More than ever, hard numbers are necessary to demonstrate success. They are all but incontrovertible and easy to communicate, and they can point out what is or isn't working. However, keep in mind that Mark Twain once said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics."
It can be difficult to measure success of efforts that rely on emerging media; despite the fact that they are online channels, it's tough to decide what to track and what the numbers mean.
For new-media darling Twitter, with its established tweetocracy (and people coining phrases with "tweet" left, right, and center), marketers are finding more tools to help them understand how their efforts are performing in this new medium.
This article will explore different ways to measure success (and mistakes) on Twitter by examining several real-world campaigns and the tools marketers can use to measure campaign success.
First, Know What to Measure
Before getting started, make sure that the business is tracking valuable information. Each day there is yet another way to slice and dice the data, but not all of them are helpful.
Some tools are introspective—they look at how the Twitter campaign is presenting itself or how to organize Twitter information from other sources. Other tools are quantitative—they analyze traffic, trends, and follower count.
The first thing to do is to make a measurement plan to determine what is important to the organization and how to justify the campaign's success. How can an organization define success? It depends on its objectives.
Some organizations, such as Dell or Best Buy, use Twitter as an outreach tool, a means to inform their constituent audience of Twitter-exclusive discounts and news. They also use it to drive contact with their customers by answering their questions and building a sense of community.
For Dell, the ability to measure follow-through is valuable. For example, how many users are purchasing the specials offered through the Twitter channel? Also, tracking does not have to be limited to Twitter. Capturing data specific to Twitter (i.e., having users enter a specific code upon checkout through the Web channel or driving voice contact to specific phone numbers) can keep tabs on how many users are looking at Twitter but taking action elsewhere. In the case of Best Buy, the volume of questions asked and answered is a valuable indicator of campaign success.
Other brands may simply seek to reach out to people, not to drive a conversation but to establish themselves as thought leaders within a given space.
A great example of that approach is Barack Obama's Twitter site, launched during his 2008 presidential campaign to extend his message to as many people as possible. In that case, the overall number of followers and the number of times @BarackObama's tweets were cited or retweeted were valuable indicators of his campaign's success. Political campaigns can benefit greatly from engaging and propagating a candidate's message via other influencers in the space.
In all cases, the best way to identify core metrics is to start by envisioning what success looks like. What are the key things that would happen? How could one prove them to a skeptical boss when asking for more funding?
List those goals and then worry about how they will be assessed. It's possible that not all will be measurable, but many of them will be. Once the goals have been identified, the next step is to choose reliable tools to measure progress.
Tools to Measure Success
It used to be tough to gather rich metrics on a Twitter campaign. But as the medium has grown, so has the number of ways to track success.
Using a site called twInfluence, marketers can track not only how many listeners they have (also called reach) but also how concentrated their audience is (centralization) and the rate at which their campaign is growing (velocity), among other metrics.
Twitalyzer is another tool that enables users to measure important facets of social media, including their popularity (influence), signal-to-noise ratio (signal), and how many times they are being cited (clout). Because a major reason to use Twitter is to become a thought leader and propagate messaging, Twitalyzer is particularly valuable.
Twitalyzer also enables users to tie into Google Analytics if they have a Google account. Logging in to Google Analytics through the site enables marketers to collect information on site traffic directed from Twitter and can augment insight on metrics, such as influence, generosity, and signal. That information can help craft a compelling overview of how a Twitter campaign is influencing the digital-marketing channel.
A tool called TwitterFriends provides detailed insight on who is interacting with the brand on Twitter, who is responding, and the nature of the brand's tweets. The user simply logs in with a username and password, and TwitterFriends returns a significant amount of information and visualization tools that include everything from a map indicating where one's followers are to the average length of a given tweet.
It can be particularly useful when in the planning stages of a Twitter campaign, as well as for tracking, once the work is in progress.
Trendistic is a valuable tool that provides a visual interface to understand trends in Twitter. By entering a keyword, marketers can see how the keyword is being referenced in the space over time. Depending on the term and the amount of data available, it is possible to see up to 180 days' worth of information.
Another tool worth exploring is TweetEffect, which enables the user to find out how people are reacting to posts. After entering the user ID and clicking Search, the marketer is provided with a summary view of changes within the past, as well as the specific adds or losses based on specific tweets. It's an excellent way to see what is and isn't resonating with followers.
It's important to note that all these sites are pulling data off of Twitter itself and are dependent on the tool and its Twitter API (application programming interface—the toolkit that Twitter gives out to developers) for accuracy and relevance. That can affect the value of the metrics campaign, and make it somewhat self-referential at times.
For example, due to inherent weaknesses in the tool, it becomes nearly impossible to accurately measure certain traits once one has a large number of followers. That should not deter marketers from measuring. Even if the numbers are not entirely accurate, they will provide a good view of growth trends as a campaign moves along.
As more users flock to Twitter, creative developers are designing tools that enable marketers to measure a multitude of interactions in the space.
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To properly measure a Twitter campaign, the first step is to understand what the key performance indicators are for that campaign's goals and objectives. After those KPIs have been properly defined, marketers can select from several tools to garner insight on everything from how the campaign is growing to how messages are propagating and what followers are responding to.