5 Powerful Twitter Research Tools

[This post was originally posted on http://www.plugged.in and was published on June 16th 2011. You can read the original article here]

Twitter has a wealth of information, news and opinions on every topic imaginable. Identifying and separating what is relevant, interesting or actionable is a tough task but fortunately there are numerous tools that help us navigate through the Twittersphere.

There is not a single Twitter app or tool that satisfies all research needs. Most of my Twitter use happens through the iPad Twitter app or Tweetdeck on my laptop. But there are still times when it is necessary to go beyond those platforms to find and research information or people and to engage in conversations relevant to your area of interest.

I have categorized Twitter research tools into 5 broad areas and selected tools that help analyse data and user behaviour, identify influencers, and engage with people.

1. Research into your Twitter usage

Tool: TweetStats

If you want to figure out how often you tweet, when you do it, and your retweet and @ reply habits then TweetStats is ideal. It does this extremely well by presenting your behaviour in simple, clear graphs. It is divided into 3 sections:

Tweet Stats

This section analyses how you use Twitter. It displays in graphs how many times you tweet per month, allowing you to zoom in on a particular month and day to analyze your total tweets, replies and retweets. It gives you a break-down of your tweet density, aggregate daily and hourly tweets, who you reply to, who you retweet and what interface you use for Twitter.

Tweet Cloud

This section presents you with a cloud for both your retweeted hashtags and your most frequently used hashtags. If it is not something you have checked before the results can be a surprise.

Follower Stats

The final section allows you to track changes to your friend and follower count over time.

Tweetstats is ideal if you are curious about your tweeting habits and if you want to research what other users tweet about by using the Tweet Cloud feature.

2. Research Twitter Trends

Tool: Trendistic

Twitter’s ‘trending topics’ feature helps users see what’s being talked about, but there is not much you can do with it. TweetStats Trends feature provides a nice graph of the day’s top 10 trends and what is currently trending. But if you are trying to research topics in more depth then these tools are inadequate.

Trendistic, in contrast, provides a broader range of features that allow users to track trends on Twitter through a visual graph of the number of mentions along with random tweets about that topic. This helps you keep track of conversations over time to see how often they are tweeted about. For example, it is possible to see how popular ‘icloud’ is on June 7th among Twitter users and see what people are tweeting about ‘icloud’ over the course of the day.

The feature that I like most on Trensidtic is the ability to compare up to 6 words and graphs their popularity against each other across 24 hours or up to the previous 6 months. If you want to share your chart you can either embed it or share it on Twitter. You can also receive alert emails about a topic once it starts to trend.

There is also a list of trending topics over the last 7 days with details about when each topic was hot and when the maximum number of tweets occurred. You can view a graph of its trending history and selected tweets.

3. Research domain experts

Tool: WeFollow 
WeFollow is a great user directory with a clean and simple interface. It doesn’t stand out compared to other Twitter user directories, but what I like about is it gives a quick idea of who the most popular people in your industry or interest area are. It uses hashtags to categorize people and covers numerous popular categories such as Music, Sport, Tech, Politics, Fashion and Health. Anyone can add themselves to the directory by applying up to 5 hashtags to themselves.

When you search for your topic of interest it lists users based on who is the ‘Most Influential’ and who has the ‘Most Followers’. This is a simple and obvious way of organizing users and is effective when you want to find out whom to follow on specific topics. Often, however, the people you want to engage with are not those with the most followers or highest number of tweets (if you can even get their attention). Knowing who the influencers are in your interest area is better handled by a tool like Klout than WeFollow.

4. Research Influencers

Tool: Klout

Klout is a measurement tool that helps you focus on how messages are spread through your network. It gives an indication of a person’s reach within their network and how engaged they are with their network. It achieves this by measuring aspects of Twitter usage and focusing on how messages are spread through their network.

To calculate your total social influence Klout measures users in three categories:

Network Influence

This measures how effective you are at capturing the attention of influencers. It measure a user’s list inclusion, influence of followers, influence of retweeters, influence of friends, influence of people who mention you, and your follower / following ratio.

