Other - Social Media Archives

July 21, 2009

Shouting Into the Void: My Twitter Experiment

Well, the rumors of Twitter's life may be greatly exaggerated. I've been playing around with this social media thing for a few months. I joined Twitter and Facebook, sought out old friends and colleagues, etc. But I've been wondering, particularly with Twitter, whether anyone was really listening. Are we all standing in a big room yelling through megaphones at each other?

So here was my little experiment. I sent out a tweet yesterday at 12:30 EST to see how many people even see any given missive. Here was the text:

"Ever wonder what % of people read your tweets? An Experiment: If you read this, please reply or DM me with "Got it!" -- i'll tweet results"

The results were not promising. At the moment I sent out the tweet, I had 1,090 followers. Most of these people are interested in or work in the field of green business or environmentalism (I think). After a few hours, a grand total of 19 people responded...and none after that. That's less than 2%.

Why such a ridiculously low response (I could send a direct mail package and do better)? A few interpretations:

1. I'm a wildly unpopular tweeter and people follow me out of pity, but have blocked all my tweets from bothering them.

2. Green-minded people are too busy enjoying the weather or hugging trees to check their Twitter feed.

3. I didn't choose a good time to tweet. I figured lunch time on the east coast and during the business day for everywhere else was good. But maybe most people check at night.

4. People follow so many other people, that they only see a tiny fraction of the tweets that go by — only the ones they happen to see in the few minutes they check.

5. On a related note, people follow many others, but use TweetDeck or other software to truly follow a much smaller number.

While the first couple may be true, I'm leaning toward the latter explanations. People really pay attention to only a small number of people they follow, and nobody really knows who those are. But as this is one data point, I'd love it if a few of you out there ran the same experiment to see what response rate they get and got back to me.

So what should one do with this knowledge? One answer is to tweet a lot more so you reach more people throughout the day. But that's sort of unappealing to manage and really unappealing for the few who do see most of your tweets. Another is to not worry too much about repeating yourself since so few see any one tweet. If you have something important to say or promote, maybe you post it a few times at different times of day. But that could also get annoying for your best followers.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm thinking that expecting much from Twitter in the way of conversation, awareness building, or brand enhancement may be a mistake. I welcome your thoughts.