• Twitter Study Reveals Interesting Results About Usage – 40% is Pointless Babble

    A while back we embarked on a study that evolved after a having a debate in the office as to how people are using and consuming Twitter. Some felt it was their source of news and articles, others felt it was just a bunch of self-promotion with very few folks actually paying attention. But mostly, many people still perceive Twitter as just mindless babble of people telling you what they are doing minute-by-minute; as if you care they are eating a sandwich at the moment.  (See our last post on Twitter: Is Anyone Paying Attention?).

    So we took 2,000 tweets from the public timeline (in English and in the US) over a 2-week period from 11:00a to 5:00p (CST) and captured tweets in half-hour increments. Then we categorized them into 6 buckets:

    News, Spam, Self-Promotion, Pointless Babble, Conversational and Pass-Along Value.

    See our entire whitepaper here.

    Results

    The results were interesting. As you may have guessed, Pointless Babble won with 40.55% of the total tweets captured; however, Conversational was a very close second at 37.55%, and Pass-Along Value was third (albeit a distant third) at 8.7% of the tweets captured.

    Other Results

    - 11:30a and Monday’s have the most frequent tweets with Pass-Along Value.  If you want something re-tweeted, try it at 11:30 in the morning, or try it on a Monday.  Maybe folks are feeling generous then.

    - Spam seemed pretty consistent all day, everyday, but luckily was second-to-last on frequency.

    - News seemed heavier at 2:00p and on Tuesday’s.  Note that we did not collect any tweets during the Michael Jackson news, in order not to skew the results.

    - Conversational tweets were high between 2:00 and 4:00p throughout the study, and heaviest on Tuesdays.  Most people are busy on Monday catching up with work, so perhaps it takes until Tuesday to get into the swing of Twittering again.

    Conclusion

    With the new face of Twitter, it will be interesting to see if they take a heavier role in news, or continue to be a source for people to share their current activities that have little to do with everyone else.  We will be conducting this same study every quarter to identify other trends in usage.

    Since Twitter is still loaded with lots of babbling that not many of have time for, you should check out the Twitter filter, Philtro.  These guys can not only help you filter the noise, but will also be allowing you to store the tweets you are most interested in real soon.

    See our entire whitepaper here.

     

    71 comments
    aocuoifashionlove
    aocuoifashionlove

    Well this is my take on this “Headline” and its eye catching emotive perspective. (by the way it is a good headline.. and it received a lot of attention and achieved great traction in link wheel social media mentions)

    aocuoifashionlove
    aocuoifashionlove

    Well this is my take on this “Headline” and its eye catching emotive perspective. (by the way it is a good headline.. and it received a lot of attention and achieved great traction in social media mentions)

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    Syedqurat
    Syedqurat

    We should all look to this as fuel for our own aspirations to succeed with our own blogs

    Kris
    Kris

    Personally I've never quite gotten into twitter. I love facebook, though. It seems different by countries, a lot of americans are using it but not so many people where I live (Iceland).

    nitGreen
    nitGreen

    Ryan Kelly, Brilliant analyzing Twitter behavior and its usage. can you explain what “Pointless Babble” as you mention %40 ?

    graham
    graham

    40% seems pretty low..

    Amada Secker
    Amada Secker

    Great job! I'd personally not understand or agree with all the things here, however it still is highly worthwhile content material! I very likely will invest the next handful of hrs simply thumbing through your other useful articles. Adios at the moment.

    Candice
    Candice

    Hey, great article thanks :)

    Lissa Rechtzigel
    Lissa Rechtzigel

    Nice Post! I was searching for free classified advertising and classified related articles when I came across your website post on Bing. This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for the share. I've saved this post for future reference :-) Nice comments - Cheers

    Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I think this survey is interesting as it tries to define all the different activities on Twitter. Thank you.

    Roberto
    Roberto

    It reminds me Babylon... lets call it Babblelon ;-)

    D.K. Smith
    D.K. Smith

    I'm so glad someone is taking a good look at what's behind all the Twitter hype, blue smoke, and mirrors. Especially since Twitter is hiding their usage data from the world. Hope some of their multi-million dollar investors pay attention to your study's findings. Please keep up the good work!

    eolai
    eolai

    Ken, do we really have to do our own study - can we not criticise what we think is a flaw, not least because it's the very heading of the post? Changing the category name to not describe certain tweets as pointless or as babble, but to call them trivial, verbiage, or personal, doesn't address the technique of how they categorized - which was by personal judgment ignoring context. I read tweets every day that by theis report's methodology would be classified as pointless (or by your suggestion as trivial or verbiage) when I know that they are not. Random tweets from the general timeline looked at in isolation are very difficult to classify, but dumping them ones you can't be sure of into what's really an unknown category and then posting a heading saying 40% of them are pointless is both lazy and inaccurate.