Amplification Probability

This measures how often your content is reposted or retweeted by looking at your engagement level in conversations, how often your content is reported, and if your posts result in new followers and conversations. It measures uniqueness, likes per post, comment per post, retweet percentage, inbound messages per outbound content, and how often you update.

True Reach

This measures how far your influence reaches based on how engaged your audience is, how likely are they to read your content, and respond or share it. True Reach measures a user’s followers, retweets, unique commentators and likes, mentions, list counts, and mutual followers.

Klout is a great way to see how well you are building your influence especially by giving you more information about your social graph. It takes a fundamentally different approach to a tool like WeFollow. It adopts a bottom-up approach to measuring influence in contrast to looking at who has the most number of followers or tweets. Klout thus enables users to research who are the influencers that are listening and engaging with their network and so whose messages are going furthest. I see three specific benefits:

1. It allows users to research and target influential Twitter users to follow and – hopefully – engage with

2. It allows users who share a lot of content to track their online reach or influence and to see how active their followers are

3. It allows users to benchmark themselves against high influencers

5. How to Engage using Twitter

Tool: InboxQ

So far we have covered tools that allow you to research your or other users’ Twitter usage and analyse and benchmark your social web clout. However, Twitter is also a platform where a lot of Q&A happens, and it is crucial both for brands and individual users’ own influence to engage with people. Finding the right questions and comments to respond to, and leveraging this for businesses and users, is a task made much easier by InboxQ.

It is a web browser extension (and a plug-in on Seesmic Desktop) that enables conversations by sending a real-time stream of Twitter questions related to brands, products, or subjects of your choice to your browser. Apparently only 1% of tweets with questions marks are real questions, so InboxQ uses natural language processing software to detect real questions.

I like the fact that InboxQ is an extension – one less website to open. This means it gets more attention than other tools. It is very simple to start a campaign by just adding terms or keywords that cover your area of interest. Relevant tweets are then sent to your inbox. You can also refer questions to your Twitter followers via a direct message, set-up questions to be answered later, and track answers. Expanding InboxQ to also crawl Quora, as it plans to, will be a great additional feature.

I hope this article will help users understand how they can use Twitter for research. There are many more Twitter tools than the ones discussed here, so if you happen to know some that you think can be added in the list, please let me know. Also, I have summarized my research below in a presentation.


Talent Losers and Winners

This is a great graph from Top Prospect that shows how Silicon Valley companies are hiring talent from each other.

There are some limitations with the data (the data comes only from Top Prospect’s database, it doesn’t give a total workforce number) but what is interesting is that it shows where these companies fit in the hierarchy of  preferences for engineers.  Facebook and Linkedin are clearly the hottest at the moment just as Microsoft and Yahoo were previously. This isn’t a surprise: people look for good work and the excitement of being in a fast-growing company that is making a difference.


New Study shows most Americans want Games at Work

In a new study by Satchi & Satchi S titled Engagement Unleashed: Gamification for Business, Brands and Loyalty, 55% of Americans said they were interested in working for a company that uses games to increase productivity.

Some of the key findings were:

  • 50% of the US online population play social games daily
  • Women play games due to boredom; men play games because of competition
  • People are most interested in multi-player games and trivia challenges
  • 58% said it is important for brands to be fun and playful

There are some other results and outcomes from the report that I found interesting:

  • Young, employed 18-24 years were the group most willing to take a salary reduction to work for a socially responsible company. This suggests that social interaction and work culture is more important than money for some people
  • TV, in its current format, will be the big loser as people look for activities that are more engaging. If people are bored they are not channel-hopping
  • Employees would prefer multi-player games at work even though most games are played individually. One positive from this is that it maintains a team and social aspect to game playing
  • The fact that discounts and deals are the largest incentive for participation shows how they are becoming embedded in culture
What is not be addressed is that a lot depends on the design and alignment of the game with specific aspects of work. There are certain game elements that would function better with innovation, others with feedback/appraisal processes, teamwork, etc. Getting that right is vital. Otherwise a game for game’s sake would be a waste of time and not the productivity push that the company and employees want.

