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Why Dismissing Twitter as "Babble" is Foolish

by Michael Rubin  |  
August 26, 2009

Pear Analytics recently released a white paper that classified 40.5 percent of Tweets worldwide as "pointless babble" and only 8.7 percent as having "pass-along value."

Naturally, the marketing universe blew up in controversy while the skeptics cackled with glee and piled on with more than a few "I told you so's" mixed in for good measure.
Here's an interesting stat that got buried in all the teeth-gnashing and schadenfreude: 37.5 percent of messages are conversational. That probably includes tweets like:

  • "This fish taco is great!"

  • "The checkout girl at the market absolutely made my day today!"

  • "The gnocchi was cold, but the manager comped our bill and gave us a free dessert. We'll be back for sure!"

When you consider that 80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices, this has huge implications for customer experience. People are no longer just "putting up and shutting up" about a bad experience or poor customer service at a store or restaurant. They are whipping out their phone and tweeting about it as it happens. As we all know, tweets can spread very quickly at the speed of a simple "RT" and before you know it, what was just a simple tweet has blown up into a full-blown crisis or lovefest.
Frankly, I'm hard pressed to find a retailer who would not clearly consider those tweets advanced intelligence or classify them "valuable" and not "babble." Mind (or mine) the chatter.
Bottom line: One person's babble is another's source of a brewing crisis or next great idea.
What do you think? Am I right? Am I off-base or misinterpreting the data?
Learn More:
eMarketer: What are people tweeting about?
Pear Analytics: Twitter study reveals interesting results about usage

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With his mantra “it’s about the people, not the technology,” Michael E. Rubin serves as the Social Media Strategist for Fifth Third Bank. As one of the first employees of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and the Social Media Business Council, Michael has made his career helping Fortune 500 brands put Social Media to work.

With more than ten years experience in marketing and PR, Michael has partnered with the world’s leading marketers and industry experts to develop Social Media and Word-Of-Mouth into a mainstream marketing disciplines.

Michael serves on the Advisory Committee of the Institute for Social Media at Cincinnati State University, and has lectured on social media at both the University of Cincinnati College of Business and Leadership Northern Kentucky. He resides in Cincinnati with his wife Pam, dog Ruby, and cat Chainsaw (long story). Last but not least, Michael remains a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan and proudly eat hot dogs with ketchup.


Michael E. Rubin
Call me: 847-370-3421
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The views expressed in this post are my own and not those of Fifth Third Bank or any of its affiliates or subsidiaries or of any person or organization affiliated with or doing business with Fifth Third Bank.

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  • by Kevin Horne Wed Aug 26, 2009 via blog

    Michael: While there's no question Twitter has given many companies good insight into customer experience and customer care, i think you need to throw the word "some" into your post, in many places. I think the Twitter challenge for companies is separating wheat and chaff. To me, the RT is a specific phenomenon I'd love to see some analysis on. How much of it is nonsense pass-along vs. real discovery? (e.g., if Guy Kawasaki has a trillion followers, why does he need RTs? Reminds me of the bloggers who post about Seth Godin's latest post, as if he needs their help ;) ). For example, if Joe Blow has a bad experience at Best Buy, what's to be gained by two dozen of his followers RTing it, when perhaps none of them have shopped at Best Buy in 3 months? All of a sudden, Best Buy thinks it is in crisis mode, when it really isn't. Twitter is not exactly an unbiased sample. Anyway, your points are well taken - there are two (or more) sides to the Twitter coin. Twitter requires closer attention from marketers.

  • by Elaine Fogel Wed Aug 26, 2009 via blog

    I chuckled at Kevin's response that Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin don't necessarily need our retweets. But, on the other hand, isn't the viral aspect of their posts what continues to keep them top of mind? Can't hurt the next book launch. :)

  • by Strategic Growth Advisors Wed Aug 26, 2009 via blog

    Hey, Michael. Thanks for the great post. In my personal point of view, I think that as our most common everyday communication tools, particularly mobile phones, progress in the digital age, the grasp of social media is taking hold of them tighter and tighter. Now, this is one article that will give marketers and entrepreneurs -- whether the run of the mill corner office variety or a digital one -- a run for their money!

  • by Gemma Mahoney Thu Aug 27, 2009 via blog

    Hi Michael, Great post! You might be interested in an blog we wrote about this a couple of weeks ago - 'Tweet is in the eye of the beholder' (, as we had similar thoughts on this! Also, Pear Analytics have just released a follow-up article ( which expands on their original research in case you're interested. :)

  • by Beth Harte Thu Aug 27, 2009 via blog

    Michael, I often wonder if marketers/business folks would find more value (or see the immediate value) if the tweets were: "This fish taco [from XYZ] is great!" "The checkout girl [at my local @WholeFoods] market absolutely made my day today!" "The gnocchi was cold, but the manager comped our bill and gave us a free dessert. We'll be back [to ABC rest.]for sure!" They understand WOM and people talking favorably, right? It's easy to grasp. :) The problem is that they don't see the conversation behind the tweets... For example: Tweet: "This fish taco is great!" [That could be construed as pointless babble if we don't see:] Response Tweeter #1: "Really, where'd you go? Any recommendations?" Reply tweet: "I am at 123 Smith Street at XYZ Taco Stand in San Jose." Response Tweeter #2: "I LOVE XYZ Taco stand. We go there for the burritos, they are great too." I think researchers are not digging down deep enough into the layers...they are focusing too much on the first layer, which to some may seem like babble, and that's a mistake. Beth Harte Community Manager, MarketingProfs @bethharte

  • by mark Sun Aug 30, 2009 via blog

    Michael, you hit the nail on the head. It's all about sharing the experience...good, bad or ugly.

  • by sasa Mon Aug 31, 2009 via blog

    Some students prefer to buy essays at the term paper writing service close to often

  • by Jerry Fri Sep 4, 2009 via blog

    Beth illustrates a very good point. Take a line out of context and it's babble. Read the whole conversation and it's relevant information.

  • by rickey gold Fri Sep 4, 2009 via blog

    I agree with Beth's comment as well. Those of us who use Twitter "get" the point (recommendation, "don't go there", etc.) behind what those who don't (use Twitter) might construe as babble. The more you use it, the more you understand that these are "on the fly" comments.

  • by Margaret Tue Sep 15, 2009 via blog

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. Margaret

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