Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is anybody listening?

Late last week I ran a little test by posting the following messages to my Twitter account:

8 Twitter accounts started following me early today. All have since been suspended. So much spam. from TwInbox

It makes me wonder what percentage of my followers actually read my tweets. from TwInbox

So here's a one-shot "ping" test. If you're reading this, tweet a reply to me now with the single word "pong". I'll report the results. from TwInbox

According to Twitter I currently have 247 followers. That'll be our 100% standard for replies. from TwInbox

Now that nearly 5 days have passed (including a weekend) since my "ping" request, here are the results:
  • 1 reply at 9:24 PM Oct 1st (T+3 minutes)
  • 1 reply at 10:35 PM Oct 1st (T+74 minutes)
  • 1 reply at 1:14 AM Oct 2nd (T+233 minutes)

That's it. 3 replies out of 247 followers. That's 1.2%.

Now, some of those followers may be just spam bots, designed to spread a product brand message by repeating a mix of trivial content mixed with product messages. They'll never notice a "ping" request like mine. But I try to periodically weed those followers out by using TwitBlock.

Also, I'm probably not a typical Twitter reader. On my system, at least every hour, TwInbox requests and receives all the new tweets from the people I follow. It then files those tweets into Microsoft Outlook folders on my laptop, and I read the tweets sometime later, just as I would e-mail. At first I thought this would be a workable strategy, but it's not. I receive way more tweets than I can keep up with, and currently have a backlog of 15000 tweets from the 199 people I'm following.

I'm catching on to the idea that most people don't read tweets this way. Instead, I'm guessing that they just tune in to the live Twitter stream from time to time, get a Twitter "fix" by surveying the latest few tweets from the people they follow, and then tune out. They're not aiming for 100% coverage of the people they follow; they just want to know what they've posted recently.

And, I'm guessing that "recently" is defined not by time, but by number of tweets. People probably only read the last 5 or so tweets from any one person. Over the last month, TwitterAnalyzer tells me I've averaged about 10 tweets per day, so my "ping" request may have scrolled off the radar pretty fast.

Beyond that, there's the question of when people tune in and read tweets, how many of the people they follow do they actually read? Out of the nearly 200 people I follow, I have a few favorite Twitterers that I check frequently, but there are others that I check much less often.

I'm guessing it's a combination of the two: a limited number of tweets are being read from a limited number of sources.

But you tell me. If you're on Twitter, how do you receive tweets? Do you use the web interface to twitter.com, or do you use an application such as Tweetdeck, or something else? How do you decide what to receive, and how much out of what you've received do you actually read?

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