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Evaluating Twitter – Great Tools for Social Monitoring

15 May, 2012


Twitter is the new direct mail. Or so it seems. Every business and their dog are getting on the bandwagon. And there are lots of reports of successes. But how do you know that the time you invest on Twitter is effective? If you aren’t on that particular bandwagon yet, take a look at my blog about why you should use social media for your business.

In the simplest terms there are two ways to measure impact: quantitatively and qualitatively. In this blog we’ll look at free tools for both kinds of measure.

Of course, you need something to measure against, so before investing lots of time on social media I recommend you at least set some objectives to measure against.

Some of the basics are:

  1. Post count – the number of times you’ve tweeted in a given time frame
  2. Replies – the number of times another person’s tweet has started with @username in a given time frame
  3. Retweets – the number of times your tweets have been “retweeted” in a given time frame
  4. Mentions – the number of times your username was included in a tweet (but wasn’t considered a reply)
  5. Friends & followers – the number of people who engage with you
  6. Enquiries – how many people say “I found you on Twitter”?

Tracking numbers – quantitative

Without using any tools or tricks you can have a go at measuring the impact of your social media activity by simply asking people where they heard about you. So if you have an enquiries form on your website, or a box to subscribe to your newsletter, include a relevant question if you haven’t already.

You can also use Google Analytics to track how many people click on any links you’ve posted to your site. You’ll need to have Analytics installed on your website, but that’s relatively simple to do. Sign up for an account and it generates a piece of code. Ask your web developer to put the code on your site and almost straight away you have oodles of information at your fingertips.

You could get lost in Google Analytics for a week, but for the purposes of evaluating your social media activity you need to pay attention to the Traffic section.

Click on Traffic Sources, Sources and choose All Traffic. You’ll get a graph and a table showing where your site visitors originated from. Any of the links which ends /referral is of interest in this context. For Twitter referrals look for t[dot]co/referral (T[dot]co is the shortened version of Twitter), but you may also see facebook[dot]com/referral or

In the table you’ll get information about how many people visited from that source, how many pages they visited on your website, how long they spent browsing and what percentage were new (as opposed to returning) visitors.

If you want to break things down further Google Analytics allows you to create a special segment for each of your social media sites. This article from Social Media Examiner goes into lots more detail about how you can create segments and analyse the resulting data.

1, 2, 3…

Another quantitative metric for Twitter is to analyse the volume of Tweets about a particular subject and you can easily do this for your brand.

topsy gives you information about the volume of tweets for a word or topic over a specified period, along with a graph to show how much the word or topic is mentioned. It also brings back links to articles mentioning your key word.

But what about your own Tweets? Can you measure how many people you reached with each one? Not surprisingly, you can, with tools such as TweetReach. Simply copy and paste any Tweet into the box and it will tell you how many people had the potential to read it and how many times it was re-Tweeted. Note my careful use of the word, potential. In reality, Tweets stay in a person’s stream for a maximum of a few minutes, so how many people actually saw it depends on how many of your followers were online at the time when you Tweeted.

The richest pickings


A fairly new tool is TwitSprout, which analyses almost every aspect of your Twitter account that you can think of and turns the information into pretty graphics – perfect for presentations. It’s free for the first three accounts, but there are paid-for options after that.

Once you’ve given it your account information TwitSprout pulls together around six months of Tweets and detail from your account. After that it updates the info hourly, which is pretty impressive from an insight point of view.

The kinds of intelligence you can glean from TwitSprout include when you gain the most followers – so you can target your Twitter activity to the most productive times – how your account compares to that of your competitor(s), and what kinds of posts get the most engagement from your followers – are photos or videos most popular, for example? The tool even gives you tips to maximise your effectiveness on Twitter.

And it’s not just for Twitter, TwitSprout can also be used to analyse your Facebook page.

We can measure it, but can we evaluate it?

So, you can measure the volume of people who arrive at your website via Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest or any other social media site you choose. But how do you know what these people think about you and about your brand?

Sentiment is an important measure in the social media sphere. It is very powerful to know whether people are saying positive or negative things about your company as it allows you to act appropriately.

There are a number of free tools for analysing whether people are saying positive or negative things about a brand or topic., and all operate similarly in that you put a topic or brand into a box and they trawl through tweets and analyse what proportion are positive or negative.

Social Mention

SocialMention goes a step further and gives you information on what it terms strength, sentiment, passion and reach. It also shows you the latest Tweets and gives a snapshot of how often the word is mentioned, the top Tweeters for that term, top hash tags and top sources. You can even download the information as CSV files (a bit like a basic version of Excel).  In getting this data you get an insight into how people feel about the brand or topic, as well as who you might want to follow or engage with.

Don’t feed the trolls!

What if using one of these tools reveals your brand isn’t well perceived in social media circles? How should you tackle negative Tweets about your brand? At the end of this report there’s a really useful flowchart produced by the Local Government Association with recommendations about how to act.

In essence, you do need to keep an eye on what people are saying about you and it’s your choice about whether to engage directly with your critics, or simply Tweet appropriate material which may rebut or contradict their allegations.

When you’re Tweeting on behalf of your own company, as opposed to that of someone else, it’s really hard to separate yourself from the emotion of being “attacked” but how you respond could make a major difference to whether your brand is permanently damaged or momentarily mentioned.

And finally…

If you’re using Twitter for your business because you think it’s the right thing to do, I humbly suggest you get a bit smarter and start to understand what impact it is having. This blog has been a quick guide to some of the tools available for you to do that – there are many, many more out there.

For all the latest tools, tips and information about social media and SEO follow me @JRConsultancy or sign up for my blog here.

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