What does Twitter do?

It has now become accepted practice for most titles to use Twitter to raise their profiles with readers.  The thinking is that following a brand or the key people in that brand will influence them. The question is: what will it influence them to do?

There was a good example in the UK last week of where Twitter seems to work. A group called UKUncut, that has grown up to name and shame corporations that avoid paying tax, seems to owe  much of its existence to Twitter. Demonstrations sprang up at various companies around the country linked to the @UKUncut Twitter account.

That might surprise Nicholas Christakis, US author of a book called Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks & How They Shape Our Lives.

He did a little experiment to see whether getting influential people with large numbers of followers to tweet about the book would influence sales. The answer: hardly at all. His conclusion (much simplified by me) is that Twitter may be better at disseminating information than it is at influencing behaviour.

Or, based on the evidence of Uncut, it may be better at influencing people to do something they are interested in than in parting with their cash.

So what does that say to media owners?

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