Twitter. Valuable or Value-less?

posted by WMC

Well I guess that all depends on how you use it, but what always amazes me is how little thought organizations seem to put into their use of Twitter and especially how they use Followers and Followed. With Twitter it’s important to remember that it’s DIRECTED data i.e. the communications have a definite directional flow from A to B or A to C etc. Who you FOLLOW represents information flowing into you and who FOLLOWS YOU (the Followed relationship) represents information flowing out from you. They are not the same and should not be treated the same. Here’s an example that raises some serious questions about the value an organization is getting from their Twitter activities. This belongs to a Government body from somewhere in the world playing a key role in Community Relations and I downloaded the data from Twitter’s public API today. Here’s how the base network looks – just over 1000 twitter accounts and over 42,000 relationships in about 7 distinct communities.Photo 1

In the image below, I’ve removed the relationships but kept the accounts and placed the ‘Follower’ and ‘Followed’ images side by side. Notice anything?

Photo 2Pretty similar aren’t they? In fact if I examine the number of accounts displayed they are identical i.e. this Twitter account has a reciprocal relationship with every single node in it’s network. Now there are times when reciprocal relationships are important, but this is not one of them. Let’s dig a little deeper and examine these accounts – after a few minutes of searching all I found was other Government Bodies and Politician’s names – no accounts belonging to the Communities this Government body is supposed to be serving. So let’s think how this works in practice, imagine I am the owner of the account displayed. Government Body Z or Politician X sends out a tweet and in it comes in my feed. “Good stuff – let me tweet that to my Followers…. ahh…..” because all that happens is I send it back to people who sent it. Now unfortunately in this network about 97% of the accounts following me are following each other, so any retweet goes to the same people again and… well you see where this goes, a never ending circle of tweets going to the same people. Of course they’ll generate great engagement stats – look at all those re-tweets, but do you see any value here? Of course, whilst this is happening the Community that I’m supposed to serve is actually busy communicating away on the side and I have almost zero interaction with them. Useful? Business Value?

So if you use Twitter, please make sure you not only have a Strategy behind it, but that you also have a plan for both Followers and Followed. And that you check the plan is actually being followed (sic).

Mike Hughes, WMC Calgary

See Mike’s original post on LinkedIn.

The opinions represented here do not necessarily represent WMC’s views as a whole.