Oprah almost broke Twitter -- or so it seems, anyway. The microblogging service's page views surged more than tenfold last week, according to data provided to blogger TechCrunch by Compete.

Oprah wasn't the only reason Twitter had a big week. In addition to her arrival on the service, last week saw Ashton Kutcher win a much-publicized race with CNN to 1 million Twitter followers. Then on Friday, a snarky bundle of code called Mikeyy attacked the increasingly popular service. All that traffic conspired to bring the microblogger to its knees on Saturday for nine whole minutes. (Shudder.)

So Oprah is only partly to blame for Twitter's troubles. Yet the pain was more than worth it. Thanks to her, Twitter is a far more powerful research tool today -- and not just for consumeristas like Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), and Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK), all of which sell goods via Twitter. The microblogger also offers insights to us investors.

Think about the cultural zeitgeist that Twitter represents. Following brands on Twitter gives us a real-time look at what's on the rise and what's under assault in the public consciousness. Twitter users knew sooner than most about the apparent "glitch" that unfairly swept certain books into the darkest recesses of Amazon's digital bookstore. More recently, we've seen the Twitterati comment about Oracle's (NASDAQ:ORCL) pending deal for Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA).

Someday, there's going to be a brand measurement index that fluctuates as the mood of the tweetstream changes -- like a mood ring for marketers and investors. That's the true potential of Twitter, the billion-dollar opportunity. It's also why Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) was reportedly seeking a deal to purchase the site, and why Facebook bid $500 million for it in November.

Thanks to Oprah, the price is still rising.

Related Foolishness @replies to you:

Dell is an Inside Value pick. Amazon is a Stock Advisor selection. Try either of these Foolish services free for 30 days. There's no obligation to subscribe.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Google, and a stock position in Oracle, at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy is clinically proven to fight disclosure decay.