpforce answered 25,000 questions even before Thanksgiving demonstrating substantial resolution in an efficient manner.
So what! How can a business use all this? Well, of course it all centers around measurement. As with all marketing initiatives, I recommend that businesses begin with a strategic approach to measurement by clearly understanding goals and objectives (this works for personal brands as well). It requires an introspective look at your motivations for getting involved with Twitter in the first place and then applying a matrix of key performance indicators that will indicate progress toward your goals. These KPIs should be specific to business objectives that pivot depending on the tactic and the social media channel.
The way I see it, there are three classifications of Twitter objectives that can be used by organizations and individuals alike. I’ve broken these classifications into genres because each contains myriad possibilities that will undoubtedly expand and grow as this medium matures. Yet, for individuals, marketers and the brands they represent, each Tweet falls into a genre that can be measured and evaluated with specific indicators of success. Everything else is just noise.
The Twitter genre’s are:
Visibility – This genre includes specific objectives such as building awareness, driving public relations, new customer acquisition efforts, dissemination of news and so on. Visibility is the “hey look over here” function that Twitter offers to get people to read your blog, visit your Web site, learn about your new initiative or simply turn towards that shiny new object you have to offer.
Exchange – Herein lies the catalyst to interaction between individual Twitter users, organizations and brands. The opportunity to pose questions, drive inquiries and elicit feedback within communities opens a new discourse that’s amplified through the channel. It’s the truly collaborative aspect of Twitter, where parties interact with one another in a meaningful way.
Resolution – This is the genre that provides answers. Resolution includes Twitter’s ability to provide service and support in a rapid and widespread manner. It demonstrates to the population that brands are listening to their customers and actually solving problems. It gives consumers a megaphone for expressing either satisfaction or displeasure and places them in the drivers’ seat.
I advise mapping specific measures of success (in the form of KPIs) to these genres in order to better understand the ways in which you’re providing value as an organization (or as an individual) to your following.
Categorization and measurement leads to understanding. Regardless of whether you use my genres above or develop your own, the ability to classify Tweets leads to a systemic method for measurement. The one thing that I love about social media is that there is an opportunity for measurement to transcend the mistakes we’ve collectively made while measuring web sites using Web Analytics. In most cases, Twitter doesn’t carry the baggage of legacy measures. Measurement analysts and marketers have a chance to work should-to-shoulder to establish metrics that align with the goals of their social media efforts. This requires understanding that topline metrics like follows and followers are generally meaningless without context and even with some context they aren’t actionable measures. Thus, more in depth metrics like influence, velocity and clout and the tools we use to measure these activities are required to recognize value from Twitter. For the typical digital measurement analyst this means starting from a place that’s more enlightened than visits and page views. Halleluiah!
Get on the bus and develop a measurement plan. The explosive growth of Twitter (be it healthy or unhealthy) begs the question…How are these 18 million users measuring the value of their efforts? I’ll venture a guess and say that 0.0001% is actually doing any kind of meaningful measurement on their Twitter efforts today. But, if you’re a business immersed in social media then you’d better be measuring – or – if you’re just toe-dipping into the social media arena there’s no better time to start.
But, I want to hear what you think. Are you measuring Twitter using anything like my proposed genres today? Would this method work at your organization? Could it lead to a strategy for developing your personal brand? I welcome your comments in an exchange of ideas here!