Can I use twitter for R&D?

There are many uses to twitter. There are many users on twitter. These two sentences put together makes twitter an amazing tool at the hands of a blogger, business owner or professional service firm. Twitter is a landmine of information for statistical extrapolation and data mining and analysis of sentiment. But, can I use twitter for R&D? Let us see

Over the last several years if there is one thing I have found twitter to be great for it is research and development. It is really amazing how you can ask a question on twitter and within a matter of only a few minutes you will have a wide range of answers and input. I cannot think of another tool we use that gets such results and for the most part it is free. But there is also the flip side. Sometimes, we have to take these results with a pinch of salt.

Also the complexity involved in analysis and research is also considerable. But one thing is guaranteed, responses will fly thick and fast as soon as you ask anything on twitter. Demographics is a challenge as twitter lends itself to anonymity very easily. But there are smart ways to get around this. Making the demographic info part of the question or survey is a good idea. Most, if not all people will respond with proper data. Also remember to leverage your trusted network here and improve the quality of the data in the responses.

Just last month, we did a survey on a blog about blogging. Of course the post was sent to twitter and I re-tweeted it a few times too, as did others on my behalf. We were able to get a large number of answers on our survey which we can use to help use in designing a new product we are working on. It was really effortless to do this and the results are priceless too.

There was this other time when we needed information about a few buying patterns of a niche product and when we employed the same methodology, it fell flat on it’s face. You see people were not comfortable sharing information about buys very freely with us. And what did we do, we changed the strategy slightly and moved the survey into a restricted and smaller group of people who knew us well and had been online with us for a while. The results were amazing and we had the information we needed!

So what is the lesson here? Yes, twitter is great for R&D, but remember the following things and you are good to go

  1. Use a subset of your network, never the whole network
  2. Word questions properly to make them safe and impersonal
  3. Keep the critical questions and response based follow up session restricted to a trusted network
  4. Use proper analysis techniques and weed out extreme and biased responses before number crunching

I guess what I am saying is, treat it like any other survey, just be careful, it affects you in many more ways than an ordinary offline survey with unknown people. So the answer is “Yes, twitter can be used for R&D, but you should know what you are doing and who you are dealing with”

Let me know what you think



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