Twitter's founder has indicated his lifecasting site won't be getting into the advertising game anytime soon, but a survey has found something to indicate the contrary: 20% of Tweets mention a brand somewhere in their text.
The investigation was carried out by Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology—they scanned through half a million tweets and looked for keywords. Perhaps amazingly, some 20% of Tweets were requests for product info or responses to these. The Tweets were flowing between users and friends, or particular companies, and the comments were both positive and negative.
But is this actually surprising? A figure of one in five sounds very significant, and could easily be used to suggest Twitter's being heavily utilized as a channel for product promotion, or at least to facilitate discussion about new products. But I wonder how often one mentions a brand in an ordinary face-to-face conversation without particularly realizing it, and I wonder how many of those brand-mentioning tweets were about older products, rather than the new gadgets one would assume as the subject of PR-type Tweeting? The majority of Tweets one comes across are more newsy, gossipy or merely state an opinion on events, and there are always those that are simply inane facts—presumably these constitute the remaining 80% of Tweets that don't mention products at all.
We know some companies are certainly monitoring Twitter for conversations that contain their brand name, or the names of specific gadgets, and sometimes engage in a response Tweet to correct an opinion or offer more data. And there's definitely one identifiable upside in the story—with this density of brand names, the archive of Tweets itself represents potentially rich pickings for market researchers. A deeper analysis of the archive could easily reveal exactly what people are Tweeting about when they mention brand names, whether they're positive or negative or neutral, and could even give important cues for improved product promotion.
What the data does reflect is that how people use Twitter is evolving—a fact Twitter itself has acknowledged by taking the re-Tweet meme and making it official. In essence Twitter's being used, in part, as a tool for product promotion, even as the site itself is refraining from monetizing its operation along this route.