Twitter will make a real-time analytics dashboard available for free to a limited set of beta testers beginning in Q4 of this year, Twitter's business development executive Ross Hoffman told attendees at the Sports Marketing 2.0 Summit in San Francisco yesterday.

Web analytics company WebTrends reported on the statement and offered details based on an interview with Hoffman on its company blog today. We reported first this Summer that such a product was coming "soon" and was based on the word of a startup Twitter had acquired called DabbleDB/Trendly. Twitter's PR lead Sean Garrett person said our report was incorrect, but it appears we may only have been wrong about the timing.


Above: A sample page from Trendly's legacy product, before it was acquired by Twitter.

"The product will leverage algorithms similar to the Twitter Resonance concept," Justin Kistner writes on the WebTrends blog, "in order to show users which tweets are spreading, who is influential in their network, and more. The emphasis is on real time in order to help users make adjustments on the fly to their tactics."

"This is a big announcement from Twitter," Kistner opines, "as analytics is critical to not only justifying marketing budget (something Twitter marketers have struggled to prove), but also to improve marketing efforts."

Twitter is working hard and fast on monetization, and a solid analytics offering should help make more companies comfortable with use of the service. Further comment from Twitter is forthcoming, the company says. Will it really be free to everyone? If not just to users of the elusive "business toolkit," that would be huge. If just to that group, it would still be a big deal long term, as access to Twitter's business offerings slowly opens up.

Update: Twitter's Carolyn Penner responded to our inquiry as follows: "We've been talking about providing analytics since last December, but have nothing to add at this time."

Beta Testers Approve

Andrew Nystrom, "social media Dude" for RedBull, and Brad Nelson, social media at Starbucks, both confirmed on Twitter in response to this report that they are beta testing the analytics service and are finding it "very useful."

Note that both of these companies are participants in Twitter's sponsored Tweets program. If only advertisers are allowed to use Twitter analytics, instead of analytics being open to everyone in order to encourage advertisement, that's going to make a whole lot of people unhappy.


Beyond Broadcast

Those Twitter-using companies will be served poorly, however, if they focus exclusively on a quantitative analysis of Twitter's business worth as a broadcast mechanism. As a living, breathing real-time conversation, participated in by leading innovators and business people throughout many sectors, Twitter probably offers the most business value as a listening and business development tool.

None the less, many organizations will be very excited to see an analytics dashboard if it is implemented well.

It's not hard to imagine an analogy that works like this: Twitter analytics for Free is to Twitter advertising, as Google Analytics for Free is to Google advertising.