|Reconsidering Twitter as Mass Opinion
By: Mike Bush
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of tools aimed at capturing both the volume and the sentiment of what’s being expressed on Twitter at any given moment. Of course, brands are able to take advantage of these tools to maintain their reputation, as well as monitor, in real-time, what’s being expressed about them.
The digital age we’re living in can be sort of creepy when you think about it. It used to be that, when you had a poor experience with a company, you told your friends about it over a beer when you caught up (or over the phone if you lived in different towns). Brands were never able to be a part of the discussion.
Now, it’s like social media professionals, flacks, and community managers are listening on those conversations…sitting at the corner of the bar with a spy microphone recording every time a customer says “Pepsi” along with how the customer feels about that particular drink.
But, what if the sentiment expressed on Twitter isn’t an actual representation of the masses?
A recent study by the Pew Research Center says that Twitter is NOT the epicenter of real time mass opinion, and in fact, it may often be at odds with the majority feeling (the study is worth looking at, as it pertains mainly to how the President has been perceived on Twitter vs. how he’s been perceived by the public at large).
The reasons for the difference can be obvious. Pew points out that the reaction to political events on Twitter reflects a combination of traits shared by Twitter users only. Or, perhaps Banky was right in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: “That’s what the Internet is for. Slandering others anonymously.” (NOTE: the language in that movie isn’t entirely appropriate for work).
Last year, GigaOm published some tips for analyzing Twitter data. It’s a good read.
The lesson from Pew’s research should be that Twitter is only one source of data, and like most “only one source” situations, it doesn’t represent a full picture.
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc.
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