Something is happening to Twitter, but you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?
I started tweeting 8 years ago. Though I didn’t know it at the time, Twitter would turn out to be the most important way for people to discover my work and for me to connect with thousands of kindred souls all over the world who share my specialized interests. Over time, Conferences That Work grew into a website with ten million page views per year.
But as 2016 drew to a close I noticed that something was changing in the Twitter world. Here’s a graph of my follower count over time: (more…)
“What does matter, however, is how many people notice you, either through retweets, favorites or the holy grail, a retweet by someone extremely well known, like a celebrity.”
She then laments: “Twitter is starting to feel calcified, slowed down by the weight of its own users, cumbersome, less exciting than exhausting“.
Most of the comments on her post go even further than Jenna, smugly dismissing Twitter as a waste of time—unless you’re a narcissist.
“I can handle Twitter because it is irrelevant.” “…this writer sums up exactly how I feel about social media in general, not just Twitter. This whole idea of likes and followers — it’s like setting up one’s business based on some vacuous high school popularity contest. Are we grown ups or not?” “Brevity may be the soul of wit, but I find little soul in twit. (er)”
—The three most popular comments on Jenna’s article
When you see Twitter solely as a broadcast tool, you are overlooking its most important use: as a tool for discovery, conversation and connection.
On this site I write about a niche topic: participant-driven and participation-rich events. For me, Twitter has turned out to be the most important way for people to discover my work and for me to discover and connect with thousands of kindred souls from all over the world who share my specialized interests. When I began this website 8 years ago, I discovered that traditional search engine optimization was useless because no one was searching for the new ideas I was writing about. Today, with ten million annual page views, I’ve found that the core value of Twitter comes from its ability to discover and connect with geographically dispersed individuals with whom I have something important in common.
If you’re not a celebrity, Twitter becomes powerful when you use it for appropriate two-way communication and connection, not broadcast.
You can’t have a conversation with a million people on Bieber’s antics, but you can have a valuable conversation with smaller numbers of people who are interested in a more specialized topic, and who find each other through appropriate use of hashtags.
For example, there is a community of event professionals on Twitter who tag their tweets with #eventprofs—as well as a host of other hashtags related to their interests, professional affiliations, upcoming events, etc. This soup of appropriately tagged tweets provides a great way for those interested to check up on what is happening and talk about it. One beauty of Twitter is that all these tweets are public and searchable, so it’s easy for newcomers to the profession to discover interesting information and peers on their own schedule.
Yes, over the years the #eventprofs hashtag has been used increasingly by people who view Twitter as a broadcast medium, pumping out “listen-to-me” tweets while rarely or never responding to anyone else or retweeting interesting material. So Jenna is right that the amount of noise on Twitter has increased: the inevitable tragedy of a social media commons where posting costs nothing but the poster’s time. I don’t dismiss this noise lightly—it makes finding interesting tweets harder, and there can come a point when you decide that the effort to filter is just not worth it any more.
What has happened in the event community as a result of increasing noise is the creation of more specialized hashtags for smaller niche groups. Because anyone can create and use a new hashtag at any time on Twitter, it’s possible for a community to coalesce around a useful hashtag. Hashtags are flexible Twitter tools that can be used freely by anyone or any group that finds them useful.
I like that I get to decide how Twitter works for me. Unlike Facebook there are no secret, ever-changing algorithms deciding what I should see. Yes, it’s work to filter the fire hose of information that Twitter serves up; the daunting collective output of currently over 200 million monthly active Twitter users sending 500 million tweets per day. But by discarding the biggest myth of Twitter, you can reap the benefits of meeting and connecting successfully with people who are of value—value that you get to choose.
Last month Twitter quietly rolled out some very useful free analytics tools. I say quietly, because I’ve seen very little discussion of them online. Perhaps that’s because they have not been made available to everyone yet. Whatever the reason, they have been eye-opening for me, so I’m sharing my initial impressions here.
Here’s how to access Twitter’s new tools. You’ll find them on the Analytics menu on the Twitter Ads page, as shown in the above screenshot. This page requires you to turn off any ad-blocker you have running in order to load—fair enough!
If you see an Analytics menu (at the time of writing not everyone does) you’re in luck. There are two options: Timeline Activity and Followers. Pick the former and you’ll see something like the graphic above.
