Twitter Analytics

By Scott Liu, Paid Search Coordinator, Advertising Solutions

No one would doubt the popularity of twitter these days. According to Nielsen, Twitter’s unique visitors have increased from 475,000 in February 2008 to 7 million in February 2009. Apparently the growth and influence of this micro-blogging service indicates that it’s no longer just a place for friends to tell you what they had for breakfast; it may soon become a very important part of PR and brand marketing that no company can afford to neglect.

So now, I’ve signed up for a twitter account, started twittering through TweetDeck, TwitterFox and other “fancy” mobile apps. What’s next; how can I measure the impact/success; what are some of the data points I can gather around twitter? Actually a handful of twitter analytics products and services are available to offer in-depth information contained in tweets (based on the twitter code such as @, #, and RT) as well as insights of your own “social network” on twitter.

Besides some direct metrics everyone can see on the front end, like number of followers, here’re some of the metrics I find interesting

  • Reach: A very interesting way to evaluate the true reach of your network on Twitter is to consider your followers by degree. Very similar to Linkedin, your direct followers are your 1st degree contact/audience, and the followers of your direct followers are your 2nd degree contact/audience. So your estimate reach= direct followers + all direct followers’ followers, which helps measure the potential followers and audience. Therefore, your twitter account is probably considered more influential when you have 10 followers who each have 100 followers than 99 followers who each only have 10 followers. Also, here is a very interesting illustration of Influence Ripples.

  • Retweet : Apparently retweet can substantially increase popularity of a particular message across Twitter. In the meantime potential new followers might be attracted by a relevant tweet or link you shared. Retweetist is the place to check out the “HOT” retweets and the RT trends for a particular user. Although retweet might be one of the best measurements of the likelihood to recommend a brand, we still have to be very careful when RT starts to spread “negative” content.

  • Link/URL stats: Almost all these “twitter analytic” tools can tell you how popular/influential a specific twitter account is; how many times your content has been retweeted and etc. The fact is, if you’re following some frequent twittering accounts, you probably end up getting hundreds of tweets every single day. Therefore it’s really important to know how many people actually read your tweets and click through, also after that what’re the activities/engagements happening on the site. Of course you can track URL stats through various URL shorten services, but it would be even more helpful to integrate twitter as part of your web analytic suite (As what Omniture did) when measuring the impact of Twitter as an emerging medium to your business goals.

The data/numbers won’t make a business decision for you, it will help you recognize the market situations and consequently make a better decision. Twitter is not just a numbers game to see how many followers you can get in the shortest time, but instead it is about who the audiences are, how deep is the engagement and how to set up the overarching strategy for this rising medium to accommodate the short/long term business needs.

Last but not least, maybe twitter itself can find a way making money by selling analytics?


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