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Study: Twitter At Least 40 Percent Pointless

Site may be dominated by "babble"

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[ Social Media]

People who believe that Twitter’s useful and important are not going to be pleased with the results of a new study.  Pear Analytics tried to categorize 2,000 tweets, and found that 40.55 percent of them fell into the "pointless babble" bucket.

Let’s start with the setup: working from Monday to Friday during the day, Pear captured 2,000 tweets over the course of two weeks.  Next, it established the categories "news," "spam," "self-promotion," "pass-along value" (tweets including the term "RT"), "conversational" (questions, polls, and back-and-forth exchanges), "and pointless babble" (with "I am eating a sandwich now" given as an example).

According to Pear, 3.60 percent of its 2,000 tweets qualified as news.  About 5.85 were of a self-promotional nature, and about 8.70 percent were significant enough to be passed along.  Plus, 37.55 percent of the tweets were part of a conversation.

Then we arrive at the less productive stuff.  Pear found that 3.75 percent of the tweets were spam, and although that isn’t bad, a full 40.55 qualified as pointless babble.

But Twitter supporters can hinge an argument on at least one point.  Towards the end of its report, Pear Analytics chose to promote Philtro, a sort of Twitter filter that it’s testing.  So you might not be out of line to raise questions about ulterior motives.

Study: Twitter At Least 40 Percent Pointless
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  • http://www.nickvanderleek.com Nick

    Well, if 40% is babble, 60% isn’t.

  • http://www.internetmarketingtip.us Susan

    The 40% doesn’t surprise me except that I thought it might be higher.

    I have a couple of Twitter accounts and always check out those who follow me. What I’ve found are some who primarily send spam, some send nothing but babble and spam and a few actually send useful info, interact occassionally and send just enough babble to make following them seem personal.

  • http://www.pearanalytics.com Ryan Kelly

    Thanks for writing, Doug. In full-disclosure, I personally know who the founder and CEO of Philtro.com is; however, there is zero benefit in it for us. In fact, Philtro is completely free. I believe in their algorithms and how it works, so I thought the rest of the Twitter community could benefit from what they are offering.

    • Doug Caverly

      Thank you for dropping in and clarifying, Ryan. Although your disclosure may come as a disappointment to Twitter fans looking for an “out”!

  • http://www.writtenbysumer.com Michelle Salater

    I guess it really depends on who you’re following. I follow people who have a niche topic they usually focus on. That way I know they’re posting articles, comments, and links I’m interested in. You can use Twitter for intellegent information but you can also use it to view “pointless babble.” In my opinion, it’s all about how you follow.

  • Guest

    It all depends on the the perspective that Twitter is evaluated from… and from an overall viewpoint, the Pear report may well be accurate in its summations.

    However, Pear writes “You may have noticed that Twitter recently re-vamped their own homepage, moving away from

  • http://www.mediaspansoftware.com Ras

    Twitter is much like a pet rock, a novelty that all must see and marvel over its simplicity, but then like it granite counterpart chuck in the bin of life experiences.

  • dissertation writing

    Great.

  • Morgan

    I am very hesitant to accept the judgement of this study. It is fairly difficult to look at an application like Twitter objectively, especially when your categories for Tweet placement are labeled with subjective terms – like pass-along value (I do not know anyone who puts ‘RT’ in Tweets that should be passed along), conversational (How do you know how I talk to my peers? Maybe someone asked what I was doing and I told them I was eating a sandwich.), and pointless babble. That is the category that I have the most issue with accepting as a discrimination in any kind of study. First of all, “babble” literally means utter meaningless, incoherent sounds, like a baby, or to talk foolishly. I do not often see “goos” and “gahs” posted as the hottest topic, nor do I see many posts talking about foolish things – of course, this would be COMPLETELY a matter of OPINION…
    Which is basically my point, if you are going to conduct a “study” of Twitter, you should not waste your time on subjective topics like the categorization of conversations or OUR time when we have to read posts about your study about Twitter.
    If you’re going to do a study, you should probably look at the response times of Twitter posts and replies, try determining usage for a particular timezone or geographic area. HELL, you could probably even get away with a study about the most important topics on Twitter today (those with a hash symbol #). In other words, develop a study that is MEASURABLE or QUANTITATIVE…
    I apologize for not keeping this under 140 characters, but someone had to say it. Happy Tweeting!