The Timeline shows statistics about your last thirty days of tweets. What is most interesting to me is the number of clicks on any link included in a tweet. Traditionally, social media mavens tend to focus on how many times tweets are retweeted and mentioned, and obviously that’s important. But I had no idea how popular some of my tweets were in terms of people clicking on embedded links. Much of my content is narrowly niche-focused, so I generally don’t see a lot of retweets. But conferencesthatwork.com receives over two million page views a year, and those hits come from somewhere. What these Twitter analytics show me is that many people are clicking on my links, even if most of the time the associated tweets are not being subsequently retweeted. And, most important, I can now see which tweets were popular. This is valuable information!
Yes, these analytics has been available for some time via other mechanisms. All the URL shortening services provide similar statistics for individual shortened links. But in practice, you’d need to use a) a unique short URL for every tweet and b) only one shortening service. a) is cumbersome, and b) is impractical because some services that auto-generate tweets from posts, like LinkedIn and Google Plus, insist on using their own link shorteners, requiring manual amalgamation of clicks over multiple services.
The timeline of mentions, follows and unfollows at the top of the page provides a nice overview that can be helpful for noticing interest peaks, but I prefer to monitor this information using the excellent Birdbrain IOS app.
The Followers option displays a graph of follower growth plus some demographics on interests, location, and gender.
This is interesting but less useful to me, though you may find it valuable. It would be great to be able to drill down further into the location demographics so I could see my followers in, say, the Netherlands, and then be able to reach out to them when I was visiting.
For me the gold here is the clicks per tweet statistics. Although I don’t write blog posts based on what I think will be popular, this information gives me a much better picture than I’ve had before of how interesting specific tweets are to others. Over time it should help me understand better how my tweet content and timing affect what people read, allowing me to reach more people with better-marketed content. For free, what’s not to like about that?
Are these new tools of interest to you? How would you use them?
Here’s a one hour video of a Hangout On Air that Jenise Fryatt & I held July 24, 2012 on Moderating Twitter Chats.
To decide whether this is a valuable use of your time I’ve listed below the topics and tips we covered from our summary notes, and here’s a Storify transcript (with additional resources & links added) of the simultaneous archived Twitter stream for the event.
Introduction – 5 minutes
Jenise & me intros
– poll of participants; brief answers; tweet if watching
– Q1) who wants to start a new chat? moderate an existing chat; chat name?
– Q2) what’s the most important thing you’d like to get out of this hangout?
Set up – 12 minutes Presence on the web – 2 minutes
helpful to have permanent place for chat on web: wiki, WordPress site
– include schedule, format, rules, chat archives (use Storify)
Chat formats – 3 minutes
fixed or rotating moderators
1+ moderators on busy chats
moderator asks pre-determined questions
to guests first, and then opens up discussion
Choosing a topic – 2 minutes
something that can be usefully covered in an hour
“how to do something”
“tips for doing something”
controversial current topic
Tools – 3 minutes
chat hashtag; mentions; DMs columns
use when you don’t want hashtag at end of tweet
keep as a backup in case Tweetchat goes down/is slow (rare)
Preparation – 2 minutes
gather up topic links in advance
crowdsourced topics http://www.allourideas.org/epchat
write out Qs in advance so you can paste them into your Twitter client
Running the chat – 23 minutes Protocol – 2 minutes
welcome as many participants as you can
encourage first-timers, lurkers to tweet
Welcome everyone – 4 minutes
moderator intro (write out in advance include welcome, your name, who your with, topic for today and welcome guest if any)
participant intros, including ice-breakers
possibilities: names, company, location
ice-breaker question: favorite candy, unusual experience etc.
Heart of the chat -12 minutes
concentrate on making them clear (in advance?)
make tweets stand-alone
participants often RT questions
number them Q1), Q2) and ask participants to answer w/ A1) A2)
keep track of time; have a plan for time available to get through Qs you’ve prepared
but be flexible if circumstances dictate
don’t be rushed by anything; don’t feel bad if you miss a tweet or two, we are human; can always go back after the chat & respond then
consider ignoring trollish/annoying behaviour
end of chat – 5 minutes
ask for takeaways
thank moderators, guests
mention next topic/guest(s)/time
describe where/when archive will be posted
Post-chat – 8 minutes
use Storify for archives (login first, click on save regularly, laggy!)
Jenise: can add rich media (videos) to Storify; create threads (subheads, move Tweets around)
Adrian is am actively looking for moderators for the #eventprofs chat
crowdsourced topics http://www.allourideas.org/epchat
With the recent demise of the wthashtag service, it has become increasingly difficult to create a text archive of Twitter chats. As the organizer of the popular twice-weekly #eventprofs chats, I have been looking for a replacement. Tweetreports offers a free pdf report, but other output formats cost $9+/month.
So here are step-by-step instructions for using the two-year old TwapperKeeper service, together with a copy of Excel, to create a text archive of your Twitter chat.
