Sarah Baughman, Ph.D. (@programeval, firstname.lastname@example.org)
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a micro blog that allows users to send short, 140 character messages to followers and others interested in a particular topic. Currently there are 516 Twitter accounts reported in the eXtension People application indicating that Extension faculty and staff are using Twitter professionally.
Like other social media tools, Twitter offers a way for Extension personnel to increase their educational and programmatic reach as well as engage with clientele. It takes significant time to maintain a successful Twitter presence but fortunately there are some great free and low cost tools for measuring your reach and engagement in Twitter. Reach refers to the size and demographics of your audience somewhat similar to Facebook “likes” or “follows.” There are a number of metrics you can use to help gauge your Twitter reach including number of followers, number of tweets and who follows you. You can get the number of followers and number of tweets from your Twitter account page. However you can also get a “reach” metric from several tools.
I primarily use two different tools for measuring Twitter activities. The first is TweetReach (www.tweetreach.com) which offers a free and a paid subscription to measure your Twitter activity. TweetReach allows you to run reports on specific accounts or hashtags and generates nice reports on accounts reached, total impressions, activity, top contributors and most popular tweets. The paid version will also allow you to create “trackers” for more than one twitter account or hashtag.
Screenshot from TweetReach Report
I also use an Excel Analytics for Twitter add-on available for free download at Microsoft.com. It provides similar information as TweetReach in a nice easy to read lay-out. It also generates reports on time of day and sentiment.
Screenshot from Analytics for Twitter Report
The key to using any of these tools is to generate reports regularly as Twitter has a time limit on how long it keeps tweets. So as you begin to measure your Twitter reach be sure to track your metrics consistently over time. It is also important to spend some time examining who you are reaching. As you gain new followers take the time to look at their accounts so you can get a sense of who is following you. Is it your traditional clientele or people from your community? Are you reaching new types of clientele such as a more urban audience or people from outside your immediate community?
In addition to tracking your reach you should also measure engagement. The tools mentioned above give you a sense of how often you are being re-tweeted or mentioned which are good engagement metrics. You can also calculate an amplification rate by dividing the number of retweets by tweets. So for instance if you have 20 tweets this month and 10 retweets you have engaged with others resulting in a 50% increase in reach.
Using Reach and Engagement Metrics
Now that you have some tools to track your reach and engagement don’t forget to use that information. Obviously it can be helpful for reporting and accountability but you can also use the information to figure out how to improve or change your twitter activity. Having 500 followers is great but are they engaging with you? Are they all family and friends or new audiences? What kinds of tweets are retweeted the most?
For more information on measuring reach and engagement with Twitter please see this eXtension 60 minute webinar https://learn.extension.org/events/475.
This article (Measuring Twitter Reach and Engagement) was originally published Friday, October 12, 2012 on the Evaluation Community of Practice blog, a part of eXtension. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.