Twitter Share Counts Have Disappeared – Does Anyone Miss Them?

Posted by | Social Media Marketing · Twitter Marketing

Back in October 2015, Slate editors awoke to a big surprise: the Twitter share button on their articles no longer displayed how many readers had shared the link. Slate vice chairman Dan Check told Digiday Slate had been “caught with our pants down.”

If you’re a big publisher, that little bubble with a number in it shouldn’t matter so much. After all, share counts from the Twitter button were never that accurate, and big publishers can access far superior analytics tools.

Small publishers without big budgets, however, fear that losing share counts could mean fewer social shares and lost advertising dollars. Fortunately, there are better metrics that can help small sites convince advertisers to get on board.

A Good First Impression

Within the first few seconds of visiting a website, people form a first impression. A lot of factors influence those initial snap judgments, such as:
  • Color
  • Typography
  • Images
  • Ads
  • Layout
  • Logos
  • Load speed
  • Navigation elements
  • Content quality
Visitors also form positive first impressions when sites show visible evidence of engagement. Comments and social network share counts cause visitors to form snap judgments about a site’s popularity.

How Accurate Was Twitter’s Share Count?

According to Twitter’s blog, the Twitter share count only showed the number of times the exact URL had been shared.
  • It didn’t show times people shared variants of the URL — think link shorteners or variations including Google Analytics tracking code.
  • It showed neither retweets that quoted the tweet nor replies to the tweet.
  • It didn’t reveal how many people actually saw or read the content.
  • It didn’t filter out activity from bots.
  • It didn’t distinguish between genuine reader tweets and publisher efforts to drive up Twitter counts behind the scenes.
Twitter’s decision-makers aren’t wrong when they argue that share count doesn’t really tell visitors or advertisers anything useful. Twitter share count says nothing about page quality, how well a page converts or how many people actually visit the page.

Twitter share count might nudge a visitor’s first impression in a positive direction. However, keep in mind that Facebook, Google+ and many other buttons still show counts; a missing Twitter count doesn’t necessarily hurt. Plus, there are better stats to attract readers and advertisers that will help you improve your marketing for little or no additional cost.

Metrics That Matter

The real stats that interest advertisers go far deeper than the share count bubble. To attract advertisers and grow your site, you need hard metrics.

Impressions

Impressions reveal how many times a piece of content appears in front of anyone. One user could see it multiple times, in different places, and each time would count as one impression. blogimage2

Things to Remember:
  • Most people narrow down this statistic by differentiating where people saw the page; for example, Facebook impressions versus search result or search advertising impressions.
  • Analyze which types of posts get the most impressions and how you got the impressions, whether through advertising, social sharing or earned media. When you have these insights, it tells advertisers that you have a good distribution plan for getting their content in front of readers.

Reach

Reach is the number of unique viewers who might have seen your content. It doesn’t tell you whether they noticed it, clicked it, liked it or even read it, but it does tell you how many unique individuals had the chance to see that it existed.

Things to Remember:
  • The number of social network followers you have, as opposed to a share count button, tells advertisers about the number of people who are likely to actually see your content.
  • The number of social followers you have, like the Twitter share count, might make you look popular, but it doesn’t tell you how many of those followers actually interact with your content.

Unique Monthly Visitors

Travel blogger Annabel Candy says unique monthly visitors, to advertisers, are the Holy Grail of site statistics. They’re comparable to monthly circulations statistics for magazines, and they’re something you have to know.

Things to Remember:
  • Don’t inflate your unique monthly visitor count. You might convince an advertiser to place one ad, but when your site doesn’t deliver, the advertiser won’t come back.
  • A number of people may click to your pages, but not all of them find your content valuable. Dig deeper to learn how many pages the average visitor explores and how long they stay on each page.

Engagement

Pages that get good engagement are like gold. If you can show strong social sharing counts, lots of legitimate commenting, and/or reviews then you know the audience is engaged.

Subscriber Countsblogimage1

Having a large email subscriber base shows advertisers that you have an audience of committed visitors. According to McKinsey & Company, email marketing is 40 times as effective for acquiring customers as Facebook and Twitter combined.

Things to Remember:
  • You can experiment with including ads in your subscriber emails as long as you keep them few and far between. If you have an enthusiastic and extensive subscriber base, charge more for including advertising messages in your emails.
  • Subscriber counts are nice, but they don’t tell you whether your email marketing is actually effective. Be ready to show evidence not only of email subscribers but also conversions related to email.

Visitor Characteristics

Most advertisers develop a profile of their core customer personas, and they want to advertise on sites that reach these types of people. Using Google Analytics or other tools, track both the demographic (age, gender, location) and psychographic (interests, motives, attitudes) characteristics of your visitors.

Things to Remember:
  • Update these statistics frequently so you’re showing advertisers the most accurate information. By tracking changes, you keep your site ahead of the game if visitor characteristics change.
  • In addition to tracking characteristics, track audience preferences so you know which types of content your visitors like best. Knowing what’s popular with visitors helps you choose the right advertisers and gives advertisers a better return on their investment.

Conclusion

Rumors have circulated regarding why Twitter nixed the share count. Some speculate that the number of inbound requests for share count data gobbled up too much bandwidth. Others suggest that Twitter wanted to move publishers to its Gnip platform, with custom pricing that ranges from $300 to $50,000 per month.

Those old free Twitter share counts might have made publishers appear vaguely popular, but they never communicated anything of actual value. If you’re still desperate to show your share count, however, you can use Buzzsumo’s Chrome extension to get periodic social share count updates.



Miguel Salcido is Founder and CEO of Organic Media Group, a content driven SEO agency. He loves to talk shop and share tips on what’s really working in SEO and what is not. You can find him blogging on his personal consulting blog, and can connect on LinkedIn or Twitter.