    Ken Jones
    Ken Jones

    No research is perfect. The purpose of research is to describe, explain or predict phenomenon... to add to the body of knowledge. "Stirring the Pot" if you will, is a way to accomplish this. Ryan's study certainly accomplishes this. If you are a critic and and see flaws in Ryan's methodology - do you own study. If you are a reader of the research - understand the limitations and take it for what it is worth. Seems like the semantics of Ryan's category name "Pointless Babble" is the main sticking point of the study. Might I suggest a renaming of the category for the upcoming follow on study. Trivial updates, personal rhetoric, or verbiage might be less offensive.

    ilMirons
    ilMirons

    I'd like to make a note about the method: in my opinion looking for the answer to the question "How do people use Twitter?" should not be focused on tweets in general, but should also consider Twitterers "weight". Searches showed that 75% of tweets is posted by 5% of users (Gizmodo, you too reported it). I would put a threshold on how much people tweet (or how much are followed, or both) in order to evaluate what "real users" do with Twitter, and philter occasional users because as far as they are many they could be the most of the sample. Philtering on how much people are followed perhaps make even more sense: people reads followed people not the timeline. Then it depends on what you're looking for with the survey. P.S. another thing I was disappointed was the philtering of tech news, but I noticed this will change in next surveys

    Seo London
    Seo London

    Pointless Babble won with 40.55% , Conversational was a very close second at 37.55% and Pass-Along Value was third at 8.7% of the tweets captured.Really good results to see that 4 out of 10 are waste its true only the Good and authentic one are conversation remaining are just time pass or spam.Good work Kudos....

    Maya Stevens
    Maya Stevens

    Many of Twitter messages are automated and useless for me. I have many followers there, but rarely I can read something nice and interesting. Promotions, links, automated messages, RSS feeds... That is the reason to search less popular service similar to Twitter, but with quality content. For example I am testing the new start-up service, that is already popular Gloggy (http://gloggy.com) and I am satisfied for now.

    Ryan Kelly
    Ryan Kelly

    @Silviya - we originally had the impression that Twitter was being "overused" by business promoting products and services. There are certainly many examples of where businesses are using Twitter successfully, such as Whole Foods, Dell and others. I've heard stories of being able to get better customer service through Twitter than through the phone. Go figure. However, our study didn't measure that specifically, but would be good for a future study. Thanks for the comment!

    Silviya Doneva
    Silviya Doneva

    The results sound plausible but I think they are missing something extremely important - how businesses are using Twitter and how they benefit from it. More and more big names like Bank of America, Comcast etc are integrating Twitter in their CRM (customer relations management) reducing their costs from inbound calls, improving customer satisfaction and makeing the relation with consumer more personal and stronger! The real value of Twitter is for businesses...

    Ryan Kelly
    Ryan Kelly

    @stilgherrian I appreciate your criticisms - I really do. Is this study perfect? No. Was it insightful? We'll let our readers decide. Remember that this was part 1 of a much longer, ongoing study. Unfortunately, people are missing this point. We simply took the first stab at trying to quantify usage and behavior. We didn't have a million dollars, and eight months to do this. Frankly, I'm not too sure a study like that would yield much different results anyway. Part 2 of the study is to actually track real users and let them decide what THEY think is "pointless babble". This is likely going to be a much less strict criteria, since it could actually include things that could be deemed conversational, or a RT. Our beta test resides on pointlessbabble.pearanalytics.com. We will be comparing the two data sets, and my guess is that the number will be higher that our original quoted 40.55%. Or, maybe I'm wrong, and it will be less. Let's see. Finally, (last commenter) Philtro is not paying us for anything. Their tool is free, our tool is free - as entrepreneurs, we're trying to help each other out - that's it.

    Does it matter?
    Does it matter?

