Staying Afloat in The Sea of Twitter Analytics
It's definitely one of the greater mysteries of the social media sphere: why the heck don't we have access to the official Twitter analytics? When they first announced it back in September 2011, the initial advice was that it would be released publicly to everyone within months after testing with "partners." Now, almost a year later, there's even less hope that this will ever be released to us peons. Instead, liked the coveted verified account status, it's a privilege reserved for those spending thousands (or more) on advertising with the network.
The question is, what are you missing out on (analytics-wise) if you have opted not to spend your marketing budget on promoted trends, tweets or accounts? And what other tools are out there (free or paid) that can provide you with key metrics and data to help with your reporting? If these are the answers you seek, you've come to the right place. What follows is an account of the official Twitter analytics platform, as well as four of the most popular (predominantly free) Twitter analytics tools available. Learn the pros and cons of each and how they can help with your regular reporting.
Twitter Analytics (The Official One)
One would assume the official analytics tool for Twitter would be the best and most useful; however, this isn't necessarily the case. It includes a bunch of cool metrics but there are some obvious shortfalls. For example, if you're looking for historical data, forget it. It displays your latest tweets and the number of retweets, replies and favorites, but this is limited to just a small selection of your most recent tweets – when I was working for Qantas this didn't even cover the entire previous week. There is no ability to back track and mine historical tweets. Very annoying.
However, you can see how many people followed you, unfollowed you and mentioned you over time in 6 hour increments. This is something that can be very useful (and not something I've seen included in any other tool) in order to observe what topics are attracting new people or turning them off. This is hugely useful in shaping future content.
It also provides traffic information (i.e. how many people clicked on the links within your tweets), which can be a handy little metric, but is also obtainable through other means like bit.ly or Google Analytics.
You can get some key data around your followers, including a graph of followers over time, the key interests of your followers, their location, engagement levels (how many have retweeted you), their gender and a list of accounts that your followers also follow.
It's a nice-to-have tool, but without historical data it's not even the best Twitter analytics platform out there, and not worth the thousands of dollars you'd need to spend to get access to it. Unless of course a Twitter campaign is a viable marketing strategy for your business.
- Great indication on which content is performing the best in terms of gaining retweets, followers, replies and being favorited
- Useful for frequent reporting (e.g. weekly) in terms of community growth, traffic/clicks and content exposure
- Great to determine more in-depth insights in terms of your followers' interests and how engaged with your content they are
- Very limited historical data available
- Limited metrics and data included on followers and overall community (e.g. top users, influencers, etc.)
The Archivist is still in alpha testing and was built by Mix Online (courtesy of Microsoft). It's a pretty simple tool that does not require any registration or log-in to extract data. Although, you can sign in if you wish to save archives that you can then retrieve and/or compare at a later date. Essentially you can search keywords – including hashtags and usernames and it will return a bunch of top-level data like the tweet volume over time, top users, tweets vs retweets, top words, top URLs and the sources the tweets were sent from (e.g. Tweetdeck, web browser, etc.).
Once again it's quite limited in terms of historical data – my test returned just 77 tweets. I also noted that the top URLs were all presented as t.co/… and when clicked came up with an error message, so in effect that data was useless to me.
Unfortunately, there is no way to have email notifications or automatic archiving so this tool would be most useful in gaining real-time updates about a particular account, hashtag or topic – not as much for ongoing reporting.
- Completely free to use
- Useful for tracking particular keywords or hashtags over time (e.g. for an event or specific campaign)
- Allows comparison of time periods (archives) – for example could compare how a specific keyword/account is performing over time
- Top URLs are not currently clickable, so it's impossible to tell what they actually are
- Very limited data in terms of followers (only displays top users)
- Does not provide any data on mentions, tweets, retweets, favorites on individual tweets related to keyword/user/hashtag
- You cannot define a specific time period to search, and historical data is very limited
TwitterCounter has a free version but if you want to pay a small monthly fee you'll get access to even more benefits. It's not perfect, but it provides some handy metrics AND most importantly you can look back at historical data.
So what does it show you? Mapped on a graph you can track your followers, those you are following and your tweets over various time periods (e.g. the last hour, the last week, month, three months or six months). You unlock this function by 'paying' with a tweet.
On top of this you can see how you're tracking compared to the previous day and your daily average. It will also give you a prediction of how many followers it thinks you'll have in however many days (it's done using a scale that you can change).
The paid version gives you further insights into your mentions and retweets as well as the tweets you personally retweeted and the mentions you made. You can delve further into this information – for example by clicking on the bars in the retweets graph it will bring up your tweets that were retweeted that day, and the users who retweeted you.
The paid versions also allow you to track a number of accounts and compare each one over time, which is perfect for tracking your competition compared against your own account. Unless they are much better than you. Then it's just disheartening.
It's a great tool to use for regular reporting to keep track of key metrics like followers, mentions and retweets. You also receive a weekly email that provides your total follower count, how many you've gained that week, the prediction for the next week and a graph mapping followers over time.
- Prediction of how long it will take to reach a specific number of followers
- Weekly update email on follower count
- Great metrics provided for weekly/monthly reporting – particularly if you purchase the premium, pro stats basic or pro stats branded accounts
- Allows you to graph metrics over different time periods – e.g. hourly, weekly, monthly, 3 monthly and 6 monthly
- Provides historical data
- Limited data available in free version (excludes mentions, retweets, etc.)
