Twitter Analytics Demystified for Public Relations: It’s Much More Than a Numbers Game

Twitter has opened up its analytics platform to all users this week. The data has previously only been available to Twitter advertisers.

It’s a brave move by the platform. Unless you’re familiar with analytics data provided by third-party solutions, you’ll almost certainly be surprised by the relatively low engagement rates.

In my view, the move will do a lot to demystify social networks and the obsession with chasing follower numbers and pumping out content in a bid to drive engagement.

I have more than 10,000 followers, but Twitter Analytics tells me that any single tweet will reach less than 1,000 (1% to 10%) of people in my network.

There is then a drop in order of magnitude to people that take action by retweeting, hitting favorite, or clicking on a link (approx. 0.1% to 1%), and then a further drop to people that actually reply (approx. 0.01% to 0.1%).

More than a numbers game

Twitter is a social network. Used well as a public relations platform it’s a series of conversations, not a tool to generate huge amounts of traffic. It’s about connecting with the right people and engaging in meaningful conversation.

You can view your Twitter Analytics via a series of dashboards, or export your data to analyze in Excel or a third-party tool.

Here’s a quick explanation of some of the key metrics provided by Twitter Analytics:

Impressions – The number of times followers potentially saw your tweet. Just because Twitter serves a tweet, it doesn’t mean that anyone necessarily took any notice. Impressions are useful for indicating the best times and days to tweet (8am, 4pm and 8:30pm, for me).

Engagements – This is the number of times that someone clicked anywhere on your Tweet. Engagement numbers are more useful than impressions as an indicator of when followers take an action based on your content.

Engagement rate – Engagements divided by total number of impressions. It is not an indicator of engagement with your whole Twitter community. Divide engagements by your number of followers and you’ll appreciate that there really is little point in chasing followers for the sake of it.

Link clicks – This number indicates how many people have clicked on links that you share. This is a useful metric if you want to understand how many people are engaging with your content. It should be the same data that is available via URL shorteners or from web analytics for your content.

Retweets – The number of times your content has been re-shared. This drives up impressions, and potentially engagements, but remember that Twitter Analytics is currently limited to engagement with your first degree network.

Favorites – This is the equivalent of a Like on Facebook. It demonstrates that someone has read your tweet and responded positively to it, no more and no less. Favorites are increasingly used as a signal for this purpose.

Replies – This is arguably the most useful number from a public relations perspective. It shows how many people engage with you directly about your content.

Twitter Analytics also provides a dashboard of your follower network with a breakdown of interests, location, and gender split.

The data provided by Twitter isn’t a measurement solution in its own right, but it is a helpful tool in setting campaign objectives and measuring outputs from activity. It may also be helpful in measuring outcomes depending on your objectives.