    The data is speaking whatever you folks have made it to.The news channels bought it because they wanted to. However, it would be foolhardy to expect everyone to buy the results on its face value. So, did philtro pay you guys or did you do a dry run just to gain market value? May be you are brothers-in-arms after all.......

    Stilgherrian
    Stilgherrian

    Ryan, you say: "The number one outbound link is Philtro.com, and their signups are skyrocketing -- seems to me people are in need of some kind of filter for all of the noise. The data speaks for itself." There's two problems with that statement, which make me doubt the integrity of this whole operation even further, not just your research. 1. Your "seems to me" comment about people needs is pure speculation. Another explanation, unfortunately one which doesn't fit the promotional needs of your client quite as well, is that after all this fuss people are simply curious to see what Philtro actually does. After all, you got news headlines -- mission accomplished, well done -- so anyone interested in this field professionally will check it out, even sign up -- and then perhaps never visit again. It's way to early to see if there's real interest in Philtro's tool. 2. "Skyrocketing" is not a number. You're starting from a base of zero, and you provided a dodgy criticism of one of the most popular now tools on the planet. Of course you're going to see a spike in traffic. What really counts is the lasting value -- and it's too early to see what that will be. While I didn't use the phrase "moral policing" myself, I don't think it's that far a stretch. Check Sarah's comment over here: "If some guy tweeted that he was “at the club with his niggaazz and ho’s”, I put it into babble. If there was a post about going in to record at the studio, self promotion. Headed to Karaoke? Babble." That, to me, is a pretty clear value judgement of someone's communication, and therefore of them personally, based on what? Whether they're working of socialising? Whether they use "proper grammar" or street slang? Seriously, if you're not "getting" that this is way off mark then... well... that speaks for itself. And you're still not getting that this "noise" of which you speak is other people's personal communication. Valuable to them. Your folks make such personal value judgements of other people's words based on... on whatever you made up at the time... and then wonder why the response is angry? Man, that shows a complete misunderstanding of so much.

    Ryan Kelly
    Ryan Kelly

    There is no moral policing going on here.....that's a bit of a stretch, don't you think? Any by the looks of the analytics data on our site, the number one outbound link is Philtro.com, and their signups are skyrocketing - seems to me people are in need of some kind of filter for all of the noise. The data speaks for itself....

    Does it matter?
    Does it matter?

    Its all making sense, although in bits and pieces - seems like an elaborate smear campaign; PA rising at the cost of poor twitter. I just can't stop being amused at the way this has been executed. Twitter is just a micro-blogging portal. Period. Its a tool, and how you use it and what you use it for is upto you. Why this moral policing? Why this sensationalism? Guns have caused more damage than the "babble" on twitter. And our nation is yet to arrive on a consensus on gun laws. There are bigger issues out there that the news channels should rather take care of. So what's the next product PA is launching? A new, fresh, micro-blogging portal aimed at social marketers, with customizable babble and conversation filters attached! Don't tell me I am right! The good folks at PA have made villains out of something as innocuous as Twitter. After bloating up the social media bubble and reaping profit on it for a while, they have had the courage to actually play a part in bursting the bubble and making more profit. And, they have had the support of all the news channels who always crave for something sensational. Its plain profit all the way. Amazing! Worse they are walking out clean by stating that this substandard piece of work is actually "research". Hell, students in high school do better work than the "white paper" you folks have come out with. I have nothing for or against twitter. It's just another social networking portal. But what these folks are doing is intolerable and infuriating.

    Matt
    Matt

    A most unscientific and unsatisfactory study that proves nothing due to the subjective methods taken. However, as an observational exercise merely providing a snapshot there is some value, & there were some valuable conclusions that alas went mostly ignored - I hope the various news organisations who publicised, and more so dramatised these findings into the questionable headlines and sensationalist news are made to feel stupid soon. Its only because they feel threatened that they interpreted this in any sort of significant way for the general trends. You might as well walk down the street and ask 200 people what they're thinking. At least the proportion of porn would be higher.

    FrihD
    FrihD

    I suspect that 2000 messages (less than 1/4 of Mo) is not enough given the large data base of messages. There might soon be more replies to this post than sampled messages ;). Especially, the sampling method might introduce a very large bias.

