Twitter: The “Next Big Thing” in Marketing Research?

By now, it’s obvious that Twitter has become the newest darling of the social marketing world. With somewhere around ten million users today and growing exponentially (there were fewer than one million just a year ago), it’s clear that Twitter has successfully made the leap from novel curiosity to mainstream communications vehicle.

Indeed, Twitter may have worthwhile applications beyond simply the ability for people to update their status information in real time from a mobile phone, computer or online portal. In fact, Silicon Alley Insider recently ran a contest inviting readers to submit their ideas for turning Twitter into a financially viable social network.

The winning entry? An idea from Chicago communications agency Denuo recommending that Twitter charge marketers for access to opted-in users willing to field an occasional research question from brands. Twitter would also charge for dashboard access to the research analytics.

I think this idea has a good deal of merit. Instead of incurring the cost to design and deploy custom research projects, simply tap into Twitter’s existing platform and huge user base to “anonymize” the data and open it up for mining.

Of course, some people voice concern that Twitter will soon be overrun by brand-related messages and advertising. That’s actually begun to happen as certain brands “follow” twitterers ad nauseum — so much it almost constitutes a form of cyber-stalking. But by offering operating an online research panel such as this, Twitter has the potential to deliver scads of valuable, actionable data at the speed of “now.”

Like YouTube, Twitter is actually going to have to figure out a way to make some money for its investors, and soon (imagine that?). So this idea bears watching.

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