Engage, review, repeat: Using metrics to improve your Twitter engagement

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February 28, 2012 by MMIT

It’s been more than a year since we looked at social media analysis tools and a lot has changed in that time. If an internet year is 7 weeks¹, than a social networking year feels like even less than that.  And, as important as it is to have a social media strategy, it’s equally important for this to be a dynamic strategy, being constantly revised.

TweetCloud for MultiMediaIT

TweetCloud for MultiMediaIT on TweetStats

Some of the tools mentioned last year are still around; ThinkUp has left beta, HootSuite is now  a freemium platform and, sadly, TwapperKeeper is no more (although the core functionality is now built into HootSuite). Twitter itself has gone through a couple of iterations since then. In the latest version of the Twitter web client (I’ve lost count by now, let’s just call it #newnewtwitter) you can view the interactions and mentions, activity (what people you follow are up to), browse categories and try to make sense of the latest ‘trends’ (only joking). But there still aren’t really any built-in tools to monitor the reach and effectiveness of your Twitter presence.

There are lots of different tools and apps for exploring Twitter metrics. I’m ignoring Klout and PeerIndex because measuring ‘influence’ is not the same as measuring engagement and in order to review your social media strategy you need data to show interactions with those who use your library or info service . For similar reasons, I’ve steered clear of social marketing tools such as Socialbakers and the like (also their website is a bit ..busy).

Metrics specifically for Twitter can tell you more about your followers (including reciprocal followers and ‘influential’ followers) but there are also more meaningful measures such as ‘conversations’. If you ask a question on Twitter, for example, how do you track and store the responses? And how can you archive and analyse conversations that occur on Twitter at conferences or around a specific subject?

And these can also be linked to your other web services. Twitter (and other social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn) have a growing role for web traffic referrals. Twitter announced a new Twitter web analytics tool late last year in recognition of this but it’s gone a bit quiet since the first announcement.

Most Twitter power users manage their Twitter account via a Twitter client. TweetDeck (now owned by Twitter) is a handy way to manage multiple Twitter accounts if you meet the rather stringent browser requirements but doesn’t offer anything in the way of usage statistics or analytics. Similarly, the reporting tools of Hootsuite are largely restricted to Premium account holders.

I’ve heard good things about TwitterCounter (which generates graphs for current and predicted levels of followers) but more in-depth analysis is again limited to premium accounts.

Tweetreach is handy for occasional reports; you can view the ‘reach’ of your latest 50 tweets without signing up for an account.

Tweet effect is also a useful reference but on the various accounts I tried, it didn’t identify any correlation between tweet content and follower loyalty.

ThinkUp is the Twitter analysis and archiving tool that I use the most. It’s particularly good at measuring Twitter-based conversations by keeping track of replies, retweets and inquiries (questions you’ve posted on Twitter). It also has a GeoEncoder plugin to let you map your social networking conversations. The downside (or at least a slight barrier) is that you need to have hosting but this has been reduced a fair bit by the increasing free and shared hosting options available. PHP Fog now offers free ThinkUp hosting which you can have up and running in next to no time.

Xefer in action - built using Yahoo Pipes, YQL & Google Charts

Tweetstats is great charting tool. As well as follower stats and frequency charts, you can visualise who you interact with most on Twitter, and even patterns of what time of day you tend to tweet — handy for identifying accidental routines.

Xefer is another great graphing tool built using Yahoo Pipes and Google charts. The Reply Explorer also lists replies to your tweets that you can sort by date or frequency.

And if you’re *really* into visualisation tools, check out TAGSExplorer, a brilliant tool created by Martin Hawksey that lets you create interactive visualisations of your Tweets using a Google Spreadsheet, the Google Visualisation API and some kind of d3.js graphing library magic. This is particularly great way of post-conference social networking analysis because it let’s you clearly see the interaction between participants.

Chances are, if your organisation is using Twitter in a significant way, you will need to use a couple of different sources and tools to review how you’re interacting with your network(s). And if there are any you’ve used and found particularly useful or any that we’ve overlooked, let us know in the comments.


1 This reference was quoted by Professor David Nicholas in a presentation (see http://www.ucl.ac.uk/dis/conferences/2009) but I haven’t found the original CIBER study reference online.

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The MmIT group is a CILIP special interest group concerned with the organisation, delivery and exploration of information through modern media including graphic forms, video and web based application. This blog contains news from the group and about multimedia information and technology in the library and information. For more information about MmIT see http://www.cilip.org.uk/about/special-interest-groups/multimedia-information-technology-group.

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