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What’s happened to Twitter?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010
posted by Rita Handrich

We’re seeing less overall Twitter activity in our observations (fewer RTs, fewer DMs, fewer messages overall). Is it Twitter fatigue? Hard to say. The demise of Twitter has long been predicted by the naysayers. And it’s tough to keep up substantive content day after day after day. (By the way, follow us @keenetrial!) But, like blogging, it’s now become something we simply do as a means of keeping ourselves fresh, sharing information we find of interest, and meeting new people we would otherwise not encounter.

This study, though, caught us by surprise. Most of us are aware of the struggles public opinion surveys have in contacting individuals for phone surveys since the advent of cell phones. More than ¼ of American households have no land-line phones at all according to a new report from the Pew Research Foundation. This makes it tough to assess public opinions (not to mention the growing number of those reached by telephone who simply do not participate).

Science Daily recently published a report on Twitter being compared to public opinion polls. While Twitter represents a subset of the public (likely younger, more technology comfortable among other things), the researchers found that “computer analysis of sentiments expressed in a billion Twitter messages during 2008-2009 yielded measures of consumer confidence and of presidential job approval similar to those of well-established public opinion polls”.

The study’s authors point to difficulties separating the ‘noise’ from actual useful information as they analyze ‘tweets’ but overall they are positive as to the benefit that can be gained from learning how to understand Twitter content as a barometer of public opinion. You can download a copy of the actual paper here. We’re not sure what this means for Twitter’s future but given the growing difficulty in obtaining good data through telephone interviews, there is certainly utility in researchers exploring ways to use the treasure trove of tweets that make up Twitter.

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