What Metrics Matter in Twitter and How You Track Them

Written by Scott NesbittMay 13, 2011

While it seems that some people are obsessed with social media metrics, those metrics can be useful for gauging the success of your Twitter marketing efforts. The problem is that  there so many metrics that you can look at.

There are only a handful of Twitter metrics that really matter. And they’re probably not the ones that you’d think about tracking. Let’s take a look at three of the more important Twitter metrics and how to track them.

The Metrics that Matter

If you look at only one metric, that metric is engagement. Are your followers passively reading your tweets, or are they doing something with those tweets? That something could be anything from retweeting to replying to you.

Another is your influence. This metric shows that your followers value what you say and that they are likely to share your tweets with others. It’s kind of like digital name dropping -- how many times has your name been mentioned, and by whom?

Finally, don’t discount reach. Reach is related to engagement and influence. It measures how many Twitter users have received your tweets. The further your tweets spread, obviously, the more impact you and your brand potentially have.

You might be thinking that engagement, influence, and reach are the same. They’re not. Similar, maybe. But they do have one major factor in common: they’re pieces of the same puzzle, and shouldn’t be viewed in isolation.

Tracking Those Metrics

You have a list of metrics. Now how do you track them? Chances are you can’t afford one of the big gun social media analytics tools. But there are a number of free or low-cost tools -- including Metricly and HootSuite Social Analytics -- that can help. But here are some quick and dirty ways to track each Twitter metric that was discussed earlier.

The number of followers that you have isn’t an accurate measure of engagement. Some people could be passive followers who never look at your tweets. And you can have a small number of followers who actively engage with you. One of the best ways to measure your engagement is through the number of retweets your posts get. You can do that with third-party tools like Retweet Rank or by searching for @Replies using Twitter’s own search function.

Another way to track your engagement is with the number of link clicks. Chances are, a good portion of your tweets contain links. And, chances are, you use a URL shortener like bit.ly or goo.gl to shrink those links. Many URL shortening services graphically track the number of times that people click the URLs that you have posted.

Tracking your influence is fairly easy, but it can also be a bit misleading. Many people use Klout to gauge their influence. But, as a number of commentators have pointed out, Klout scores can be misleading. That’s not to say that you should discount Klout. Just look at the numbers critically.

Another way to track your influence is to calculate your respect ratio. To do that, just go to your Twitter home page and then divide the number of followers you have by the number of lists that you are on. So, if you have 7,300 followers and are on 74 lists, your respect ratio is 7300/74, or about 98.65.

Just as important is the need to look at the other people on those lists. Are they influential or so-called thought leaders in your area? If so, then you’re in good company and you’re likely to be more respected and are more likely to gain more visibility. Yes, influence can rub off.

Reach is a little more difficult to track. It can be done, but you will need to enlist the help of third-party tools like TweetReach or Twitalyzer. Tools like this show how many Twitter users found your tweets to be worthwhile, and how many times they spread those tweets.

Final Thoughts

Twitter metrics can tell you a number of things. And by looking at the right metrics, you can get a good picture of the success of your social media efforts. Remember, though, that no one metric in isolation will form that picture. You need to look at several metrics to clearly see what you’re doing right and where you can improve your social media efforts. 

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