The Twitter Metrics That Matter

Let’s talk numbers.

Twitter Analytics says my tweets were viewed over 26K times in August. And I’m happy with those numbers, but probably not for the reason you think.

TWITTER IS LYING TO YOU
I have about a thousand followers on Twitter. That doesn’t mean I can reliably reach a thousand people…I joined the site in 2008, and some of my followers have stopped using their accounts in the intervening years. Others are following tens of thousands of other people, meaning the odds of them seeing anything I say are comparable to the odds of me winning the lottery without buying a ticket. Other followers are accounts with egg-shaped profile pictures, or “people” that I strongly suspect are bots. Having said that, I can somewhat reliably expect that around 15% of my followers will see any given tweet, unless something unusual happens. That’s not good or bad, it just is.

And according to Twitter Analytics, my most popular tweet in August was this one:

Jane McGonigal has a book coming out about using games and gamification to help achieve health goals, and Amazon inadvertently priced her book out in l337speak. After Jane retweeted my bemusement at the pricing, 27% of all impressions to my tweets in August and 26% of all engagements for the month were with that one. Looking at the analytics for my tweets, it’s painfully clear that my personal recipe for micro-celebrity on Twitter is sharing “witty” comments about books… if all I’m looking for is getting more people to see the things I have to say.

OH MY VLOG – THE ONLY IMPRESSION THAT MATTERED
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that Jane agreed with my bemusement at an algorithmic coincidence enough to share my tweet with her followers. But let’s talk about what really matters: Oh My Vlog magazine. That’s right, Oh My Vlog magazine. A print magazine dedicated to YouTube celebrity gossip. As soon as I learned about its existence, I became obsessed with finding a copy. Unfortunately, you can’t subscribe to this magazine about YouTube, and you can’t order it online. Edgmont Publishing, the magazine’s UK publisher, seemed actively opposed to the idea of taking my money. Paradoxically, this only made me want it more…so I turned to Twitter. 

Only 329 people saw that tweet, but two of them lived in the UK, and were willing to check their local newsstands for the magazine…to no avail. Store after store was out of stock. Local newsstands turned up empty. Edgmont Publishing clearly underestimated the overseas demand for YouTube memorabilia.

Finally, two days after I shamelessly asked friends half a world away to indulge my irrational obsession, Rob Pratten found a copy.

Now, I’ve known Rob for quite a few years. Rob is the creator of Conducttr, a platform for creating interactive, cross-platform experiences that responds to user behavior. We met up a few times at conferences, and even recorded a podcast or two together. But for the most part, we keep up with each other on social media. And that friendship paired with a shared desire to find out the names of Zoella‘s pet guinea pigs (Pippin and Percy), transformed a tweet into a magazine shipped halfway across the world. Obviously, I was overjoyed.


DON’T CONFUSE METRICS FOR UNDERLYING BEHAVIORS
If you judge tweets purely based on engagement metrics, every single tweet in the Oh My Vlog saga paled in comparison to my book tweet. But I didn’t need thousands of impressions when it really mattered, I just needed one. Around the same time I was patiently waiting for my copy of Oh My Vlog to arrive in the mail, Dinosaur Comics creator Ryan North got stuck in a hole with his dog Chompsky. North climbed into a bowl at a skate park to take some pictures of his dog, and the sides grew too slick with rain for him to safely climb out without leaving Chompsky behind to fend for himself. So North turned to his Twitter followers with a real life choose-your-own-adventure: how was Ryan to get out of the hole with only an umbrella, dog collar, and the clothes on his back as inventory. Some suggestions didn’t pan out. Ryan wasn’t patient enough to plug up the drain and wait for the bowl to fill with water, and using his shirt as a sling for Chompsky didn’t work. But one of his followers figured out an ingenious solution, that actually did work.

The Hole Quest makes for a fascinating read, but also illustrates an important point. Impressions and engagement rates can be strong indicators of whether people are likely to see your message in the first place, and how likely they are to be interested enough to share your message or reply. Twitter is rolling out new metrics all the time that can tell you about how people interact with your tweets, and who your followers are. Through Twitter’s data partnership with Acxiom, I know that most of my followers have a higher net worth than I do. And thanks to Twitter’s partnership with Datalogix, I now know that 69% of my followers purchase oral care products. Presumably, that means 31% of my followers don’t brush their teeth.

All of this information is fascinating and has encouraged me to share more oral hygiene tips on Twitter. But often, what you’re really looking for isn’t more eyeballs looking at what you have to say. It’s the right person to help you find exactly what you’re looking for, or get you out of a hole.

Share if you agree.

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