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What Does the New 'Tweets per Minute' Metric Really Mean?

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Are the metrics generated by social media actually relevant?

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL "Tweets per minute," or TPM, has become the It metric of campaign season. That much became obvious yesterday when headlines like "Michelle Obama's Speech Brings in 28K Tweets per Minute, Destroys Mitt Romney" dominated coverage of opening night at the Democratic National Convention. By comparison, Romney's speech from Tampa generated about 14,289 TPM in its most Tweet-heavy moments, more than double the 6,195 TPM rate achieved by his wife, Ann.

And today the Twitter Blog reports:

President Bill Clinton took the stage in Charlotte tonight and fired up Democrats in the arena and on Twitter alike. The 42nd President saw the highest spike in Tweets per minute of the night right at the end of his speech: 22,087. Interestingly, though this peak was higher than @MittRomney's highest last week in Tampa, Clinton's was less than @MichelleObama's peak last night.

When did we start talking about one's TPM? So far, Twitter has not responded to Minyanville's request for background on the metric's origin, but a Web search shows usage of the term stretching all the way back to the 2012 Olympics. Who could forget the heart-stopping moments when Usain Bolt blew past the Tweets-per-minute London Olympics record? Just as he began to overtake his competitors in the 200-meter dash, his TPM was off the hook at a rate of more than 80,000. During the closing ceremonies, however, the Spice Girls soared to a 116,000-TPM high, passing Bolt and other Olympic performers to the top of the podium in social media chatter.

Somewhere there are media consumers and investors still tracking the sinking TV ratings for political conventions, but most evidence suggests that the online audience is now the only one that's headline-worthy. More specifically, a quick survey of stories on social media and the political conventions of both parties would suggest that Twitter's audience matters that much more than Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) -- remember when Google Trends drove every conversation? -- or Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB). Let's not mention Google+ or Bing (NASDAQ:MSFT), since no one else is.
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