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Mindless Gab on Twitter

August 18th, 2009 by Bob Bly

In one of my favorite TV cartoon shows Dexter’s Lab, Dexter’s dad tells his wife about her constant talking on the phone: “I can’t stand another minute of this mindless gab.”

I confess that this is often my reaction to social media, and in the most recent as well as past issues of his excellent e-newsletter on copywriting The Copywriter’s Roundtable, my colleague John Forde has indicated a similar sentiment.

He points to a study from Pear Analytics. It found that 40% of Twitter tweets are “babble” and only 8.7% have pass-alone value and news of interest.

The study concluded that “Twitter is a source for people to share their current activities that have little to do with everyone else.”

While this study is far from a condemnation of Twitter as an absolute time, it’s more evidence that Twitter is largely composed of mindless gab, yes?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 at 11:21 am and is filed under General, Online Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

26 responses about “Mindless Gab on Twitter”

  1. Michael A. Stelzner said:


    If 40% is babble, is the other 60 percent quality?

    I would say that more than 40% of what people talk about is babble.

    This could apply to any form of communication.

    CNET wrote an interesting article directly related to this:

  2. Glenn Livingston said:

    Hi Bob … it’s Glenn Livingston. Always enjoy your posts. (I’m an RSS lurker)

    Now having conducted hundreds of client audits at Rocket Clicks, I can confirm precious few people are making money directly from Twitter.

    The exceptions seem to be high ticket service providers who work Twitter in much the same way they “work a room” at a networking event. This requires a LOT of time, energy, and skill.

    Notwithstanding the above, I DO think Twitter is an AMAZING resource for market intelligence.
    You can create search feeds and funnel them into a newsreader for any keyword.

    What this means is, for a well thought out keyword strategy, you can develop an archive of people’s keyword-relevant free associations, which is a veritable gold mine for copywriters (uh, like you).

    It’s kind of like our society decided to all of a sudden vomit their thoughts spontaneously, all day long.

    Bad for society.

    Great for marketers who know how to screen out the noise and listen to the right conversations.

    For what it’s worth,

    Dr. Glenn 🙂

    PS – We should talk/catch up sometime.

  3. Internet Strategist @GrowMap said:

    Each person decides how they want to use Twitter and any other Social Networking site. Just because some people use it for Mindless Gab everyone doesn’t.

    While some are actually trying to answer that inane question “What are you doing” others use it to share quality content and connect with people who are difficult to contact most anywhere else.

    I’ll agree with Dr. Glenn that Twitter is not generally very effective for making direct sales. It can drive some traffic but since those are mostly curiosity clicks they convert poorly.

    It IS effective for developing relationships with others around specific interests. It can also be used for market research by keyword using many third party apps.

    Social Networking sites in general are excellent for finding and connecting with others who are Internet saavy and focused on growing their businesses.

  4. Bob Bly said:

    Michael: To answer your question,Pear classified 40.5% as pointless babble, 37.5% as conversational, 8.7% having pass-along value, 5.85% as self promotion, and 3.75% as spam. If one does not have time for idle chatter, then over 91% of what is on Twitter is not of value. You can argue that the conversation is of value, but the counter-argument is that not much can be communicated in 147-character posts.

  5. Michael Stelzner said:


    Another interesting and related article from San Fran Cron:

  6. Bob Bly said:

    Michael: The San Fran Cron article says: “Don’t knock social media until you’ve tried it. And if you still don’t like it after that, well go ahead knock it to your heart’s content. I bet you’ll use some form of social media to do it, though.”

    I have tried it. I don’t knock it. I just don’t enjoy it, nor do I find it interesting. I DO see the valule, and would use it more actively if I could outsource my Tweeting and Facebooking to someone at a reasonable cost. My assistant Jodi could do it, but her time is valuable to me and better spent on more important things.

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  8. Susanna K. Hutcheson said:

    It’s my experience that Twitter is not a way to make money. If you’re following a particular topic of interest, it can be a good source of information and shared comments of interest. But for the purely capitalistic purposes of generating business, it’s a totally useless dud.

  9. Bob Bly said:

    SKH: Are you or your clients making money with Facebook or any other social networking sites? How do you track revenues from these marketing activities?

  10. Shel Horowitz said:

    “only 8.7% have pass-alone value and news of interest.”

    My goal in social media interaction is to be in the 8.7 percent at least 80-90 percent of the time, yet have enough “chatter” to appear human and approachable. Twitter is great, because it’s really easy to bypass the mindless mob and find those with intelligent, thought-provoking additions to the discourse.

    On Twitter, I pass resources and answer questions more than I push my own stuff, but I’ve been using the channel to steadily build interest in my forthcoming book (for instance).

    You can see what I’m talking about at

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  12. ?ông Trùng H? Th?o M? Aloha said:

    This could apply to any form of communication.

  13. ve may bay di tham quyen said:

    My assistant Jodi could do it, but her time is valuable to me and better spent on more important things.

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  20. Livedoor said:

    How do you track revenues from these marketing activities?

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