Using Culture to Improve Collaboration

Dinesh Tantri recently shared his experiences on how Thoughtworks is overcoming their “distribution complexity” and improving knowledge and collaboration. Along with selecting the right platform, he talked about the organization and people practices that Thoughtworks have built to support a collaborative work culture:
  • Our belief that culture is the long term advantage not business models
  • Small Offices – We limit the number of people in each office to 150. People get to know each other better, there is better trust and deeper knowledge sharing
  • Open workspaces act as change agents – None of our offices have cubicles – None in leadership team have a private cabin.
  • Loose Hierarchies – our organizational structure resembles a fishnet with “temporary centralization based on purpose and need.
  • Smart Incentives –Peer recognition and intrinsic motivation drive collaborative behavior
  • Informal Communities – We have always had thriving communities & fantastic conversations. None of them are “official” per-se. Most of them are self-assembled groups of passionate people – Irrespective of the platforms we have used in the past [ Mailman, Google Groups etc., ], we have always had intense conversations and debates in these communities. This is a side effect of the kind of people we hire and the traits we look for. Face to face community meetings are another key aspect of the culture. Every region has its own style and rhythm – Friday Pubs, Lunch and Learn sessions etc.,
  • Transparency and trust – This is a key part of our culture – Giving people on the ground access to resources they need and letting them make decisions is a major way of engendering trust. The rule of thumb on the transparency is “as much as people can tolerate “.
For me this really brings out the absolutely crucial importance of selecting people that will contribute to the culture that you are building.

[I wrote this blog originally for Kuliza’s ZaLife blog.You can see the original post here.]

Evidence that Retail Therapy Works

BPS Research reports a recent study that suggests you can buy relief when feeling down and with little evidence of regret or guilt after the purchase. This is the part of the study that I found most interesting:

Lastly the researchers had 69 undergrads complete two retrospective consumption diaries, two weeks apart, documenting their purchasing behaviour, mood and regrets. All the participants admitted in the first diary to having bought themselves a treat (mostly clothes, but also food, electronics, entertainment products and so on). Sixty-two per cent of these purchases had been motivated by low mood, 28 per cent as a form of celebration. Surprisingly perhaps, treats bought as a form of mood repair were generally about half the value of treats bought for celebration, reinforcing the notion that retail therapy is constrained, not out of control. Moreover, according to the diaries, the retail therapy purchases were overwhelmingly beneficial, leading to mood boosts and no regrets or guilt, even when they were unplanned. Only one participant who’d made a retail therapy purchase said that she would return it, given the opportunity.

I’m not that surprised. I remember indulging in retail therapy on a couple of occasions and it worked perfectly!

A Case Study of SCVNGR’s Game Layer

Mashable has written a case study on SCVNGR’s campaign with the restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings. The campaign ran for 3 weeks leading up to March Madness.

BWW partnered with SCVNGR to add a competitive game layer to make every visit to the restaurants more fun and engaging. It started with 3 challenges and as players accumulated points they could redeem them for rewards (for e.g. free Coca Cola).  When the challenges were completed players then leveled-up and were allowed to create their own challenges, allowing them to become participants in the game. Apart from sharing scores and photos on SCVGNR, a leaderboard showed the points total for users on a national level, with the winners getting tickets to the NBA finals.

The game was a basic application of game mechanics, focusing on providing extrinsic motivators to players. In my view, this type of game with the same level of rewards will become repetitive pretty quickly. For any game it is important to reduce the value of extrinsic rewards and increase the intrinsic rewards, allowing players to improve their mastery and keeping them engaged. However for BWW and it was a big success, with over 184,000 unique players, 1 in 3 returning to play, and over 100 million social impressions on Facebook and Twitter. So successful that they are starting another game, Flavour Fantastic Challenge.

Does Facebook Hurt Relationships?

This is an infographic on the affect Facebook has on relationships. What I find most interesting are the high number of potential stressors that people are exposed to by using Facebook – status updates, friends and contacts, etiquette, and your mood and status. Sharing so much information publicly makes us more conscious of how we are perceived.

Like most things in life, it suggests that a little exposure is better than a lot.

Facebook and Relationships
Collaboration between All Facebook and Online Dating University