The first U.S. Presidential debate on Wednesday night led to yet another — and completely unsurprising — record for Twitter activity.
The Twitter communications team spread the news shortly after the debate ended, saying that the debate topped activity during both the Republican and Democratic National Convention and was “the most tweeted about event in US political history.”
That last bit is pretty cheeky. US political history? Since Twitter’s only been around for six years, I’d say that different wording was in order, but I wouldn’t go so far as to throw the whole idea of tweet milestones under the bus.
That’s what Ryan Lawler does on TechCrunch in an article that calls Twitter out for being “self-congratulatory” and suggests that we should stop caring about how many tweets happen during any given event. He says:
The day that we stop caring about how many Tweets per second people Tweet will be the day that Twitter actually matters. The day that it no longer has to pat itself on the back is the day that it will have truly reached its maximum cultural impact.
On the surface, it’s easy to agree with that sentiment. I’m generally not a fan of patting yourself on the back and the ongoing tweet record announcements can come off that way.
But, with all due respect, I think that sentiment is wrong. Twitter isn’t trying to reach “maximum cultural impact” (What does that mean, anyway, and how would you measure it?) and isn’t just patting itself on the back.
Twitter is trying to sell ads, make money and grow its business. It’s trying to make the case to advertisers that Twitter is the internet’s default second screen — where everyone gathers to experience live events together.
Just like Nielsen tracks television audiences and TV networks report how many viewers they have for the benefit of advertisers, Twitter’s smart to do the same thing. Can you imagine NBC, Fox or CBS not announcing how many people watch the Super Bowl each year? Of course they do, because it helps them sell ads next time. Lots of ads. Very, very expensive ads.
So while Facebook is struggling mightily to explain the benefits of advertising and has already had at least one highly visible and embarrassing defection, Twitter is (and should be) making the case that advertisers should be spending their money on tweets.
When Twitter announces new activity records, it’s not about patting itself on the back; it’s about measurement — the most fundamental part of advertising and something that every advertiser, big or small, wants to know and do.
Maybe the tweet announcement was worded poorly, but it’s hard to fault Twitter for trying to grow its business.