Twitter Outages Leave Most Marketers Unfazed

Twitter reported a “High Error Rate” this morning on its service, as many users were greeted with the firm’s recognizable Fail Whale when trying to access their accounts. Yet, despite an increase in downtime, most marketers that rely on the platform for social media monitoring and campaigns remain unfazed. Indeed, if anything, the fact that marketers feel any effects of recent Twitter outages only speaks to the importance of the channel for their campaigns.

“The vast majority of [Twitter] conversations that come up regarding brands are innocuous…so they don’t warrant immediate action,” said David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation at digital agency 360i. “For most marketers most of the time, it shouldn’t be an issue.”

Jonah Seiger, managing partner with consulting firm Connections Media, however, expressed mild concern in a post on the company’s website last week. “Twitter’s downtime and missing tweets are impacting our social media monitoring services and our ability to communicate and gather real time intelligence from Twitter. We are confident that Twitter will fully resolve these issues in short order. However, until these issues are resolved, Connections Media’s social media monitoring services will continue to be impacted,” he wrote.

According to uptime monitoring firm Pingdom, Twitter has been down around 5.5 hours in June, as of this morning. That has left the system up 98.82 percent of the time this month. The only month tracked by Pingdom that brought with it more downtime was August 2009, when Twitter was out over 6 hours.

In an interview with ClickZ News, Seiger stressed that he thinks “Twitter is handling this very well,” pointing to the company’s transparent approach to notifying users of problems. Still, he said the flow of information coming from Twitter through monitoring systems his agency uses to track social media has been clogged during outages, meaning large streams of data generated hours before could flow through all at once when the system is accessible again.

“The biggest issue is that tweets are missing from the timeline,” he said. “You’re getting an incomplete picture of the conversation.” Still, he said because none of his clients – many of which use the agency for advocacy or public affairs campaigns – are in crisis mode, Twitter downtime has not been a serious problem for any of them.

“For an organization for whom real-time monitoring of Twitter has become important to their customer relationship management, this could be a bigger problem,” said Seiger.

Comcast’s use of Twitter for CRM has become well-known, but as of yet, the company doesn’t seem worried about service outages affecting that aspect of its customer communications. “Because we’ve got so many different types of touch-points, we haven’t seen any real impact,” said a Comcast spokesperson.

“People get frustrated but they deal,” said Jesse Engle, co-founder and CEO of CoTweet, a firm that provides a platform for managing Twitter accounts and communications. “Our expectation is they will continue to experience outages,” he said, adding that CoTweet “works closely with Twitter during outages,” providing aggregate data to Twitter on its API response.

“Twitter right now is gravy as I see it,” said Nick Chong, principal and chief technologist at digital consulting firm Chong + Koster. While he believes Twitter downtime is not a significant obstacle to retrieving data if monitoring on a regular basis, he suggested it could be a problem when it comes to certain types of campaign goals. “If we’re not just talking about campaign monitoring and looking at it from a commercial point of view, while using Twitter to move crowds, disperse information, etc., it certainly has its set of cons from a reliability standpoint. That’s why you use all forms of social media rather than banking everything on Twitter’s nest of micro-posts,” Chong said.

Follow Kate Kaye on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

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