    • http://www.toysonwheelsvariety.com ToyMan

      I agree. If they are really going to do a study put some real facts and figures into it to back it up.

  • http://www.Developer.com Guest

    So Twitter is less babble (and more useful) then email. I get more than 50% spam, so that alone makes the usefulness of Twitter better than email…. :)

  • Guest

    with cheese and pickle. Hmmm.

    • Guest

      I just had Kenny Roger’s roast chicken.

      The web is useless. There are too many junk comments on forums.

  • Contrarian

    The whole concept of Twitter’s 140 character limit seems beg the criticism that it is a medium optimized for babble.

    Meaningful debate and the conveyance of complex ideas should have the freedom to span several pages.

    There is already too much noise — meaningless babble & snide comments — in many message boards. We have a surplus of babble.

    Wading through thousands of thoughtless musings about eating a ham sandwich, makes it that much harder to find postings where a person actually put some thought and time to compose an insightful comment.

    A 140 or a similarly short comment size is for the idiocracy and the “sound byte.”

    It may be useful for quick status messages, but it seems doubtful that it would have much value for the communication of thought.

  • Eric Martinez

    I think the article is coming in at a sharp angle. 2000 tweets over the course of two weeks doesn’t come across as an accurate sample to produce this wide sweeping assumption. I think it’s very en vogue for technology writers to have their name attached any article about twitter or social media. This guy probably accomplish the lion’s share of the interest with the hook in his headline (Least, Pointless). Twitter sounds like a sinking ship right? Admittedly it got my attention. Anywho, I can agree with the author that their is A LOT of babble in this communication channel, but he should revisit what twitter was initially developed for, albeit debatable, I’d say babbling to your network. No one put the stamp on this thing saying twitter was developed to host effective and only mutually beneficial conversations between well connected networks that can be penciled back to some ROI.

    To his point the second highest percentage of his study fell into the category of conversation. To me, that’s what twitter is. In my life I have people that I babble back and forth with and people that I have true conversations with.

    I think twitter is moving past the (stream of consciousness) stuff like “I’m eating a sandwich now!” and moving into conversation/interaction with people you otherwise wouldn’t have a access to. There are more brands out there monitoring conversation on twitter than there are actually participating. It’s like the biggest real-time focus group, so hop and engage, it’s where the party’s at. There are some big brands that don’t have a forward facing twitter presence, all they do is listen. They look for the good and bad and make corrections silently within their organization. Of course there are some big guns that seem to be doing a good job…Starbucks, Coca-Cola. These guys have the built in customer base to shift behaviors, but their doing it softly right now…which is smart. People are wise enough to spot the commercial messaging, soft sell my friend, soft sell. Through these channels if they like who you are and what you do, then folks will be more inclined to buy your product and probably more important, compassionate enough to stick with you if something goes wrong.

    Social-Media is still so new that no one has the play book on “how to do it right.” It’s a communication channel that’s developing. Right now I do a lot of monitoring to see how brands are positioning themselves on these channels. At my work we are just scratching the surface of developing a “voice” for the company. Figuring out how to capture who we are as an organization and letting that breathe in this space. The expectation that I’ve put forth with my group is that this should be about about developing a relationship with our guests first. The interaction and brand awareness will eventually pencil down to some “social currency” that we can spend in this space to drive action…if that’s what you want.

    Blah, Blah, Blah – drink more kool-aid – blah, blah – buy more twitter!

    Eric

    • Contrarian

      So as a tangential elaboration of what you’re saying, twitter has value building _emotional_ or personal connection between people.

      Therefore, in the grand scheme of human communication, there is a purpose behind the existence of babble. It is not to convey deep thought, but rather to convey connection. Actually, I’ll say to myself: “D’oh! Utilitarian criticisms are flawed when it comes to human interaction.”

      Facilitating human connection is a valid argument to me, as long as Twitter’s usefulness isn’t given over to inappropriately grandiose claims.

