Useful free tools for Twitter analytics

Twitter timeline activity

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.

Timeline activity
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.

Followers
The Followers option displays a graph of follower growth plus some demographics on interests, location, and gender.

Twitter followers information

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.

Conclusion
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?

An innovative experiential leadership session: The Music Paradigm

Maestro - Music ParadigmAt the recent Medical Group Management Association PEER Conference, I had the good fortune to attend a fascinating opening session created by Roger Nierenberg of The Music Paradigm. Roger, Music Director of the Stamford Symphony Orchestra and a guest conductor around the world, uses a semi-impromptu exploration of the work of an orchestral conductor to illustrate a host of lessons about leadership.

When we entered the large performance room, we found, not the traditional orchestral layout, but clumps of professional orchestra players scattered amongst our seats. During the session we sat “inside” the orchestra, experiencing Roger and the other musicians as the orchestra did, rather than as audience members.

Roger started by telling us that many of the professional musicians present had not worked with him before that morning and that the session was not scripted, and he asked players and audience to be honest with their comments and responses.

Roger then conducted a ten-minute piece of orchestral music that was to be our musical touchstone for the session. During the remainder of the session, various excerpts from this piece were repeated, preceded with Roger’s instructions and followed by solicited observations from audience & orchestra members and Roger’s commentary.

Random audience members and musicians were asked for their honest responses and observations after each musical experiment; the session was in no way canned, and, being experiential, a written account obviously cannot do it justice. However, I’m sharing my notes in order to give a sense of the powerful learning a session like this can provide. I’ve italicized Roger’s words:

Roger compared his role as an orchestra conductor to the paradigm of leadership, to the work of leading change.

He began by instructing his orchestra I want this to be big & wonderful, and then proceeded to conduct “flat”, illustrating the problems that arise when leaders say one thing and do another.

Then Roger announced he would be very engaged, and over-directed a soloist. Afterward, the soloist described herself as “stifled”. Soloists, Roger told us, like to take control during solos and not have the conductor in their face—they will shut out conductors who over-direct. The parallel to micromanaging staff was obvious.

It’s such an easy thing for an orchestra to hate a conductor.

Roger asked Why a conductor at all? He demonstrated by not conducting a selection that included abrupt, unrehearsed change. The orchestra did a magnificent job, but sounded ragged. Egos won’t help. The lesson: good leadership requires specific direction at the right time, so everyone can execute together. A leader becomes more critically important the more change there is. The soloist who had to start illustrated another lesson—she thanked the rest of the orchestra for supporting her.

The baton: The tools of leadership are pretty simple.

Roger shared …the conductor’s nightmare: I’ll commit and nobody plays.

He demonstrated the following concepts:

Don’t get out too far in front of the group.
The perils of an unclear signal.
I’ll show you the way, but you’ll go there.

Conductors listen for stuff going wrong and fix it. And they also listen for the things that people are doing right. Take what the orchestra gives you and work with it. Listen for what could be.

Roger illustrated having the first violinist as right-hand man when you’re not around.

It’s hard to separate out ego needs. Make it clear to players how they work together.

Shared leadership: Sometimes an instrument leads.

If they trusted me today, that was because of what I did. You can’t ask for trust, you can earn it.

There are a lot of conductors who specialize in passion. This nauseates the orchestra.

An orchestra notices that conductor knows the score by heart.

On hearing something wrong during playing: Get together and check that note. Notice, I didn’t say who was right.

They feel more about your enthusiasm for their playing than my giving them a compliment.

conductingMusicians are trained to work together; physicians are trained as soloists.

If you can see the big picture, the more you can help orchestra members see it.

Roger’s last comment particularly resonated with me, for the times when I’m facilitating group process at a conference: My connection with orchestra members is a conduit for them to connect with each other.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Music Paradigm, finding it an effective way to explore many aspects of functional & dysfunctional leadership via an audience’s experience of the ways a conductor might lead an orchestra. If you’re looking for a unique and effective way to demonstrate multiple facets of leadership and guiding principles to your organization, check it out! And, if you have the opportunity to attend a Music Paradigm session, don’t miss it!

Photo attributions: The Music Paradigm

My new favorite site visit tool

Bosch DLR130K Digital Measurer

I am surprised by the number of conference venues that do not provide floor plans with room measurements for meeting planners. On a recent round of site visits, only one of seven facilities visited had this information readily available. Four of the venues had floor plans, but supplemented them with infuriating capacity charts showing the number of seats available for classroom, theater, banquet, boardroom, hollow square etc. sets. (Please, venue sales managers, read Paul Radde’s refreshing book “Seating Matters” and realize that these room sets are not optimum for most circumstances.)

For event designs such as Conferences That Work, where room sets include large circles, horseshoes, table-less small group rounds and other configurations, I must have the basic room dimensions in order to plan what can happen where.

