Should Analysts use Twitter?

I was recently asked this by a fellow analyst: “I don’t get Twitter, should I use it?” Well first of all, the mechanics of the tool are pretty simple to use, you simply share with others like you would in a chat room. In fact, despite my heavy volume, I’m strategic in my usage, see how I use Twitter.

Often, analysis do a great job of analyzing and researching their assigned market, they forget to look inwards, this guide should help.

Survey your environment
Since you’ll never understand microblogging till you try it, to truly understand, you’ll have to dive in. Since analysts tend to be calculated in their ways (understatement) here are three questions to answer that will help you make your decision to dive in, add one point if you say yes to any of the following three criteria:

1) Is your research market using microblogging tools? For example, at Forrester, we’re role based research, this means I’m conducting research for the Interactive Marketer, and others may be researching for the Enterprise Architect, or the Security & Risk professional. For those that are industry focused (see twitter packs), you’ll have to conduct a survey (or use the search tools) to find out who’s using them. BusinessWeek reports that the CEOs of Mzinga and SocialText (companies in my space) are connected with me.

2) Are your clients using microblogging tools? If your customers (those that buy your reports or services) are using these tools, then as a responsible product manager you’d best understand your customers by listening to them, conversing with them, and understanding their needs. For example, I know my clients (interactive marketers) at tech companies here in Silicon Valley are using twitter, and it’s spreading to other industries. In fact, I’ve made it a habit to ask at my inquiries if folks are using twitter, and for now, after asking 20 clients, the rate is over 75% (estimate)

3) Is it your job to analyze communication technologies or their impacts? If your job as an analyst is to understand and measure the impacts of technologies on communication, then you’d better add a point to this assessment. My job is to cover social technologies and how they impact business and relationships with customers so there really is no question.

The simple scorecard
Twitter is simple, and so shall this scorecard:

If you scored one point, then you should experiment with these tools, perhaps create an account that doesn’t reflect your full name and experiment with the mechanics.

If you scored two points, you should do the previous experimentation, then begin a trial period of at least 30 days to test the tool out. Add folks in your market to follow, and start to converse.

If you scored three points, you should take a proactive approach and plan on integrating this tool within your work life. This isn’t suggesting that you tweet 20 times a day, but you should at least take an active approach on monitoring and observing the market you cover –and those that are buying your research and services from.

Despite having a base of 11k followers, I never use Twitter for quantitative research, instead, I rely on Forrester’s survey methodology. Read more about how I use –and don’t use– social technologies for my own research.

See this list by Carter Lusher, a list of analysts that Tweet. It would be helpful if Carter had another column for the analysts coverage area.