      However, my criticism below also stands. Twitter’s concept — short messages also promotes noise, — if one is looking for deep thought & insight.

      Maybe, my harsh perspective is from annoyance due to the amount of stupidity on the internet, as well as in the mass media, and in my American politics. Too many stupid people who have a preference for ignorance and are immune to reason, get to log on also, and flood the comm channels, and dumb everything else down in public discourse. Please excuse the rant.

  • Guest

    Well, guys if I need to get my point across, I just use plain ole email or phone txt.. Wow here is a concept… I will give em a call.

  • http://www.kingscooters.com/ kb0iaa

    I thought that was the whole point of Twitter in the first place. Telling other people what you are doing, what’s on your mind, to rant, to rave, to pass along info that you find interesting etc.

    When it comes right down to it, no one really gives a $#!* what you are doing anyway. I think that really deep down we all know this, even though some of you think that you are much more important than everyone else.

    Obviously, Twitter is doing something right by having an Alexa rank of 19; 135,000 backlinks from Google and 4,559,596 backlinks from Yahoo. (Checked 8/16/09)

    Maybe you should just let people do what they want to do and stop criticizing so much. Besides, no one really cares!

  • Guest

    The information highway is clogged with crashed cars. It’s like everywhere else, too many people who are terrified of finding out out they don’t really matter to the world. Twitter has become one of those boring parties where everyone is trying to sell you something or kill you with boring stories of their (to them) immensely interesting life.

  • http://www.bondara.co.uk/ Bondara

    There is no doubt in my mind that Twitter has no future in its current format. Twitter is trendy, it’s not a necessity as maybe Facebook is (if you are looking to be/stay in touch with other people). Twitter is also very boring. I mean who in their right mind actually cares what the next person is up to at any given time. Only those driven by severe insecurities … which is a minority.

  • http://alanya-site.com Bryan Quinn

    60:40 is an excellent ratio and there’s no bubble without babble.

    • Dominik

      I understand your statistics, your numbers and the categories of effectiveness with which you measure the value of the content expressed in a tweet.
      However, there are a few people out there to whose tweets I gladly listen (read), just because I like those persons, and a tweet like “I am eating a sandwich now” are everything but meaningless to me because, for instance, I know Mary likes vegetarian sandwiches while Radek is going to have a heart attack some day after eating those fat sandwiches full of peanut butter! I like to feel close with my friends and my family and you know what? they won’t write an article about that, that’s why Twitter is good for.

  • Guest

    Twitter is a trendy waste of time. Even with the media blitz it will fade away soon enough. Im eating a peanut butter and jelly… and who gives a crap.

  • http://www.silver-artz.co.uk Silver Artz

    I am confused. I thought that most social network sites where all about “pointless babble.” Isn’t it a medium where people are supposed to be able to chat about nothing in particular?

    Ok, so yes I know it can be a great source of information such as re-tweeting articles such as this. This in turn gives the website exposure and perhaps the person re-tweeting it some too. However, might this not be classed as spam if thousands of readers are re-tweeting web articles such as this?

    Yes many people use Twitter to promote their business because first and foremost this is what most people trying to make a living on line do. If these people do this also through in some interesting snippets of news and a little bit of friendly chat why should they be penalised.

  • http://www.Tribal-Sports-Wear.net Wholesale Clothing Club

    Ok, so 40% of the tweets on twitter are babble about nothing of any importance, and the point is?? Isn’t that what twitter was created for? From my understanding of what twitter was intended to provide as a public service, was just that – a place for people to post pointless babble about themselves. It was first and foremost a place for people to tweet about sites and other things on the internet that stirred them. So if people want to tweet about their blank t-shirts, hairless cat, what they ate for dinner (btw mine was pasta), or perhaps some major event in the world. Then isn’t twitter doing what twitter was designed to do? I think Pear just did their little study so they would have something to tweet about.

    • http://www.laokay.com Steve

      I totally agree. So somebody reports that a social networking site is what, being too social? What’s next, reality tv shows that are too real?

      Twitter has brought back messaging to the web and made it more interesting.