As a result a twenty-five foot tape measure has been part of my site-visit kit for many years. This tool, while cheap, is awkward to use.  Ideally, it requires two people, holding each end, stretching out the tape, and moving multiple times to measure a large room.

So I was delighted, a few months ago, to discover a modern tool that’s ideally suited to rapidly measure room dimensions, the Bosch DLR130K Distance Measurer, as shown above [Update May 6, 2017: The DLR130 model has been discontinued; the newer Bosch GLM 35 looks great too!]. The unit uses a laser to measure distance and is called the DLR130; the DLR130K is a kit that includes the unit, a belt pouch, and four AAA batteries.

This little gem is smaller and lighter than my 25′ tape measure. In about a second, it measures distances up to 130′ [40 m.] within 1/16″, not that I need anything that accurate. By standing in the middle of a really large room and measuring the distances to the opposite walls, you can handle room dimensions up to 260′. The unit will calculate area and volume too if, for some reason, you need to. The batteries are claimed to last for 30,000 measurements.

The DLR130K costs around $90 [Update May 6, 2017: The newer GLM 35 sells for $70 without a case]. A high-quality 25′ tape measure costs around $20, so this is a more expensive tool. I think it’s worth it.

Perhaps one day, every venue sales manager will supply room dimensions (I can dream). Until then, I’m bringing my DLR130 with me on every site visit.

A better tool for conference calls: Maestro Conference

Visual Recording of NCDD Confab. Note Conferences That Work at upper left!
Visual Recording of NCDD Confab. Conferences That Work included at upper left!

Graphic created by Teresa Bidlake, of Concepts Captured

Taking part in a traditional conference call is rarely much fun. Here are some irritations that you’ve probably experienced:

  • Poor call quality. Some callers are faint and/or there’s noise on the line. Any noise at any caller’s location, like someone yelling in the background or answering another call, is picked up and broadcast to everyone on the call.
  • There’s no way to know when someone is about to speak; awkwardness abounds as people start to talk simultaneously.
  • Only one person can speak at a time, and they have to address the whole group.
  • There’s no way to know who wants to speak, to ask or answer questions.

So my expectations were not high a couple of days ago, when I joined 77 people (!) on an “NCDD confab” on online engagement. NCDD is the nonprofit National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, a network of over 1,200 members working on conflict resolution and public engagement practice.

What a contrast! Instead of the usual conference call hell you’d expect on a call with nearly 80 people, our two hours together were surprisingly enjoyable, in large part because we used Maestro, a conference call / online tool that combines traditional conference call features with the ability to create small group conversations amongst the participants on the same call.

Here’s why using the Maestro Conference system worked so well for this large group:

  • The Maestro system allows the call organizers to easily create small breakout groups at any time during the call. During our call, we were twice split into small groups of 3-5 people to introduce ourselves and discuss a given question. Chimes and messages informed us when were halfway through our allotted time, and when we had a minute left to go. When the small group discussion was finished, we were smoothly reunited with the entire group. In addition, organizers can join any small group and ask or answer questions at any time.
  • Individual telephones can be selectively muted by the Maestro system, so we heard no distracting sounds from participants’ phones. When the event organizers were speaking, all phones except theirs were muted. If they asked someone to speak, just that phone would be un-muted. The resulting call quality was excellent. In addition, the system’s call quality was uniformly high throughout our two-hour call. I heard no pops, hissing, or other annoying noises.
  • Maestro includes a simple but effective backchannel method for call participants to signal conference organizers, by pressing numbers on their phone keypad. (There’s no annoying sound heard when people do this.) This can be used to quickly poll participants, to ask the organizers for help, to opt-in or out of a topic or choice, or to indicate that the participant has something to say to the whole group. We used all these options during our call, including: answering a four yes/no question poll of the entire group in a minute; queuing up individual participants to speak about their experiences; and opting in or out of having our emails made available to other group members.

Here’s a short video from Maestro Conference that illustrates these points:

From the organizers’ perspective, Maestro Connect uses a web interface, which seems to offer an easy way to control the abilities I’ve described.

Pricing seems reasonable; and a free 30-day trial is available, as well as discounts for non-profit and solo practitioners.If you’re into such things, Maestro Conference has an affiliate program, (and I am not an affiliate).

During the call, I spoke to the entire group once, met and conversed with people in two small discussion groups, World Café style, and voted on questions that were asked. Sandy Heierbacher of NCDD and Amy Lenzo of World Café expertly facilitated the call, with a couple of assistants helping out as needed. The time flew by, very enjoyably.

In conclusion, this service, when appropriately used, can turn the normal broadcast-mode experience of a conference call into a much-more participatory and interactive time for callers. I don’t have experience of managing a Maestro Conference, but, as a participant, it seemed to be a straightforward process with no glitches. If you have a need for a superior kind of conference call, this service is well worth checking out.