In an unstunningly simple article in PR Week today ("Twitter has suddenly exploded") we learn amongst other things that Edelman has 17 twittering staff and Racepoint 8, whilst Drew Benvie has twittered 3779 times.
I'd write here things like "AWESOME" and "WOW, HOW ENLIGHTENING", but I understand sarcasm is the lowest form of wit so I'll refrain.
What's with all the numbers? Why on Earth are they the story? But before I explain myself, I will just dwell on the numbers for a minute.
...I don't know a Racepoint consultant who isn't on Twitter, and there's a lot more of us than eight people! How can Porter Novelli global digital director Mat Morrison feel so confident in his data? He should have at least added the caveat that one can only determine when a Twitter user is a consultant from a specific PR consultancy should the individual chose to promote the fact in their personal profile.
Our micro-blog policy does not require consultants to declare their allegiance with Racepoint in their personal profile, but it does require them to declare interest when seeding or promoting a client or a client brand via Twitter.
But let's move past these numbers to my main concern about this article; it makes next to no attempt at placing the Twitter phenomenon in context with the public relations discipline.
Sure, respect to Drew for the one quote in the article that attempts to move the agenda that way by referencing networking, story mining, issues tracking and news seeding, but the obsession with pointless data masks any kind of interesting story emerging.
There are many good attempts at defining public relations. Regular readers of my blog will know I gravitate towards thinking about it in terms of understanding and exerting influence in order to move stakeholders' minds and behaviour to where you'd prefer them to be. But whatever it is, it isn't about Twittering just as it isn't about column inches or advertising-value-equivalent.
The story here is, or rather should have been, about how to wield tools and services like micro-blogging in the effective execution of your PR campaign strategy and ultimate achievement of your PR objectives.
Let's take a look at Mat Morrison's Twitter stream as of 10.35am today. Looking at the last 20 tweets (not a statistically significant sample I'll grant you, but today I've not been inspired to be statistically inspirational), Mat @'s other Twitter users 22 times. Of these, 20 are in the PR and digital business, and 2 are unidentifiable in that regard.
I won't go further and analyse the content and the ensuing dialogue because I don't know Mat's objectives here, but you could conclude from this analysis that he may well be achieving his PR objectives if his customer is himself / Porter Novelli. If his objective is to employ Twitter in achieving campaign success for his agency's customers, if his objective in working with PR Week on this article was to imply just this, you're going to have to look at more of his Twitter stream than I have to begin to guess if that's happening for him.
If you want to know if your use of Twitter is working for you in a professional PR context, work through the normal cascade of objectives -> strategy -> tactics -> measurement. There's no shortcut.
And for a bit of fun, take a look at this satirical video and ask yourself if others could look at your Twitter stream in much the same way?!