  • http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com Official Safety and Security

    I use Twitter mainly for socially marketing my safety and security web site and I’m well aware that most of what goes on there is useless babble. Seinfeld made millions from useless babble. Although it may be useless, it’s not worthless!

  • http://www.web-backlinks.com/ Web Backlinks

    Stop babbling people. It’s quite obvious what your’re all trying to do here.

    You’re all trying to market your brand through website backlinks!

  • Guest

    Sounds like just a twit to me.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npoITqFL5yM xango

    The biggest problem as a user I’ve had during August of 2009 is the spam and the auto tweeter tools. The one that says, “Hi, I just gave you a gift, why don’t you give me one too.” Jeez, I got 20 in a row.

    Glen Woodfin

  • Guest

    i cancelled my account right after i signed up for it… i don’t need to know what everyone is doing every second of their lives…

  • http://www.villastone.cn Guest

    whatever!

  • http://www.crearecommunications.co.uk Sarah Edwards

    Isn’t the point of Twitter to include the sometimes meaningless and mundane bits as well as those more exciting aspects of experience? And if you really want to follow someone from whom you can gain some knowledge or information there are plenty of people out there who provide relevant details and links.

  • http://www.5starweddingdirectory.com 5starweddings

    Well, we have been on twitter from the very beginning, and it has evolved in to something bigger than even the creators could not have envisaged.

    Yes there is spam (just like email spam)
    Yes there is self promotions, (from those that really do not understand the power of social marketing-the right way)

    But it is great for breaking news and the global feelings of such powerful news, such as Iran Election, US Elections and off course MJ sudden death.

    So in a nut shell, Twitter has it’s good points as well as it’s not so good points. But that is the same for many things on and off line.

  • Guest

    I think it is a useful tool, but the hype is ridiculous.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/theclickbankprofitsystemreview Clickbank Profit System

    Still wondering if potential for traffic is still there?

  • http://www.controldatainc.com agency collection

    Twitter used to be great but it has turned into nothing but a website promotion site. The amount of traffic we get from twitter now is 1/2 of what we used to when it first started.

  • http://www.SpunkMarketing.com Kevin Webb

    I’ve been saying this for quite some time now. Twitter is going to die without major changes.

    Yes, it can have its purposes, but Twitter is just a fad overshadowed by Facebook. With all of the features, apps and practical uses that Facebook offers, it just doesn’t make sense to have a Twitter account.

    It is similar to have a Swiss Army Knife with not just a knife, but multiple tools on it as well, and then just have a plain old knife. Why carry both?

    Facebook can currently be used like email, like instant messaging, photo hosting, video hosting, a journal, a blog, an address book and an online entertainment world with all of the games (just to name a few).

    Twitter is pointless.

    • Gabrielle

      I completely agree. Most people sign up for Twitter because “all the celebrities are doing it” then they never visit their Twitter page again. Those who love Twitter seem to be addicted to it and tweet relentlessly. I find Twitter to be like Facebook without the fun…just status updates and nothing more! I’ll take a Swiss Army Knife any day.

    • http://www.michaelghurston.com Michael G. Hurston

      As someone who sells products and subscriptions on Twitter via an RSS feed auto posting I’ve actually had significantly more success with Twitter than Facebook, even after spending a large amount of time attempting to build a friend and interested fan base on there.

      I do think Twitter is heading towards a downward slope, but with a few minor evolutionary changes I see no reason why they wouldn’t stay on as a viable traffic and converting source of revenue.

  • http://www.AvenueSelect.com Guest

    I retweeted this article.. where do you think will land?.. the 40% ?

  • http://www.willowtreegiftshop.com.au JenniC

    I loved Twitter when I first signed up but now I’ve just had enough of the marketers and the auto-tweeters. They’re ruining Twitter like a bad virus. They need to GO AWAY. I definitely think that Twitter should charge for an account – I’d be happy to pay a few dollars a month for my account. I don’t like Facebook – it offers too much detail that I don’t have time for but I love the concept of short tweets to keep in touch with family and friends. And yes I do market my online gift shop there but it’s friendly and personal – I don’t auto tweet, that’s just obnoxious and as I said I combine it with personal stuff (not what I had for breakfast though).

