Yesterday, via the Twitter Blog, Twitter announced a fairly subtle change, which renamed “Replies” (i.e. the use of @username’s) as “Mentions.” Although a simple change, the move makes it possible for Twitter users, and specifically Twitter brand handlers, to track all mentions of a @username or @brand through a tab on their Twitter homepage. In the past, the “Replies” tag only tracked when a @username or @brand was mentioned in the beginning of a Tweet. Something that has been commonly used for direct, yet open, dialogue with an individual or brand.
As Biz Stone (@Biz) noted in his post:
“When you click that tab, you’ll see a list of all tweets referencing your account with the @username convention anywhere in the tweet—instead of only at the beginning, which is how it used to work.”
In the past, when using the analogy of blogging, I’d compare a Twitter “Re-tweet” to an inbound link and a “Reply” to a comment. “Replies” signified actual interaction and dialogue between a user or brand and another individual within the Twittersphere, just as comments do within the blogosphere. By altering the concept of a “Reply” to a “Mention,” I’d now describe it to my blogging friends as a comment about your brand on your blog, or anywhere throughout the blogosphere.
For those of you not within the PR industry, “mentions” is a commonly used word for tracking company coverage within the press. The idea of applying this thinking to the Twittersphere may not be that crazy. For some time, the Twitterati have pointed to Followers and Re-tweets as the most important metrics on Twitter, but I disagree.
As Biz also mentions in his post, the Twitterati are now regularly including brand mentions within their personal dialogue. His examples:
“I’m flying @jetblue to Boston. Also, folks reference multiple accounts in a single tweet like this: I’m flying @jetblue to Boston with @ev @crystal and @goldman.”
I’d argue that tracking these specific brand mentions, while analyzing the overall tone of the “Tweet,” is more important. Sure its great to have a lot of followers receiving brand Tweets, but the must valuable followers are those that are endorsing the brand or complaining about it within daily dialogue. It’s the future of focus groups and potentially advertising. The influence that a Twitter brand handle is having and its overall reach can be more accurately measured by tracking these newly termed mentions.
In addition, brands like @jetblue, @VirginAmerica and DesignDepot are all putting sponsorship money behind their Twitter brands and Tweets, so monitoring their brand reach through Twitter becomes a necessity. Of course that is already being done in some respects, utilizing Twist and Twitter Search, but this new functionality should increase the real-time tracking of mentions. Twitter also noted that the update will be made for developers using the API – so expect the new functionality on updated versions of Tweetdeck and Twhirl as well. Good news for most Twitter brand handlers, who utilize these Twitter desktop apps.