Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 30, 2010 9:40 PM

The White Noise That Is Twitter

Don't get too caught up in the amount of followers that someone has on Twitter or how big the overall network actually is.

Unlike some of the other new media channels, it's important to remember that Twitter is still nascent, confusing, busy and hasn't fully matured to the point where it has a clear direction or intention. The more people connect on Twitter, the noisier it gets. The noisier it gets, the harder it is to uncover the gems, find the most relevant conversations, and the best people to follow.

The Real-Time Web only complicates Twitter further.

Even if you have a significant amount of followers and those people are able to amplify your message, Twitter lives in the real-time Web. Meaning: if you're tweeting while your key followers aren't on Twitter/paying attention, your content remains stagnant in the ever-flowing river of tweets that flow in an unrelenting tsunami of 140 characters. This is why many of the more "influential" people on Twitter actually retweet their own content several times a day, across multiple time zones. They are - in essence - trying to ensure that their tweets rise above the noise.

We all can't be Ashton Kutcher (apparently, this is a good thing).

Ashton Kutcher has close to six million followers on Twitter (I know, that's incredible. And no, it's not a typo), but Mashable had a recent Blog post titled, Ashton Kutcher Has Little Twitter Influence. According to the Blog post: "A study conducted at Northwestern University determined that celebrities like Ashton Kutcher with millions of Twitter followers are mostly ignored on the social media site, resulting in very little if any influence. When the researchers applied their mathematical algorithm to the countless tweets that appear on Twitter each day, they found that experts in certain fields were much more likely to cause topics of discussion to become trends. That might come as a relief to social media enthusiasts who crave discussions of substance, and a surprise to critics who argue that social media is prone to inanity." Once again, we're looking at the whole "quality over quantity" debate.

Is there really a lot of conversation happening on Twitter?

Social Media monitoring company, Sysomos, released a study yesterday titled, Replies and Retweets on Twitter. There is no denying that a retweet is a powerful indication that what someone says on Twitter has relevance (more on that here: The Retweet Is One Of The Best Measurements Of A Brand's Success), but the stats from this research (which studied 1.2 billion tweets in the last two months) may surprise you...

  • 29% of all tweets produced a reaction (a reply or a retweet).
  • Of that group of tweets, 19.3% were retweets and the rest replies.
  • Out of the 1.2 billion tweets only 6% were retweets.
  • 92.4% of all retweets happen within the first hour of the original tweet being published.
  • 1.63% of retweets happen in the second hour.
  • 0.94% of retweets happen in the third hour.
  • 96.9% of @ replies happen within the first hour of the original tweet being published.
  • 0.88% of replies happen in the second hour.

Beyond the retweets and replies is there a conversation?

Here's what the Sysomos research says: "We also examined the distance between an original tweet and the replies it attracts. Of all tweets that generated a reply, 85% have only one reply. Another 10.7% attracted a reply to the original reply - the conversation was two levels deep. Only 1.53% of Twitter conversations are three levels deep - after the original tweet, there is a reply, reply to the reply, and reply to the reply of reply."

Twitter isn't bad... it's just different.

Yes, there are millions and millions of people on Twitter, but don't confuse Twitter for a traditional mass media outlet. It's not. It's a live organism that can be one thing in this moment and something completely different in the next. You could have all of your followers active and engaged in one moment and silence in the next (depending on if they're online or not). Twitter continues to be many different things to many different people. And, because of the many uses, people, applications, broadcasting and communications, we're not seeing a ton of depth or amplification (as we may have once thought). That doesn't make Twitter bad, useless or on its way to irrelevancy, it just makes Twitter something different that we're all going to have watch and figure out.

Is Twitter nothing but white noise? What's your take?

By Mitch Joel


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