- Includes a lot of irrelevant and annoying features like "featured twitter users" and various Twitter buttons, which clutters up the interface
- Need to pay a monthly subscription to get access to the best metrics/features
While TweetStats may not have quite as many metrics/features as other tools, it sure is one of the prettiest. It will also go back through your entire Twitter history, so in terms of historical data it's pretty darn good. What does it actually give you? Great question. TweetStats will show you the aggregate number of tweets sent each month, which can be broken down further by days of the week and even time of the day (coined "Tweet Density").
It will also provide a list of the top users that have mentioned you, a list of the top users that you have retweeted and also the number of tweets you have sent via different interfaces (i.e. Web, Twitter for iPhone, Tweetdeck, etc.).
Aside from these tweet stats you can also look at a "Tweet Cloud" and "Follower Stats." The Tweet Cloud will show you the most common words you've used in your tweet history, and it also provides a HashCloud, which – you guessed it – displays the most popular hashtags you've used. Something I found pretty interesting was that it also tells you your top five most used words – for me this was social, rt, facebook, thanks, media. Not a bad selection! Even better, you can click on each word in the tweet cloud and it will bring up every related tweet to that keyword. Pretty cool.
The "Follower Stats" charts the change in followers (and those you follow) over time, but it will only track this after your first visit.
TweetStats is another free tool that has no premium/paid version and does not allow you to register for email alerts or updates. It provides interesting historical data, but is not the sort of tool that would prove overly useful for frequent reporting.
- Client-facing charts/graphs that are easy to create
- Tweet and hash clouds that provide good insights into most common topics and allows you to retrieve all your tweets relating to a particular word/hashtag
- Provides entire historical data
- No ability for email updates/alerts
- No insights into follower demographics or data
- No insight into how your content is performing (e.g. Retweets, mentions, follows/unfollows)
- Some advertising included within the site
SocialBro is probably the most comprehensive Twitter analytics tool out in regard to community metrics (at least that I have come across). You can use it as a desktop application or a Chrome add-on and once you've signed in via Twitter, prepare to be assaulted with an overwhelming amount of data and statistics.
SocialBro will display a list of your entire followers, which you can then filter via a whole stack of different options, such as time zone, language, verified users, public/private accounts, customer avatars, customer URLs, influence, the number of followers they have, how many lists they are part of, their followers/friends ratio, account age, tweets per day and chronologically. Pretty crazy.
On top of this, SocialBro allows you to check followers who you do not follow or those you follow that are not following you, along with new followers, new people you are following and recent unfollows.
And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you go to your dashboard it shows you a graph of your followers, friends (those you are following) and your overall community over time. It also includes new followers, influence stats, recent unfollows, those not following back, users that have a low follow ratio, inactive people, famous people, influential people, 'newbies,' very active people and bio tag clouds. And like any good dashboard, you can customize what is included on here.
You can even view "real-time analytics." The tool displays how many active users (those who have tweeted in the past 5 minutes) are in your timeline and the combined total of their following. It graphs these active users over time (per second), displays the top languages and also the top apps and clients that are being used for the tweets. You can measure these real-time analytics from your timeline, your twitter list, another twitter list or a customized search. But wait, there's more.
On top of this SocialBro will analyze your influence data and track it over time, provide a report analyzing the best time for you to tweet (and when your followers are online), provide an insights summary of all the major metrics conveniently presented in pie chart form, help you discover relevant twitter users, allow you to compare your metrics to those of your competitors (provided they have public accounts), make it easy to monitor a specific hashtag, allow you to analyze your lists and finally import other Twitter users' data.
Oh, and did I mention the ability to map where your followers are? No? Well, there's that too.
The best part? It's completely free.
Though it sounds almost too good to be true, the only big drawback of SocialBro at this point is that it currently doesn't provide much data on content like your tweets, mentions and retweets. Also tweeting directly from SocialBro is still rather primitive, not allowing simple things like photo or location attachments.
- Great way to determine people to unfollow (due to being inactive, not following you, etc.)
- Provides an influence metric and maps your influence over time
- Determines the best time for you to tweet
- Allows detailed comparison with other Twitter accounts (without need for a password)
- Tells you accounts that have unfollowed you
- Provides real-time analytics
- Data is exportable via PDF or CSV
- No data on tweets, retweets, favorites, traffic (clicks) or mentions
- No facility to set up email alerts or daily email overviews
There are plenty of other twitter analytics tools out there like TwitterAnalyzer, TwentyFeet, Twitonomy, TweetReach...the list goes on. There are also plenty of paid tools you could use; however, the question is how much data do you really need about your Twitter community and tweets?
The official Twitter Analytics platform no doubt provides some really handy metrics in terms of how your most recent tweets have performed and some interesting insights into your followers, but is it worth the tens of thousands you need to pay for the privilege? An analysis of some of the top free tools out there suggests not. While no free platform seems to provide all the information you may need just yet, you can certainly obtain a wealth of useful data for just a few minutes of your time.
If you're looking for some one-off insights, it's worth checking out all of these tools and playing around with them for an hour or so. If you're looking to gain regular insights and data for reporting, I would suggest a combination of TwitterCounter and SocialBro may be a good idea. For an extra $15 a month, you can get some great data on followers, tweets, retweets and mentions (not to mention compared to your competitors) through TwitterCounter, while SocialBro can provide you with more metrics about your community than you could ever need – as well as invaluable data on when to schedule your tweets.
Do you already use any of these tools? Or do you use something different that I haven't covered yet? How do they meet your needs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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