Last August was when Twitter first announced it would offer geocoded tweets. With it, user locations are tied to their updates. That feature was rolled out in November. Two months later comes word that it's getting very little use. TheNextWeb reports that less than one-fourth of one percent of all tweets are geo-tagged. For every 430 messages that pass through Twitter, only one has a location--very, very few. Why? Read on for a few potential ideas.
Not enough Twitter client adoption
As for displaying locations, that's even more important. Geo-tweeting may always be something a minority of users do, but everyone can benefit from knowing the location context of a message. That means we should have access to that information wherever a tweet is displayed.
Hasn't been blessed by Twitter's web interface
"I learned it from watching you!" That's an after school special cliche, but you could just as well hear those words from developers of Twitter clients. When the geotag API went live, Twitter was very clear that the web would not support it yet.
Outside of the setting that enables geotagging, there's no mention of location anywhere on Twitter's site. You can't geotag your tweets entered in the web interface, nor can you see others. Not even in search. Not even on the mobile web site.
Though we early adopters may not care to admit it, Twitter is moving right along toward the mainstream now. With it, the team needs to be extremely careful about privacy. That's almost certainly why it takes a very deliberate action, unavailable via the API, to turn on geotagging from your Twitter account.
It's not just Twitter that is concerned about privacy. So are individuals, even those who have turned on geotagging. A tweet sent from home with location attached means anyone can find your house. For many, this means they don't want to geotag everything. When you have to think about it, it's much less likely that you'll do it at all, even when you don't mind sharing where you are.
It's still early
It's barely been two months since geotweets were enabled. Maybe we shouldn't expect every client to have updated by now. And it's certainly too soon to expect all users to be ready to broadcast their locations.
And the data that's mentioned by TheNextWeb may only include the first month. It's way too soon to write off location-sharing via Twitter.
It's a numbers game
How much geotweeting is enough to call it a success? The answer may not be in percentages. Tens of millions of tweets are being sent every day. Even with a paltry 0.23% of those geotagged, that still means that location data is being added to tens of thousands of tweets each day. And it's hard to see that as a failure.
Hat tip: Mike Duffy