Note: Please don’t use TwapperKeeper excessively. Twitter’s Terms Of Service and rate limiting can affect their ability to offer their service for free. Such issues caused wthashtag to shut down. Let’s not inflict the same fate on TwapperKeeper.
To create a #hashtag archive before your first chat (one-time only)
Click on the “search for an archive” button to see if there’s already an archive for your chat. (Enter the hashtag for your chat without the hashmark.) If there isn’t, click on the “create #hashtag archive” button to create one.
Go to the archive link bookmark you created above (it will have the form “http://twapperkeeper.com/hashtag/xxxxxxxx” where “xxxxxxxx” is the hashtag for your archive).
You’ll need to enter the start and end time for your chat in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). You can use TimeZone Converter to convert the local start and finish times for your chat into GMT. Enter start & end date and times, change the “View Limit” to a number larger than the number of tweets in your chat, and click on “query”.
Select all of the report that is relevant to the chat, then copy (Ctrl + C).
Open a blank spreadsheet in Excel, with the A1 cell selected.
Choose Paste Special… from the Edit menu and select “Text”. Click OK.
Select all the cells in Column A that contain data. You should be looking at something like this:
Note the first few characters of the rows containing the dates (in the above example, they would be “Thu “).
Now we’re going to delete any rows that contain “tweet details”, the date of the tweet, or blanks by using Excel’s filter command. First, select Filter from the Data menu and then AutoFilter. A checkmark will appear next to AutoFilter in the menu, and you’ll see a small double-arrow scrollbar appear in the A1 cell, like this:
Click on the double arrows and choose (Custom filter…). From the first drop down, choose “begins with” and type “tweet details” into the text box, like this:
Click OK. Now select all the rows shown that start with “tweet details”. Make sure row 1 is not selected. Choose Delete Row from the Edit menu.
Click on the double arrows again and choose (Custom filter…). From the first drop down, choose “begins with” and type the first few characters of the date you noted in step 8 into the text box. Click OK.
Select all the rows that start with the date. Make sure row 1 is not selected. Choose Delete Row from the Edit menu.
Click on the double arrows and choose (Custom filter…). From the first drop down, choose “does not contain” and type a “?” into the text box. Click OK.
Select all the highlighted empty rows. Make sure row 1 is not selected. Choose Delete Row from the Edit menu.
Finally, click on the double arrows for the last time and choose (Show All). Success! Each row contains one tweet from the chat.
If you wish, scan the rows and delete any that contain non-chat tweets.
Select the remaining rows and copy (Ctrl + C).
Congratulations! A text archive of your Twitter chat is now stored on your Clipboard, ready to be pasted into the web page or document of your choice. (Final tip: You may need to use Paste Special to transfer the information so it formats correctly.)
Is there a better way of archiving Twitter chats? Please let us know when you find one—but test it first to make sure that it 1) reliably includes all the tweets and 2) can produce text output.
Yes, the #eventprofs chats are back! These popular, one hour, Twitter chats on a wide range of topics of interest to event professionals will be once again held twice-weekly: on Tuesdays 9-10pmEST/6-7pmPST and on Thursdays 12-1pmEST/9-10amPST/7-8amGMT starting on May 3, 2011.
Got questions? Here are some answers.
What is #eventprofs?
#eventprofs was founded in February 2009 on Twitter by Lara McCulloch-Carter. The #eventprofs chats were one of the earliest Twitter chats—find out more by reading Lara’s history of #eventprofs.
Who will be moderating the chats?
Twenty(!) members of the #eventprofs community have each committed to moderating a chat every 6-7 weeks. Our current volunteers are:
Please thank these sterling volunteers at every opportunity! I have volunteered to act as a moderator manager, working to keep the chats scheduled as regularly as possible.
How are chat topics chosen?
Anyone can suggest and vote on possible topics for #eventprofs chats at our new AllOurIdeas page. We urge you to do so! The more suggestions, and the more votes, the better our chat topics will be. Moderators will occasionally use their discretion to choose chat subjects, particularly when there are topical events or issues to discuss.
How do I know what chat topics are scheduled?
There are two ways to stay informed about upcoming #eventprofs chats:
Do you have fewer Twitter followers than the folks who follow you?
If so, cheer up, it’s normal, thanks to the magic of simple statistics! You are more likely to be a friend of a popular person simply because he or she has a larger number of friends. So, on average, your followers are likely to have more followers than you do.
One man’s descent into a world of blogs, Twitter, and social networking sites in the pursuit of publicity for his book.
