RealTime IT News

Twitter Gets Brand-Tracking Tool

Does Twitter have business value? Those who think so may have a new weapon in the ongoing debate, thanks to Omniture. The Web analytics firm released a new feature service for its SiteCatalyst service, designed to measure the brand impact of what's being said on the popular microblogging site.

Omniture's service not only aggregates comments based on keywords, like a brand name, but also lets users segment the results into categories. For example, a cereal company named Flakos could break out mention of the brand name with other keywords, such as "Flakos" and "Great Taste" or "Flakos" and "Overpriced".

The news comes at a time of growing use of social media services, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others -- even as those providers struggle to find the right revenue model to generate sustained profits.

Twitter officials have said their more immediate focus is to grow the microblogging service -- which people use to send short, 140-character updates on their activities, to share links, and to communicate with others -- to become more valuable and more broadly used. They also have said they expect to start generating revenue this year, though they've yet to disclose specifics of the plan.

In the meantime, Twitter continues gaining fans -- and the attention of the marketing world. In a report earlier this month, analysts at Forrester Research said Twitter is "uniquely valuable" to marketers because "it's more immediate and interactive than any other digital channel."

Forrester estimates about five million people use Twitter, which researchers said could prove a fertile new medium for marketers despite the fact it allows only for brief messages, often called "tweets."

"All marketers should look into Twitter, starting with securing your brand identity and monitoring existing chatter," Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang said in a report released last week.

One way Omniture is aiming to make those tasks simpler is by providing a tool for SiteCatalyst users to monitor key phrases on Twitter. Similarly to alerts it offers with its other SiteCatalyst services, Omniture also can send notifications when it detects specified keywords on Twitter, automatically generating real-time alerts as e-mails or as SMS messages sent to a mobile device.

"Previously, it was hard to scan every single 'tweet,'" Matt Langie, senior director of product marketing at Omniture," told InternetNews.com. "This is basically an aggregation service that lets you automate the process and let you get the relevant information quickly."

Langie said SiteCatalyst users can select an unlimited number of keyword reports based on tweets. He also noted that the service could be used to track what Twitterers are saying about competitors as well as a company's own brands.

Danger ahead?

But even as it's winning more attention from online marketers, Twitter's popularity may also have a dark side -- leading to security issues. Last Friday, Twitter confirmed that about 750 Twitter accounts were broken into and had a link to a Webcam site posted on the accounts.

Twitter said it was investigating the attack and reset the passwords of the compromised accounts.

Langie said these kinds of attacks and spam in general could compromise the value of some of the data collected from Twitter and other sites that Omniture offers.

But he also noted that Omniture's service lets users filter out certain terms. "You can segment out the false positives -- it's like a spam filter," he said.

Some filtering or adjustments could be required in any case, thanks to vagaries of popular parlance. He notes certain tweets might, for example, refer to a product as being "terribly good."