  • http://blog.brand-yourself.com Trace Cohen

    So what if 40% are useless. Analyzing 2000 is completely useless in itself. Twitter follows the 80/20 rule where the majority of people you follow or care about reading about are celebrities or big name people in your industry. People drool over the fact that Britney Spears just made a sandwich, so useless is all relative.

    I’ve had my account for a few months now and still am shy of 2000 tweets which 90% of them are business related. Everyone uses twitter for different reason, just like they use Facebook. Are you going to say next that Facebook is xx% useless? I don’t think so.

  • http://maya.gloggy.com Maya

    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.

  • http://www.Blog4Funds.com Zane Good

    We have to remember that Twitter is meant to be aimless rambling about a moments activity. We have changed it to be more by tweeting away with business related offers in an attempt to drive traffic. So, really then, 60% of Twitter is useful! The glass is half full, and we benefit.

    Even at that, most of my everyday business conversations are useless. People are constantly spewing the latest babble in an attempt to make themselves look good, or seem smart, or appear like they actually know what they are doing. Does this mean that 40% of their lives are useless. No. It gives us insight into who they are, and how we can help them, and what role they will play going forward.

    So, test it out. Over the next two months, talk to 200 people in everyday business life, and see what percentage of their babble is useful. Then come back and give us a report. I think you’ll find Twitter has something on us.

  • http://www.piercedandmodified.co.uk Belly Bars

    I love all the people complaining that Twitter is being killed by spam and self promotion – when it’s clear from their post that that’s what they themselves do with their twitter accounts (it used to be fun but now we only get half the traffic we used to from it!) If the people you’re following post stuff you don’t want to listen to, un-follow them – you only need to see what you want to see.

    The whole point of Twitter was to be pointless. ‘What are you doing right now?’ – if the answer is eating a sandwich, then that’s what you’re supposed to tweet. Most people’s conversations with their friends is inane babble which people listening in would probably find quite pointless – but it’s entertaining for the people involved.

    I’d love to have so much spare time on my hands that I had time to come up with such a pointless waste of time survey and actually carry it out to categorise tweets…

  • Guest

    I come at this from a different angle to most of the other contributors here.
    As just a member of the public rather than someone with a business to promote can I just say that as far as I am concerned, where it comes to Twitter you can lump all the “Promotional” tweets in with the Spam

    I use Twitter to keep contact with the daily goings on with my friends – much like the status updates on Facebook. This is the only function of Twitter I will ever have any use for. Anyone who sends me tweets promoting any company or website gets dropped from my followers.

    One reason I wouldn’t buy anything from an unsolicited advert on Twitter / Facebook / Email is that there are just so many scams out there.

    If I want to find a particular product or service, I use Google to search out a range of potential providers and then choose between them. I wouldn’t use Twitter as a search engine for this sort of thing as Google attempts to give me the most relevant results for my search term, not just the latest or the most talked about, like Twitter does.

    To the general public adverts on Twitter are just more pointless babble.

  • http://www.neotericuk.co.uk/seo.php Seo London

    40.55 percent Babble
    37.55 percent conversation
    8.70 percent passed along
    5.85 percent self-promotion

    Good study people want more such kind of study.

    • http://www.boudoirbabe.co.uk/findperfectgift/index.html Booudoir Babe

      Good post, but I think it depends on your point of view. I’m on online gift retailer shipping gifts internationally, so communication is key, beit email, email newsletters, skype, facebook, twitter, del.icio.us or youtube – I embrace them all!

      I really think Twitter is a very effective way to engage customers & suppliers. At Boudoirbabe I use Twitter to update people on new gifts, special offers, promotional discounts and outdoor events as well as gossip. So if you are on Twitter why not drop me a tweet?

      Follow Bebe on Twitter. http://twitter.com/giftswithlove

  • http://www.phifoundation.org Chuck

    There are good people and there are bad people and many that are between. I do not know what the percentages are. Bruce Lee said to accept what is useful, reject what is useless and add what is specifically your own.

  • http://www.playtime4us.co.uk virgil

    These Twitter usage statistics are updated weekly and can help you with your Twitter marketing. Take a look for yourself.