Social Media Analysis: is Twitter Measurement Given More Importance Than it Deserves?

by Sandy Malloy, Information Services

Articles like this one in PR Daily  make me cranky. 

It’s not that I have anything against companies that sell social media analysis services. I do marvel, however, at the misguided emphasis on data that is debateably important (if not completely unnecessary, as I commented  recently.)   Just because software can measure a particular parameter does not mean it’s a key metric.

For example, social media analysis services often dwell on Twitter.  In a recent study called The Social Habit 2011 conducted by Edison Research and Arbitron,  researchers found that Twitter is as well known as Facebook in the U.S, (with 92% and 93% familiarity, respectively) yet only 8% of Americans use it.  Other interesting insights:

  • Facebook is not only more popular among Americans ages 12 and over, it reaches 51% of this group vs. just 8% for Twitter.  (“Reaches” is defined as those who either “use” or “have” a profile page.)
  • When it comes to interacting with brands and companies on social networks, Facebook rules with  80% reporting it as their preference vs. 6% for Twitter.
  • The vast majority (72%) of those polled cited “none” as the social network they use for making buying decisions.   Of those who turn to social networks for help in buying decisions, 24% use Facebook while only 1% use Twitter-a stunning 24-to-1 advantage.

So why is Twitter often emphasized in social media analysis?  Because counting retweets and mentions is such an easy undertaking.  It’s much more “do-able” than monitoring and analyzing Facebook posts because Twitter is open and Facebook is restricted (perhaps not restricted enough for some users). If a Facebook post is private, it is not captured by typical monitoring and analysis software.

Bottom line: at the moment, Facebook is much more influential than Twitter.  Rather than simply accepting metrics skewed toward data which is a distant second in importance, use your own critical judgement and, as much as necessary, your own internal analytics, to create a realistic social media picture of your brand’s influence.

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