Why I Have A Problem With How Industry Analysts Use Twitter

By Peter O'Neill

I thought I would expand a little on my aside comment in last week's blog which was actually about HP. In the introduction to the blog I noted that we analysts seem to be abusing Twitter. I was so provocative that I named my colleagues “adolescent journalists” because they broadcast tweets ad verbatim as the HP speakers went through their presentations. I have noticed this has gotten progressively more (as far as I am concerned, worse and worse) over the last 12 months at various analyst retreats.

Many of these colleagues have responded to my blog and basically asked “What’s your problem with this?” Well, I certainly do not want to be seen as a “grumpy old man” (though I love those books) - ie. Someone who is not up to the times. While I am turning 54 years of age today, I think I do understand Twitter, and use it; and I think I can blog adequately as well. Then again, we analysts at Forrester have been well trained by our Marketing analyst colleagues who are at the forefront of all these developments. Our latest research on “Using Twitter for eBusiness” discusses how companies use Twitter but it doesn’t address the usage I am on about here. So, the issues I have with our just typing in every 140 characters of whatever the person on the stage is saying is as follows:

  • That isn’t analysis. It is reporting. We are just promoting what the vendor says
  • When the vendor is a little loose with their NDA covering statements, the danger is that we will spread NDA information as well and cause the vendor to retreat from sharing useful information with us analysts
  • If I am following such an analyst who tweets me every 2 minutes while he or she sits in a presentation, then I find that annoying. I cannot imagine others feel differently about that.

So, being very selfish, I am extremely worried that this behavior will cause sanctions that affect my work; and that, similarly, many people will label all of us analysts in the same way under the principle of lowest common denominator. AND: the continual typing by analysts sitting next to me during the meetings is equally annoying (for some reason, most analysts really hammer their keyboards!).   

So, my esteemed colleagues, please reconsider this behavior the next time we all go to an Analyst Retreat - Las Vegas in 3 weeks is my next event. I focus MY tweets only on these things:

  • Where we are going or where we are (can include name dropping)
  • Pointing out interesting information (that would be maybe one tweet after a speech, but only if warranted. Heh, not every vendor speech is “interesting”)
  • Pointing to other blogs or research or articles
  • Asking research questions
  • Retweeting of the above

If anybody would like to have any assistance to plan this, Forrester has a good methodology called POST which could help to further this understanding.

Actually, if you ask me, I am not even too sure about the usefulness of Twitter - I consider the jury to be out on this. Most important is that our use of Twitter in this juvenile phase (there I go again!) does not jeopardize how we analysts work with the vendors and vice versa.

Anyway, I’m enjoying our conversations, so keep your comments and emails coming.   

Always keeping you informed!

Peter

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Comments

Analysts tweeting

I am in agreement with a lot of this.

I think twitter is actually a useful way to communicate, so I'm not with you there. But being an analyst is about sharing insights. If what you're tweeting is just facts, unless they're really interesting, it's not that useful. Your list of what to tweet is good advice, in my opinion.

I think people are still figuring this out, including analysts.

Different Strokes:Tweet what's important, followed by commentary

As a "vendor side" analyst responsible for analyst relations at PTC, I appreciate my fellow analysts who tweet what they determine to be the most interesting parts of vendor or customer presentations. Since not everything that is presented will be interesting to everyone, analysts should filter the specks of gold from the rest of the materials. Adding a quick comment in the same or a subsequent tweet can start the analysis/commentary that should continue in blogs and more private conversations.

As a hyperactive user of Twitter (PTC, my kids' school, and I), I've learned that Twitter means different things to different people (analysts are people too) at different times. Updating people on where you are or what you are doing may be extremely helpful to those trying to locate you or follow your coverage. For others, that info may be less valuable than hearing about what's happening at an event that they can only attend vicariously in real-time through analysts. As long as analysts and vendors appreciate the various ways that Twitter is being used, we should be able to accommodate each other.

Thoughts?
Mark Levitt, www.twitter.com/ptc_analysis

Reporting is contagious

I have a problem with this as well. You are just reporting, but it is worse. Live reporting is regurgitation. Once it gets on the Net, it can be spread whether it should be or not. And spread, and spread and spread until it has an aura of reality.

Analysts and twitter

Peter - I think you make some very good points. Live tweeting at vendor events is not something I would even try to stop (no point!) but I think this does change the way that vendors will interact with analysts, esp at big events and I think we will see an informal divide occur between a "trusted advisor" category and a "tweeter/reporter" category. Already I have seen PR collegues identifying people I would have called analysts in pre-twitter days as targets for their campaigns, and I am not sure they are wrong to do so. In general though my experience to date has been that analysts know when it is appropriate to tweet and when it is not. At this point I think it is only really the big events that are significantly impacted and i think this will inevitably move them from the private to the public domain which might diminish the value to both parties. Perhaps the days of the big analyst conferences are numbered.