Sourcing a Tweet

By nature, occupation and State of California licensing, I am an investigator. It’s one of the things that endears me to social networking, as I find the web of information endlessly fascinating. When I read a tweet, I’m looking not just at the 140 characters and the author’s name or ID, but also at the time and source of the message.
If you’re looking to maximize strategic use of Twitter, you can learn a lot by doing the same. On standard Twitter, the message source is at the bottom right of each tweet – in the roll out of new Twitter, it appears again at the lower right after you click on a tweet and it pops up in the right-hand pane. So why does this matter?
  • If the message source is always an automated source like Twitterfeed or a custom app, it can help tell you if you’re dealing with a bot (see @govwiki, @redscarebot). If so, probably no need to reply, thank, or try to spark up a conversation (although I do monitor tweets back to @govwiki – and I have nothing to do with the clever McCarthy bot). All Twitterfeed, it’s a bot;
  • It lets you know if the person who’s tweeting is there or not. A good number of highly active folks mix scheduled tweets with their live bon mots, so if you’re trying to catch them live, look for “web” as the source, or look for interaction and not just presence;
  • It tells you if someone is mobile. Look for a source like “Seesmic for Android”;
  • It can explain why someone appears to be up in the middle of the night 🙂
  • It can help identify a spammer before you follow back. “API” as the source is generally an unregistered app, and a decent signal that that prolific new follower might not be as engaging as they look.

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