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Twitter acting as 'word-of-mouth publicity' medium

tech reviews Updated: Sep 11, 2009 18:02 IST

Twitter has become a rage, right from college students to celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, and researchers at Penn State University have now claimed that the micro-blogging site is also benefiting companies.

Jim Jansen, associate professor of information science and technology, College of Information Science and Technology, Penn State, says that 20 percent of the tweets contain requests for product information or responses to the requests.

"People are using tweets to express their reaction, both positive and negative, as they engage with these products and services. Tweets are about as close as one can get to the customer point of purchase for products and services," said Jansen.

The researchers investigated micro-communicating as an electronic word-of-mouth medium using Twitter as the platform, and thus examined half a million tweets during the study.

They looked for tweets mentioning a brand and why the brand was mentioned-to inform others, express a view on the brand or something else- and found that people were using tweets to connect with the products.

"Businesses use micro-communication for brand awareness, brand knowledge and customer relationship. Personal use is all over the board," said Jansen.

With about six million active users daily and predictions of more than 20 million users by the end of the year, Twitter has become the next big thing on the Web.

But, Jansen said that even though Twitter is still in its early stages of adoption, he sees it being around for a while, mainly because people and businesses are starting to make profits from it, using it as a creative way to market their products.

He also said the concept of micro blogging as a whole can be just as influential as other social media channels.

"It may be right up there with e-mail in terms of its communication impact," said Jansen.

The study found that users employ Twitter to inquire about product information-about 20 percent of the tweets contained product information in the form of asking and providing, thus giving companies a "rich source" of information concerning issues and questions that customers have regarding its products.

Surprisingly, it was found that "a lot of the brand comments were positive. There are some good products out there, or at least products that people are happy with," said Jansen.

The results have been published in the Journal of the American Society for Information Sciences and Technology.