    Ryan Kelly
    Ryan Kelly

    This came out yesterday on TechCrunch - Why I Don't Use Twitter

    Stilgherrian
    Stilgherrian

    Sarah, you say: People have either become very defensive and argue that all their Tweets are little pearls of wisdom that everyone needs to know about or people are surprised that it’s only 40% babble. Could you point to where critics have said anything along the lines of "all their Tweets are little pearls of wisdom that everyone needs to know about"? The criticism I'm seeing (and taking part in) is about the methodology of the categorisation. Indeed, much of the criticism of the study is not that tweets are something "everyone needs to know about" but the precise opposite: salient to the tweeter's specific social group. It's only this study which makes value judgements about the tweets of strangers being "pointless babble".

    mahasti
    mahasti

    Brian - any chance I could look at your data (51 m & growing tweets)? I'm interested in a specific topic (#iranelection) that trended from sometime in June to the first week of August. If you can share the data, please e-mail me at mahasti@verizon.net . Thx

    Does it matter?
    Does it matter?

    I agree with Designosaur. "What are you doing?" was what twitter was all about initially. In came the social media marketing bandwagon and twitter changed to "Share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world". So depending on whom you follow, it could be anything - from a revolution in a country, to a person eating a sandwich. Why make a fuss about it? So what's next? Classifying the updates on facebook? Even that could be an analysis. @Sarah: "Actually, it did have a purpose. Seeing as how many thousands of people have responded to the survey, it seems it had a much bigger purpose than originally intended." It did have a purpose. Seemingly, it's a publicity stunt; and it has served its purpose. Kudos.

    Warlach
    Warlach

    Just thought I'd mention Sarah that there are a number of response to your comments on Stephen Dann's blog that I'm sure people would be interested in hearing your take on. Linkeroo:

    Chris Hone
    Chris Hone

    Yes, and this research is an example of complete babble as it useless and serves no purpose.

    Designosaur
    Designosaur

    "Value" is relative (as has already been pointed out). Also, how often could one expect to get profound (aka, something other than "mindless babble") responses to the question "What are you doing?" That seems to be what the initial point of Twitter was: answering that question.

    anon
    anon

    You actually realize the limitations of Twitter and why people choose to use it?, in whatever capacity they wish Good, that will explain why you decided to announce to the world about the "pointless babble" statistic - you didn't actually think that pass-along would be top or something? That's what REAL news sites are for. Twitter fills the gap between conversation and forum posts, to a degree - not to post a sample of that thesis you've been working for so long on.

    Brian
    Brian

    I have access to the raw data of over 51 million (and growing) tweets. This accounts for about 1.5% of all tweets generated so far. You have my email, contact me if you are interested in access to the data.

    Greg
    Greg

    I've been a twitter'er for 2 years and have gone through several phases of it's use. My previous use was focused on providing valuable insight into the latest technology happenings, but I am now in the phase of using it simply as a way to Chronical my life by answering the core question of what I am doing. While this may appear to be babble to you, it is useful to me. I care less about the value it provides others and more about the value it will give me in the future. - Greg

    Steve James
    Steve James

    Tempted by the BBC news story to visit your website, I'm afraid your white paper lacks substance and you should have found a more intuitive angle for your study. Categorisation leaves much to be desired, and putting 40% of your recording into one criteria of 'pointless babble' ultimately means your report is also pointless babble I'm afraid! (Sorry - could not resist that) For instance - surely having someone tweet 'I am eating a sandwich' is a potential opp for a sandwich company to engage? I fear you do not truly know the value of Twitter itself, which is perhaps, more worrying. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that. Starbucks would love to know when Lance Armstrong (of 1.6m followers) is eating a sandwich. What would be interesting is if you categorised more deeply than your office-favoured category headings which do more to amuse than to educate. I like the demographics compilation though, so the report was worth the read for that alone. Thankyou.

    David
    David

    the predominance of pointless babbling is interesting. Perhaps it shows that users are evolving a common language to use with this new communication tool? (i.e., babbling as a precursor to language)

