TwitterTwitter wants to know how I’m related to people I follow on Twitter. A few minutes back the service asked me to take the strangest survey I have ever taken and it was the last one I expected Twitter to throw at me.

It listed five Twitter users and asked me to define my relationship with them and why I followed them. I could pick from: We’re related, we’re friends, we work together (or did in the past), we go to the same school (or did in the past), I find their Tweets informative, I find their Tweets funny/amusing and I’m a fan outside of Twitter (see screenshot below).

This survey seems to be part of a bigger study Twitter has started with international market research firm TNS Global, to understand the needs of Twitter users. According to an email we received, it is also organising 90-minute long international consumer interaction sessions in India from June 20-26 and a Twitter team will be flying down from the US specially for this. It has even offered a Shoppers Stop gift voucher worth Rs 2,000 for participating in the session. These mails and the survey above was sent to people (like me) who had signed up to participate in a research activity for Twitter. TNS Global specialises in doing research that will help companies launch new products, target new markets and reduce consumer churn.

twitter survey

The problem with the online survey was that I know only two people from the list. This is unlike Facebook, where you’re connected with people you know or are friends, and the nature of your relationship (friends, acquiantances, family) is clearly defined. On Twitter we follow people we may or may not know. It seems Twitter is trying to get relationship data which Facebook has, but it doesn’t.

It’s not clear what Twitter plans to do with all this information, considering that it started out as a stripped down, minimalist messaging service. This could be in order to link the way you interact with the nature of your relationship with an individual, and a sampling will allow Twitter to showcase that data to marketers who might be interested in advertising on Twitter. Twitter has slowly evolved over the years by adding @replies, #trends, support for photos and videos (more like gifs with sound). Is it working on a social graph like Facebook? Will it spam me with tweets from my ‘friends’ on the Twitter app more often? Will it show tweets selectively or will it show tweets from some people more prominently than others? We can only speculate at this point.

PS: If you visited the survey link I posted in the first para and saw only empty fields, it is because I stripped out the information about the Twitter users from the URL.