Well-known, recognizable publishers tend to have an impressive social media presence, with Twitter followers and Facebook fans in the millions. Tweeting a single article can result in an overwhelming deluge of responses, which is awesome, but how does a content creator decide where to reciprocate engagement?
We work with a lot of large publishers and have seen this problem again and again, so we thought we’d help out with some smart filters. The question is, what do you filter for? We threw around a number of ideas: sentiment analysis to find the most passionate, oldest first, newest first, or even filtered by those with awesome profile photos. In the end, we realized that perhaps there was an even better approach; partner with a company already working on this problem – Klout.
Klout’s goal is to measure influence, which is a tricky endeavor and not always clearly defined. We needed something a little bit more tangible to measure our results against, so we focused our analysis on determining what would help publishers drive Twitter traffic. We analyzed just under 3 million tweets containing links from approximately 5,000 publishers. As it turns out, the overall volume of tweets is the single largest determinant of what drives traffic from Twitter back to a site.
Users with higher Klout scores have, on average, much higher retweet rates than users with lower Klout scores. For example, a user with a Klout score of 70 generates, on average, four times as many retweets as a user with a Klout score of 35.
Basically, users with higher Klout scores are better able to propagate and amplify messages through their social networks.
In order to properly conduct our research, we needed to settle on a definition of a retweet. Since there are a few, we decided to start out with the official Twitter definition. As we got deeper into our work, we realized that we needed to include not only the more visually common definitions like “RT” and “via,” but also some of the more esoteric formats like “MT” (modified tweet) and “HT” (which can mean either Hat Tip or Heard Through). For more information on the official and unofficial definitions of a retweet, see this Twitter post.
The following chart shows a breakdown of retweets by various formatting options:
We found that simply using the retweet counts provided by Twitter missed retweets where people add the letters RT and sometimes commentary to someone else’s tweet, like the format shown below:
Twitter only recognizes retweets where the original tweet is not modified:
We were surprised to discover retweets using the RT @twitterhandle format are more popular than the official Twitter retweet format — by a factor of 1.46. That means for every 100 tweets in the official Twitter retweet format, there are 146 unofficial retweets in the RT format.
Ultimately, in terms of driving traffic, it doesn’t matter if it’s a tweet, official retweet or an unofficial retweet. It’s the overall volume of tweets that determines referral traffic.
Nerding out data is great, but we wanted publishers to be able to do something practical with the results we found. We thought it would be cool to show them all of the Twitter activity surrounding an article:
Using the results of our analysis, we built out a real-time dashboard for each article that includes every tweet that mentions that piece of content, sorted by Klout score. The prioritization of tweets allows publishers to sort through the deluge and engage their audience. As the social media ecosystem grows, so does the need the for these types of filters.
Zanab Hussain is a data scientist with SimpleReach.View all posts by zanab »
Faruk Ahmed is an undergrad at the Institute of Engineering and Management in Kolkata, India. He is interested in machine learning, data analysis, and other such sundries.View all posts by faruk »
So we're talking amplification of a message. That's one small stage of influence. What came next - amplification without action is meaningless, since brands can't survive on people talking about them alone. Did these amplified messages result in sales, digital downloads, course sign-ups, etc? Amplification matters, but it's not a great barometer of influence either - some people are such sheep they'll retweet anything someone says (just look at the crappy blog posts that get a lot of social shares even though the content is banal).