    eolai
    eolai

    I'm puzzled by your categories. If somebody says "I'm now on my way to event XYZ", that could have different meanings based on context of previous tweets or blog posts. It could have mass interest because it pertains to something the tweeter said they would do once at XYZ, so it could be self-promotion. Or it could be a way to let people know that no conversations will be possible for a certain period of time - which would make it conversational. Whatever its purpose though, surely it isn't pointless? If somebody says they are having a sandwich for lunch, is it really pointless? What if previous tweets indicate they can't eat bread without a serious medical problem resulting? What if it's a response to a request for people of a certain geographic area or grouping to indicate what they're having for lunch as part of an online survey? What if it means they're about to break the world record for eating sandwiches for meals? What if 8 people just asked them - would that not make it conversational? Even if context isn't apparent, is it not possible that tweets you categorize as pointless babble could be part of branding, which would make them self-promotional,? And even if they have no product/service or other web presence to promote, could not a tweet you categorize as pointless babble in fact be part of presenting themselves, a promotion of their very being - which would surely have an important social role? My point is that "pointless babble" seems at best to be a misnomer; it looks like a category you've put things into because you don't know where to put them but unfortunately you're now being quoted as saying that a significant amount of what is posted on twitter is pointless. I appreciate you're not saying that it's bad, but pointless isn't very good, is it? Wouldn't "I Don't Know" have been a better name for that category?I've looked at hundreds of thousands of tweets and seen very few I would call pointless.

    Ylan Kunstler
    Ylan Kunstler

    Like everyone I would like to thank you for taking the time to launch this study and more importantly for sharing it. I was wondering though if you begin a study by categorizing something as "Pointless Babble" whether the category innately connotes something that is of no worth or value. What about the idea that <a href="http://theinfocratic.com/what-do-people-tweet-about-pointless-babble-is-there-value/"One Person's Tweet Trash, Is Possibly Another's Tweet Treasure"... You qualified Pointless Babble as "I am eating a sandwich now" tweets. What about Social Media marketers? Would I not be potentially interested in Pointless Babble if I worked for Subway or Quiznos or another fast food company (McDonalds, Burger King, Chipotle, etc.) for example? Perhaps I would be interested in Tweeting this person with a promotional offer, or start a conversation with them to gain insights about their eating and fast food purchasing habits. As long as people are interested in Tweeting "Pointless Babble", what we need as marketers to draw value from these opportunities is 1) a more efficient way to target relevant information and 2) a strategy that enables us to act on this information in a meaningful and personal way. When you consider that your study qualified another 37.55% of tweets as Conversational, that means that one could filter through 78% of the data in the hopes of finding more information about people's habits, what they think, and what they may want right now....this is still potentially powerful. Perhaps you could include in your study another set of categories: a) Mentions an activity i.e. biking, skiing, swimming b) Mentions a specific place c) Mentions a product or company and cross reference with an emotional response rating: Likes/positive attitude, Neutral, or Dislikes/Negative Look forward to reading about your future insights.

    Ted
    Ted

    Another lame blog article about somebody's opinion about how social media should be used. ABC Nightline recently did a story with Biz Stone and Evan Williams, the founders of Twitter, in which they discussed how their service is being used: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfnoWk3x2RU If it's babble to you, then like Evan said, you can just "turn it off'".

    E-TARD
    E-TARD

    Twitter Rocks I get soo many hits on my website every day from twitter I like pearanalytics it's cool can't w8 for the blog Analyzer tool to come out keep up the good work pearanalytics ppl

    spotrick
    spotrick

    This study makes sense only to someone who doesn't actually use Twitter. I get zero spam because I choose who I follow. If someone started spamming me, I would unfollow. (I have.) And, as others have pointed out, "babble" is a value judgment based on knowledge of context. If you follow someone, that suggests you are interested in their day and how it's going. If not interested, don't follow. It's not rocket surgery.

    Sarah Monahan
    Sarah Monahan

    Actually, it did have a purpose. Seeing as how many thousands of people have responded to the survey, it seems it had a much bigger purpose than originally intended. It has made everyone examine themselves and their Tweets. People have either become very defensive and argue that all their Tweets are little pearls of wisdom that everyone needs to know about or people are surprised that it's only 40% babble. It's not like someone paid us a bunch of money to to this survey. We did it as a simple analysis to see what it was being used for.

    Sarah Monahan
    Sarah Monahan

    So does anybody who wants to get onto www.twitter.com/public_timeline I urge all the people who disagree about our study to read it everyday for 2 weeks. After 2 days, you'll be bored.

    Sarah Monahan
    Sarah Monahan

    At no point did we say how Twitter should be used. We simply were interest in how it was actually being used. Yes, people can turn off the tweets that don't interest them. We however followed the public timeline and couldn't "turn off" the posts that were uninteresting to anybody but themselves.

    August

    12

 
 
 
 

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