Updated May 13, 2010 with slide deck & additional links (see end of post)
On Thursday, May 13, at 7 p.m., in the Brooks Memorial Library’s meeting room, Adrian Segar, local author of Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love returns to describe what he’s learned about marketing his book via social media in the six months since it was published. His talk will be of interest to anyone who wants to find out more about using social networking sites and tools to market products and services.
Adrian Segar, who ran the monthly meetings of the Southeastern Vermont Computer Users Group for sixteen years, offered to give this talk after he recently began being bombarded with questions about blogging and using services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for publicity, marketing, and fostering connections with existing and potential customers.
Marketing with social media is a huge topic and can’t be covered comprehensively in a single session. Instead, Adrian will describe his surprising journey attempting to discover how best to use social media to publicize his nontraditional approach to conference design. His experience will be a useful guide to what you may encounter if you delve into this strange new environment. After Adrian has told his story there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion.
Adrian Segar has organized and facilitated conferences for 30 years. He is a former elementary particle physicist, information technology consultant, professor of computer science, and co-owner of a solar manufacturing company. He lives with his wife Celia in Marlboro, Vermont, is active in the non-profit world, and loves to sing and dance.
Last month Samuel J Smith moved back to the U.S. from Switzerland and, needing to buy some insurance, asked for a recommendation on Twitter. Having had car insurance with Progressive Insurance for a number of years, and liking the ease of accessing my policy and payments online as well as the competent Vermont representatives I worked with when dealing with several claims, I tweeted Sam this information.
Five minutes later I was pleasantly surprised to see the following tweet from @Progressive:
@ASegar Saw your tweet – we appreciate you spreading the word ; ) Glad you’ve had such a positive experience.
What can we say about the Return On Investment (ROI) for this little social media interaction?
A quick Google search finds this article which explains how Progressive has monitored mentions on Twitter and other social media channels since 2008 and has a dedicated team in its call center that responds to reported customer service issues. Obviously this initiative costs Progressive money, and the company surely knows how much. So the Investment part of ROI is known in cold, hard cash.
But what about the Return? I was tickled to receive the tweet, and it increased my positive feelings about the company and the likelihood that I would recommend it to more friends and acquaintances. In addition, anyone looking at Progressive’s Twitter stream (which has ~5,000 followers) might see that I made a positive comment. But wait, there’s more! Now I’ve written a favorable blog post that will be read by more people (including you!), possibly influencing more purchases from the company in the future.
Clearly a small but classic social media success story for Progressive.
But can Progressive quantify the value of their tweet in dollars?
I don’t think so.
ROI was originally a financial term, but it’s become common to see it used in areas where there is no simple way to connect what happens with a financial value. We have no idea of how much more likely I am to recommend Progressive as a result of their unexpected tweet, or how many other people will ever see or be influenced by the tweet, or how many people will be influenced by reading this blog post.
And yet, there are plenty of people writing about measuring ROI in social media.
For example, in February Brian Solis posted ROI: How to Measure Return on Investment in Social Media. This sounds like a how-to article, but Brian’s article just contains a lot of statistics that businesses have reported about their experiences, beliefs, and predictions about their use of social media, plus one (in my view, see below) weak example from Dell about its claims of increased sales through connecting with customers on Twitter. There’s no how-to, though Brian states that “2010 is the year that social media graduates from experimentation to strategic implementation with direct ties to specific measurable performance indicators.”
The problem, as exemplified by Progressive story above, is that the monetary Return on social media marketing cannot be tied directly to the efforts that are made. Now this is not true for many older forms of marketing. For example, it’s possible to test the effectiveness of mail campaigns by sending different coded promotions to randomly chosen subsets of a mailing list and analyzing the response rate. But because social media is, well, social we can’t do this kind of segmented marketing experiment!
If I want to buy a computer from Dell, once I’ve decided what I want I go online and look for a good deal. And that includes checking Dell’s Twitter stream. I do not follow Dell and get convinced to buy; I buy from them when I’m ready. Dell counting a sale to me through a Twitter promo as a Return on their investment in Twitter is not a justification for their investment in social media, because I would have bought from them anyway after finding a satisfactory deal on their website or over the phone. So for Dell to say, as quoted in Brian’s article, that “Dell’s global reach on Twitter has resulted in more than $6.5 million in revenue” is disingenuous at best—there’s no way the company can claim that a sale would not have occurred if it hadn’t been featured on Twitter.
So should we throw out the idea of calculating ROI in social media? No, not entirely. I think there’s a better way to think about what we are trying to do when attempting to decide where and how we expend time, effort, and resources on social media marketing. I’ll explain further in my next post.
Do you think you can measure the ROI in social media? I’d love to hear what you think!