Two reports surfaced in the past couple of days that, put side by side, offer an amusing look at Twitter usage, painting it as a playground of the hyperactive and the self-obsessed, doling out wit and foolishness in almost equal measure.

Michael Hickins, Contributor

August 16, 2009

3 Min Read

Two reports surfaced in the past couple of days that, put side by side, offer an amusing look at Twitter usage, painting it as a playground of the hyperactive and the self-obsessed, doling out wit and foolishness in almost equal measure.Conflating the results of both studies, Twitter looks like the province of the solipsistic, with most Tweets (other than those from news sites) being spat out by technology, marketing or tech-marketing oriented folks pontificating about -- you guessed it -- Twitter.

Maybe from now on the first rule of Twitter should be, "you do not talk about Twitter."

One report, from new-media consultants Pearl Analytics, divided Tweets into broad categories, while the other, from social media analytics firm Sysomos, listed the most prolific Tweeters (among those who actually have an audience -- not people simply barking into the void; their methodology is here).

Put together, the two surveys give us an interesting picture of the Twitterscape and its influencers.

Pearl Analytics analyzed 2,000 tweets from the public timeline (in English and in the US) over a 2-week period from 11:00am to 5:00pm (CST) and captured tweets in half-hour increments. They then categorized them into 6 buckets:

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

According to their analysis, 40.55 percent of Tweets fell into the Pointless Babble bucket, 3.75 percent was Spam, and another 5.85 percent was Self Promotion -- which means that almost exactly half (50.15 percent) of all Tweets are entirely without value to anyone.

But put another way, almost half of all Tweets are valuable to some extent. While that may not sound like a lot, it represents a higher proportion of valuable content than, say, television, or what Hollywood dishes out as entertainment.

Now, looking at who is doing most of the Tweeting, Sysomos compiled a list of the most prolific Tweeters (and I've added their vocations in parenthesis)

Chris Brogan (new media marketing guru) Thomas Clifford (self-described tech geek) BBC News Lucretia Pruitt (self-described tech geek mom) John Johnston (social media marketing consultant) New York Times Lucky Days (airhead who hasn't actually Tweeted since February 2) Meg Fowler (web marketing copy writer)

Others on the list include Web strategist David Armano, tech guru Guy Kawasaki and tech blogger Robert Scoble.

So, excluding news sites, most prolific Tweeters are either new media marketing types promoting themselves by sharing some of their expertise (a marketing version of paying it forward, I suppose), or tech mavens promoting their respective consulting and speaking businesses by demonstrating (showing off?) their acumen.

If you hold the conclusions of these vastly different surveys simultaneously in your mind, you get the idea that Tweeting is like electronic tent preaching to a congregation of like-minded preachers. If that sounds tiresome, it's because it probably is. My own experience, though, is that it's worth putting up with the predictable river of babble for the sake of an occasional gem.

Sometimes statistics and analysis run counter to everything we know in our bones about something, and sometimes they confirm what we suspected all along. In this case, at least for me, I was amused to see confirmed something I suspected about Twitter, which is that it's the most valuable waste of time I've ever come across.

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