Twit or tweet? Engagement Across Twitter
I was a little bit annoyed this morning; a couple of Twitter followers had stopped following my personal account. Now I, like you, know that Twitter and social media as a whole is not a numbers game - engagement is far more important - so this wasn't what annoyed me. The vexation was caused by yet more Anglers, not fishermen but Twitter Anglers - a type of Twitter user who follows an account for 24/48 hours in the hopes of getting followed back, and if they don't, unfollows before trying again a couple of weeks later – in short, a 'numbers' person for which worth is a secondary consideration. Irritation aside, this did lead me to think further and share a few thoughts about engagement across Twitter, how we keep score and common trends across campaigns.
"Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half."
I couldn't let today pass without a quote from Gore Vidal (1st August 2012 – he passed away today), and fortunately for me this is more than apt. If the number of followers isn't a fully indicative measure of engagement, what about retweets? After all (robots ignored), someone has had to actively forward on the post. Unfortunately, a common trend in Twitter usage is to pass things on without looking at them, like a flock of birds chirping to each other about an apparent threat without any concept of the cause.
A case in point (since I'm leaving clients out of this), would be the 'Facebook is dying' article from the 29th July; it was published at 6pm, and by 7pm there were over 300 tweets and retweets – more than five a minute, not too bad for something that was written whilst munching on Sunday morning cornflakes. As a measure of engagement, however, the bubble soon burst when looking at the article 'reads' that were hovering around the 100 mark - fewer than one in three people who were forwarding the link took the time to actually read what they were sending around.
Tweets and retweets are not cast iron measures of engagement
"It is easier to get 30,000 Athenians to go to war than a single Spartan"
In trend, many Twitter users would not be out of place in the hubbub of the classic Athens agora, shouting at the tops of their voices on the Pnyx, and just like many instances of 'one person, one voice', there would be very little listening going on. In any Twitter campaign, there is always a buzz when it hits trend; the danger of trend is that it takes over.
Again referring back to Sunday's article, an hour and twenty minutes after being tweeted there were some very odd tweets appearing in my search stream - the title had started to trend. A common thread looked like this:
"There's no denying, Facebook is dying, the Twitter bird is flying, attention-seekers are crying, the rest of us are sighing"
Now if the original Tweet was a brand term, there may be some value, if not direct engagement, in the trend touching a whole new audience. In this case it was a whole different route caused by, but separate from, the original post.
Trends rapidly fall to ego, not engagement
"Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love"
I started with bemoaning false followers, but there are more than just the Anglers. There are the 'competition jockeys', the 'in-crowders', the 'back scratchers' and many more that follow with motives that are far from altruistic. Also, whilst we cannot ascribe ethics to robots (just yet), there are enough of these to test the veracity of following as an engagement measure in all cases.
Following is not always fellowing
Looking at these three indicators of a Twitter campaign and the associated issues in measuring engagement, it would be easy to assume that Twitter is full of hucksters and tricksters and the engagement is impossible to measure. Twitter is far from that, and I find it a valuable and rewarding tool and the people I follow warm and friendly.
Measurement of a Twitter campaign can be tricky, depending on the exactness of the accuracy required at engagement. In many instances, for both time and cost, it is easier to be aware that KPIs aren't 100% engagement KPIs and leave it at that. For campaigns where greater accuracy is required, there are any number of campaign analytics tools that will allow for sentiment, tweeter and message structure analysis - like lies, damned lies and statistics, they will still not give 100% truth, but they can counter some of the false indicators.
Those few thoughts shared, and no longer annoyed, I'm going to get back to Twitter. If you care to share any thoughts and feedback you can comment below, or if you'd rather converse more directly with this twit you can find me listening in on @rconyard or @red_ant - I'd love to engage ;-)
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