There Are Three Kinds Of Lies: Lies, Damned Lies, And Twitter Statistics

A big deal is being made about a study by US market research firm Pear Analytics, which claims that 40 per cent of the messages sent via Twitter are “pointless babble”.

The firm plucked 2000 tweets every 30 minutes over a two-week period and then classified them in six different categories: news, spam, self-promotion, pointless babble, conversational and those with ‘pass-along’ value.

(Download the entire whitepaper in PDF format here.)

40.5 per cent rated as pointless babble, of the “I’m eating a sandwich” variety, taking Twitter’s ‘What are you doing?’ request too literally.

37.5 per cent were seen to be conversational, with only 5.85 per cent and 3.75 per cent rating as self-promotional or spam (respectively), which countered Pear’s expectations.

The really interesting stat is the tweets that made up the pass-along category – 8.7 per cent. These were considered to have value because they were being retweeted by others.

Everybody is focusing on the bigger numbers, particularly the babble count. But this is looking at it backwards. When held up against the offline, ‘real’ world – and particularly other social networks, such as Facebook and Myspace – Twitter’s 40 per cent inanity rating is almost certainly incredibly low. Be honest: are 60 per cent of all the conversations you have of genuine, measurable value? If the number is as high as five per cent, you must be involved in something pretty special.

Meantime, if almost ten per cent of all the things you say to others are worth repeating, are quotable, you’re not only doing it right, you’re in very rare company indeed. Mark Twain wishes he had the good fortune to be quite so talented.