Friday, July 10, 2009

The Twitter Ratio: Listening, Telling, or Dialogue?

You open up your inbox find another 'JimSmith is following you on Twitter' message. Do you follow back?

Here's one way to decide that goes beyond a 'Follow everyone or noone strategy'...use the Twitter Ratio.

What? The Twitter Ratio is a simple (simplistic?) formula for determining whose talking, whose listening, and whose trying to have something to say. Or not.

Here's how it works:

1. Identify the ratio of those being followed to those following for a Twitter account.
2. Identify the ratio of updates to followers for the account.
3. When the ratio of those being followed to those following is below 1, flag as Teller.
4. When the ratio of those being followed to those following is above 1, flag as a Listener.

Now you can decide whether your new Twitter connection is a getter or a giver and you can assess the ratio against those to whom you've already connected (i.e., if you've followed a bunch of followers, then keep the streak alive and follow them!).

So What?

Three elements of a dialogue--digital or otherwise--include some form of asking, listening, and responding. Anything else can be construed as serial monologue or concurrent polylogues (aka everyone's talking but noone's listening). And while all things social need not include conversation out the wazoo, broadcasting alone isn;t exactly the definition of social media's next big thing.

So where does Twitter fit for business? Are tweets a sign of serial narcissism? Does a Retweet constitute a form of conversation? What about a direct reply? For marketers (i.e., companies), deciding on the use of Twitter as a tool for dialogue or broadcasting means taking stock of who you follow...and what you or they have to say.

Using the Twitter Ratio might help a company assess how it intends to use Twitter...with whom it wants to use it...and around what measures of success it will be evaluated.

Here's a sample of the ratios of those I am following:

Avg Followed: 14,621
Avg Following: 47,285
Twitter Ratio: 0.87
Update Ratio: 0.33

I am clearly following Tellers (sub 1.0 Twitter ratio). Interestingly, the number of updates to followers (The Update Ratio) indicates that the tellers are telling fairly frequently, especially among the large average number of followers...I've clearly chosen (subconsciously!) to use Twitter as another broadcast a listener. You?

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