The growth of twitter (with analysts)

Everyone knows that Twitter is huge. Not a day goes by without another story showing how it saved someone’s life, broke a news story first or has fundamentally changed the way we think – its growth and entry into everyday life could justifiably allow its usage to be called (in technobabble bingo) a ‘paradigm shift’.

The questions I have been debating focus on growth. Specifically:

  • Does news fuel growth in Twitter or does uptake fuel news?
  • Do analysts (as supposed ‘fortune tellers’) get it right and are they ahead of the curve or mere sheep?
  • Why is this important?

To answer these questions, I have looked at my favourite community of analysts. With a little help from Carter Lusher’s analyst twitter directory as well as my own research, it has been possible to monitor the uptake of analysts on Twitter.

One of the fortunate aspects of using analysts as the criteria for this search is that there are very few closed communities that we can easily track growth in – if you know any let me know and I’ll add them to the table.

The graph below shows the growth of analyst participation on twitter, compared to twitter in the news (as shown by Google Trends) and unique visitors to twitter (as shown by Compete).


Does news fuel growth in Twitter or does uptake fuel news?
Not surprisingly the two are well connected – with a clear conclusion that in the early part of this year news significantly drove new visitors to twitter.

Do analysts (as supposed ‘fortune tellers’) get it right and are they ahead of the curve or mere sheep?
Analysts appear to be ahead of the curve. Whereas there is still a clear relationship between their uptake on news/growth they still seem to be slightly in front of the trend.

Why is this important?
It is an analysts job to understand technology trends. Obviously sometimes they get it wrong but if they get it right and predict that we should be using product x as it will be the next big thing – then, I will use it too. Our role as communication professionals is to engage with our key audiences no matter where they have these discussions.

The recommendation I would make is that we continue to monitor what the analysts predict are the major changes in how people use social media. There is a great advantage in being an early adopter of a product – such as being a trusted participant. Whereas we do not have time to try and test every new solution, there is lot to be said by watching analyst behaviour – if they are using a new solution then maybe we should too. Maybe we should be taking Jeremiah’s advice and look to get ahead in the areas of social colonization, context and commerce.

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6 Responses to The growth of twitter (with analysts)

  1. Richard Botley Wednesday 15th July 2009 at 10:50 #


    Thanks for this great post – your research reflects my experience with working with the international tech analyst community.

    Analysts are prime early adopters and are many are using Twitter (alongside their blogs) to offer more of a personal insight into the markets they over.

    At Chameleon, we are regularly monitoring the Twitter accounts and blogs of analysts – reporting this data back to our clients.

    Analysts are increasingly setting up as independent specialists and social media is the key driving force behind this change.


  2. Marc Duke Wednesday 15th July 2009 at 12:57 #

    Lovely piece Jonny

    To share some of my insights – for what its worth!

    I have noticed recently is that I am using Twitter for a number of uses, whereas first up it was simply to monitor opinion of the leading edge Twanalysts (twittering analysts) for me its moved on to monitoring the mainstream research firm outputs as well other about 40% of the key analysts I track. I also use it to communicate directly and in one instant had an analyst Tweet in mid briefing, the spokesperson I was with then responded to that comment while still on the call. The final use I have found is keeping up with the AR community hence I have received at least three tweets about this blog!

    Moving forward I think the mertics piece will start to firm up and then be integrated with other social media pieces.


  3. Tim O'Sullivan Thursday 16th July 2009 at 11:49 #

    Thanks for the great piece and the comments. After about 3 months of using Twitter I am only now starting to see real value in what I tracking with the analysts.

    There remains the difficulty of sifting through lots of coal to get to the odd diamond but the incidences of “value added tweeting” is growing I feel.

    The danger being for AR teams with limited budgets and resources is sifting through the noise very quickly to get to the really valuable content as in Marc’s example.

    The development of metrics would be interesting to see the return on the effort required to track – the question remains however whether Twitter is the next big thing or just the biggesst and loudest current thing – and how true value can be driven from it as part of an AR strategy.

  4. Ludovic Friday 17th July 2009 at 13:46 #

    The only think I would add to your post Jonny, is the question of purpose. To me, channel is a secondary question to the great “who” and “why”.

    In other words, one should worry first about their audience, the audience of their audience and the relevance to their messages.

    So, in other words, don’t be fooled by the magnifying effect of some channels (blogs, twitter, etc) but look at the fundamentals of who influences who and is what they’re saying relevant to your company.

    Some times they are, some times they ain’t -in which case you have to think about balancing resources and maybe not engaging (unless it’s fun maybe?).

    Another point I wanted to make on using social media as a research tool, is that yes it’s great to pick up the buzz and get some insights. There’s a perverse side effect in that many AR/PR pros have picked up on this and are just “lurking” in the twitterverse: they have a handle but don’t participate.

    I’m not sure what to think of this, but instinctively I would tend to frown on this. Probably even more than people peddling their corp/clients press releases w/o adding anything to it.

  5. Rick Brusuelas Friday 17th July 2009 at 14:42 #

    To add to all of the great comments above, I have seen numerous instances when analysts have used Twitter to poll for research topics or questions to be added to upcoming research. I have also seen vendors utilize Twitter to pose inquiries directly to analysts (it would be interesting to know if these vendors were clients).

    The immediacy of Twitter shows in multiple ways… seeing analysts respond and report to vendor briefings and conferences (especially helpful to get their immediate reactions). And I have even seen groups of analysts (from different firms) use Twitter hashtags as a chatroom during briefings/demos/events to share their thoughts (most interesting to see analysts analysts sharing so freely with “competing” analysts… aand the image presented was “passing notes under the desks” 🙂 ).

    Last, Twitter seems to be leveling the analyst landscape playing field. In part because the largest firms seem to be lagging a bit in use of Twitter; seems the boutique and indepnedents analysts have better leveraged the new media and can better compete for attention with the large firms.

    Hopefully we in AR can not only leverage the informational and relationship benefits from “pull” from Twitter but also improve the “push” as well. And one big step would be to avoid using Twitter to simply push press releases out but rather adding real value to the analyst community (there alre already ways to get the press release).

  6. Merv Adrian Saturday 18th July 2009 at 18:19 #

    From the analyst side of the desk, I can tell you that there is lively conversation and a surprising amount of collaboration going on – among independents, and within – and even across – big name firms. With the right Twitter client (one that can set up groups to follow), AR can easily spot who the analysts you already know are collaborating with. Follow them too – build a connection. And you will broaden your reach where it matters the most by participating.

    A caveat – be wary of being “marketing-heavy” in your own tweets – send facts, links, etc. using hte same criteria you apply to analyst communications through other chanels.

    Finally, if you’re going to get into critical conversations, don’t let them get personal in plain view – use DMs. If the analyst is not following you, move to email.
    If you’re interested in more about analysts’ blogging and tweeting habits, you might want to look at this post of mine and the comments that followed it: