Bright Matrices

Writings & musings of Mike Zavarello (a.k.a. brightmatrix), a "red mage" web developer.

Category: Analytics

Stop Celebrating How Many Followers or Fans You Have

One of the things that burns my blood most in social media is the posts that trumpet how many followers or fans an account has or is about to reach. “Only 10 more followers until we reach 1,000!” or “We now have 1,000 fans of our Facebook page!” I find these exceptionally annoying and thoroughly empty of meaning.

“But wait,” you may be asking, “isn’t gaining more followers or fans a good thing?”

Of course it is. The problem that I have with shouting to the heavens about a number is how arbitrary that announcement is. OK, so you now have 1,000 followers. What does that mean? Why is that number important? Why should anyone in your network care about that number? And, most importantly, what are you going to do about it?

The number of followers or fans you have, in and of itself, is meaningless.

This is like telling me your cholesterol number without saying whether that’s a healthy value for you (or at all, for that matter), whether you’re seeing a doctor to help lower your values, whether you have a family history, etc. If you’re truly interested in knowing how well your account is doing, you need to consider the number of followers or fans as a “health indicator” (just like your cholesterol number) that should be studied in tandem with many other metrics.

For example, have you had a rapid or sudden increase or decrease in followers or fans? Can this change be directly correlated to a single event or series of events? Did you post something amazing or controversial to the account? Did someone influential share one of your posts to their audience, giving you a larger number of eyes, if only for that post? Was your post covered, mentioned, or reviewed in a news publication?

Or, conversely, do your posts get a meager number of retweets or likes? Is no one responding to you or commenting on what you say? Do you wonder whether your network is even paying any attention to what you share? Is an uninteresting trend in followers or fans even a problem you have to worry about?

Are you getting the idea? You need to do work. Yes, work! And that work doesn’t include telling everyone, whether it’s your public audience or your senior management, about how well you think you’re doing as though you deserve some kind of medal.

Data is your friend. Figure out the story behind those raw numbers. Cross-check changes in your follower or fan numbers to other statistics, such as social mentions (how many times was your website, network, or article talked about in Google, Twitter, etc.), website analytics (page views, new visitors, search referrals), and the unique metrics each network offers you (Twitter for Business, Facebook Insights, etc.). In most instances, changes in your followers and fans will slowly and steadily increase over time. Even if folks lose interest, you’d have to do something annoying or distasteful (or both) to make them consciously unfollow or unlink you (versus simply skipping over or ignoring your updates). Look at any pattern of decreased numbers with a careful eye.

Qualitative analysis requires more effort than simply reporting a single value, but fortune favors the bold (and the diligent). Think for a moment about how much more successful your efforts could be if you move beyond “hey, we have 1,000 followers now” and think about “how can we use this information to make better decisions and improve the social experience for our followers and fans?”

I realize this level of analytics research is not something that everyone has the time or capabilities to manage, but, if you’re going to make a big deal about how many followers or fans you have, at the very least, do something worthwhile with them rather than making much ado about nothing.

“Use Browser X”? Spare Me This Mockery of Justice!

Spare me this mockery of justice!Today, I experienced something that, as a web developer, really burns my blood. When I inquired about a specific web application’s flaws within a certain web browser, I was informed that I should be using “browser X” instead. As the doomed Transformer proclaimed when condemned to the Quintesson pit in Transformers: the Movie, “Spare me this mockery of justice!”

There are exceedingly few reasons why you should ever tell the users of your web application to use a specific browser over another. If you’re on the public domain, or, if your users can pick from more than one browser to get to your application, account for it. Don’t force the users to bow to your decision; it comes across as exclusionary and elitist. The days of “best viewed in Internet Explorer/Netscape Navigator” are far, far behind us.

Of course, there are plenty of whiz-bang features in HTML 5, CSS3, etc. that have yet to be adopted by all browser variants. Publishing experimental or proof-of-concept websites and web applications that push the envelope and challenge previous assumptions on how we interact with the web is perfectly acceptable. However, if you intend to have a product that will be used by a broad audience, alienating a key portion of your users will do you no good, especially if the “unworthy” browsers introduce glitches or errors that break a key feature. Even minor flaws will make it seem as though your product is buggy, incomplete, unprofessional, and sloppy.

Now, I certainly don’t advocate building something that conforms to every browser variant throughout time; that’s a fool’s errand. Your web analytics program can educate you about which browsers and variants your audience is using. Pay attention to that data and use it to establish your lowest common denominator. My basic rule of thumb is to code for all browsers with greater than one percent of your total market share. You can also choose to “degrade gracefully,” where any fancy features unreadable or unusable for less modern or less compliant browsers can still be operated effectively and correctly. Check your statistics regularly, as market share can change quickly. Usage can often differ dramatically between countries, so, if, for example, your European users prefer Firefox over Internet Explorer, make sure that version of your website is ready for them.

Pay attention to your mobile users as well. Those folks using iPhones and iPads will show up as Safari users in your web analytics, so keep track of your mobile device usage in tandem with your browser statistics. You may wish to consider a mobile-friendly version of your web application, a dedicated app, or a responsive web design that transitions smoothly no matter where your users are browsing. Again, pay attention to your percentages to decide what path to take. It never hurts to ask your users directly, whether through site intercept surveys, focus groups, or simple e-mail questionnaires.

There are plenty of ways to avoid the “browser X” debacle. Spare us all the mockery of your self-imposed justice and build your web application for everyone. You have no excuses!

Image source, Google Images: http://www.anivide.com/gallery.html?view=158846&pid=1318514144.

Scales and Sheen: How Very New Social Media Accounts Can Amass Influence So Quickly

As social influence metrics like Klout continue to gain, well, clout in the industry, instances will arise where folks will cry foul over perceived inconsistencies in how scores are generated. An example I’ll use in this post is how very new Twitter accounts are able to amass very high influence scores in a very short period of time.

Let me preface this discussion with influence as opposed to popularity. Numerous articles were written last year that clearly illustrated that one does not equal the other. Hollywood celebrities, musicians, and other popular figures have a great deal of popularity, but this does not translate well into influence, which is defined as being able to convince others in your social network to take action. Mark Schaefer, author of the {grow} blog, described just how challenging and difficult it can be to get your followers to do something, even if you have the popularity and reach of Alyssa Milano.

So, how can new accounts become so influential so quickly? Let’s study the Twitter accounts of a well-known and controversial actor and well-known, and currently missing, snake.

First, the actor. Charlie Sheen opened his Twitter account on Tuesday, March 1, 2011 to much fanfare. At the time, Sheen had a much-publicized falling out with Chuck Lorre, the director of his CBS show, “Two and a Half Men.” Folks speculated, and were quickly confirmed, that Sheen would use Twitter as a mouthpiece to share his perspective on the situation. Once word got out that his account was up and verified, the followers piled on fast. According to TwitterCounter, Sheen’s account accumulated 519,343 followers on the very first day. March 2 saw a subsequent increase of well over 530,000 additional followers, leading Sheen to reach the 2 million follower mark in well under a week. With over 3.3 million followers as of March 30, @CharlieSheen currently holds an astronomical Klout score of 94.

TwitterCounter chart for @CharlieSheen

Now, on to the reptile. On March 27, 2011, a venomous Egyptian cobra was found missing from the Bronx Zoo’s reptile house in New York City. The zoo promptly closed the enclosure as the search went on for the wayward serpent. It didn’t take long for a clever mind to make light of the situation, and on Monday, March 28, a Twitter account appeared under the handle @BronxZoosCobra that posted updates of the cobra’s adventures around NYC. On the first day the account was opened, TwitterCounter shows 86,140 followers tuned in to follow the cobra’s exploits. By 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday, March 30, the account has nearly 140,000 followers. While not as dramatic as Sheen’s account activity, the trend clearly shows a strong demand from folks on Twitter, resulting in a Klout score of 73 for the cobra (as of March 30).

TwitterCounter chart for @BronxZoosCobra

So, what can these two accounts teach us about social influence and the algorithms that determine their scores relative to others? It’s simple.

Demand, in particular, a sharp increase in your network, is a strong factor in measuring overall social influence. Both @CharlieSheen and @BronxZoosCobra attracted a massive number of followers in a very short period of time, and, in Sheen’s case, the demand has risen over the four weeks since the account’s creation (although it is starting to level off a bit). While their influence scores may not indicate that their network will take any kind of action on their behalf, it does clearly show that they’re producing content that folks want to consume and share with their own networks.

Now, it can be assumed that an accelerated drop in a network’s size (think rats jumping from a sinking ship) would result in a corresponding plummet in influence. To a lesser extent, steady or very slow changes in network size would result in a similarly consistent influence score. I’ve observed this in my own personal account: my network size is growing, albeit grudgingly and gradually, and my Klout score has remained relatively stable for several weeks.

What’s the take-away from all of this?

  • First, the systems themselves aren’t broken or being gamed. Demand is one of many factors these algorithms are using in their calculations, and sharp changes in network size seem to greatly influence (pun intended) the weight this specific metric has on the entire score. It would be informative to study Sheen’s and the cobra’s accounts after several months to see whether their overall influence continues to maintain itself over time. As always, don’t just look at the score itself. Do your homework and dig into the underlying metrics to figure out just what’s driving that high number.
  • Second, don’t look for demand alone to change your fortunes. It’s already been shown how sizeable networks don’t always translate to positive action from their audience. Exercise proactive listening and active engagement to energize your followers and fans. Learn about them and their interests, understand their needs, and give them what they want.
  • Third, be creative and innovative. Whoever created the @BronxZoosCobra account used a captivating news story about the cobra’s release to create something fun and clever for the folks on Twitter. This adaptive and nimble thinking is precisely what Jay Baer and Amber Naslund describe in their book, “The Now Revolution.” Another excellent example is how Aflac turned its fortunes around by creating casting call for their signature mascot after their principle voice actor, Gilbert Gottfried, was fired from the job.

Update (4-1-11): About midday on Thursday, March 31, 2011, it was reported that the Bronx Zoo’s cobra was found, apparently in a “non-public” part of the reptile house. No status update from the @BronxZoosCobra Twitter account as of 8:45 a.m. today, but I suppose the zookeepers took its iPhone away. It will be informative to see whether the owner of the account keeps up the cobra’s commentary, and also whether its followers and influence will fade over time.

The parody account @BPGlobalPR, set up after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf Coast last year to poke fun at BP’s series of public relations flubs, is still active but seems to be slowly losing followers as the attention around the incident fades. Its Klout score, however, has stayed relatively steady over the past 30 days, hovering around 64.

Editorial note: I also updated the title of this post to read “Very New Social Media Accounts” vs. its original “Very New Social Media Networks.”

My 2011 Wish List for Klout

This has been quite a year for Klout. Their suite of measurements, specifically their “Klout score,” has risen to become a recognized standard in the realm of user-generated content and social communications. They’ve generated numerous articles on how corporations and industries are considering Klout to award perks, recognize influencers, and even possibly screen for job applicants. Klout has become, in essence, a “credit score” for the social space. Of course, detractors have had their say, and I’ve written my own article on why Klout’s metrics need to be used within their proper context.

I realize Klout is nascent, but the fact that they’ve gained the clout (pun intended) they have today speaks volumes for the need for solid, reliable metrics in social media. With each announcement Klout releases, I admit I find myself craving more. So, in the spirit of the holidays, I’ve cobbled together a “wish list” of features I’ve love to see from the good folks at Klout in 2011.

More Historical Data

Right now, Klout’s various charts show measurements up to 30 days in the past. As an avid student of analytics, the ability to delve further into the past and download that data for further analysis would be valuable for tracking trends and correlating against other communications and campaigns I work on.

I really enjoy the flexibility offered by Google Analytics, where you can show comparisons between two spans of time, send yourself automated reports in various formats, and slice the data in any number of ways. If Klout released a similar suite of data tools, they would make me, and I’m sure many other analytics geeks out there, very, very happy.

Comparison of Metrics

Klout provides a healthy array of charts that show trends and measurements of several supporting metrics, not just the Klout score itself. It would be great to see overlays of various metrics, such as my inbound/outbound message ratio laid atop my amplification score, to see how the various data points interact with and affect each other.

I realize this could stray into “correlation does not equal causation” territory, but we’re not talking “pirates vs. global warming” here. I don’t see the various data points being that off target to create egregiously false assumptions. That is, of course, provided people continue to do their homework.

Data Segmented by Channel

Originally, Klout was focused specifically on Twitter. Starting in October 2010, however, metrics from personal Facebook pages were added to the mix, and a beta for gathering LinkedIn data is in the works. If you had tied your Klout profile to Facebook, historical data was adjusted as of October 21, 2010, which resulted in often dramatic changes to your overall score.

A sound tenet of communications strategy is matching your message to the medium. It may not be effective or possible to broadcast, engage, or interact the same on Twitter as Facebook or LinkedIn. Therefore, I would expect overall influence to differ between channels.

While an overall Klout score (and its supporting metrics) is useful as a broad indicator, it would be immensely helpful to segment the data by channel so I can give more thought and consideration to how I communicate on that channel.

Real-time “Influenced By/Influencer Of” Updates

Klout offers a simple chart of whom you influence and who influences you. Up to five of each is shown in your profile. Currently, this “rogue’s gallery of influence” isn’t updated with any frequency; my set has been the same for many months, and others in my network have reported the same situation. Most the accounts shown in this chart are pretty obvious, but it remains a good insight into the cornerstones of your network. I’d love to see more “drift” here.

Transparent Data on Total Number of Profiles Indexed

Klout doesn’t automatically connect to every single Twitter or personal Facebook profile; in most cases, you need to create a profile to share your data and acquire a score. Why is this important? If you connect your Twitter account to Klout, your score is relative to all other Twitter accounts captured in Klout’s database, not every Twitter account in existence.

As with any study or poll, it’s necessary to know the total size of the data set in order to establish weights or bias on the resulting statistics. Currently, Klout doesn’t share the precise number of accounts they index. I’d like to see more specificity and transparency here.

I feel this is important for measuring and reporting on success in the social web. While I’m sure a healthy amount of influencer heavyweights are already ensconced in Klout’s data sets, knowing the total number of indexed profiles will help put the scores into more accurate and meaningful context.

Hub-and-Spoke Influence Diagram

This is more of a “pie in the sky” request, but it would be sweet to see a hub-and-spoke diagram of influencers. The current “influenced by/influencer of” chart allows you to click on a specific account to jump to their Klout profile, wherein you can see who influences them and who they influence in turn. I’d love to browse through a Flash- or AJAX-based hub-and-spoke diagram that could show me dynamically who connects to whom in the influence realm.

The Obvious Conclusion

The obvious conclusion about the features in this wish list is that Klout could set up a “freemium” model: continue to offer the current suite of metrics and charts at no cost, and then offer an extended array of features to monthly paying subscribers. Hootsuite did much the same recently with their social services. Such a model would allow Klout to continue to add to its user base and secure a source of revenue from dedicated users.

Key Elements for Measuring Your Social Media Campaigns

Now that social media channels like Twitter and Facebook have matured into solid communications platforms, many individuals, organizations, corporations, and agencies have taken to these channels to reach their audiences. What hasn’t quite solidified, however, is how these campaigns are tracked and measured. There’s still a decent amount of confusion and differing opinions of what you should measure and how.

In this post, I’ll share several factors, methods, and steps that I’ve learned this year about how you can effectively and realistically measure your social media campaigns. This isn’t intended to be a complete or exhaustive list of what you could use, but it’s my hope that each topic will assist you in your endeavors.

Define Your Goals and What Constitutes Success

Before you pursue any coordinated effort in your social media channels, think very carefully about your goals and what constitutes success for you. Remember, you cannot measure success (or anything at all, for that matter) if you don’t have defined goals up front or have an unclear vision of what defines a successful venture.

  • Expectations: Set the expectations of the campaign early and often. Make sure the goals and definitions of success can be precisely tracked, measured, and reported on. Build a communications strategy and make sure everyone who will be involved in the campaign has read and understood it completely. If you’re simply testing the waters of a specific social media channel or experimenting with a new approach, that’s perfectly fine, but make certain everyone understands that, especially those in charge.
  • Timeframe: Think about the timeframe of your efforts. What is the life expectancy of the campaign? Is it a short-term promotion, a webinar, conference, or event with specific dates, a brand awareness effort, or a marketing campaign to raise awareness of a cause or resource? Will you announce the effort ahead of time so users are prepared to take action, such as a “save the date” for events? How will you build interest and sustain momentum over the course of the campaign? What are your plans for retiring the campaign once it’s complete? Have you considered follow-up activities like a user satisfaction survey?
  • Transactions: Work out which transactions will define a successful campaign and stick with those decisions throughout the effort. How is the campaign intended to affect your transactions? Are you seeking to drive more traffic to a specific website, blog, or web-based application? Do you want a certain number of users to sign up for a promotion, event, or product trial? Do you want them to buy something? Think about “goal conversions”: the action(s) you want your users to make, and the end result(s) you want from them.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): ROI is a classic business metric, but it’s one that’s generated a lot of heated discussions when it relates to social media. Whenever you think of ROI, it should always boil down to money: hard dollars and cents (or euros, sterling, yen, etc.). Did your campaign generate enough revenue to justify its cost (marketing materials, agency fees, manufacturing costs, etc.)? Did you increase sales of a product or service? Did your transactions balance out the (estimated) hourly rate of the staff spent managing, tracking, and measuring the campaign? You don’t have to always sell something to determine ROI; in essence, you’re figuring out whether the campaign was worth the effort, but that worth has to be a financial measurement.

Look for Active Responses

Among the most valuable success metrics are direct responses from your audience. These can include mentions and direct messages on Twitter and wall posts and comments on Facebook. Be sure to check these regularly, especially if you intend to respond to comments or engage with your audience to keep up the momentum of your campaign.

If one of your transactions is new fans or followers, you may want to activate e-mail notifications to have “hard copies” of these actions. New follower notifications from Twitter, for example, not only show you basic information about the new follower, but also which platform or browser they used, the date and time of their activity, and the size of their audience.

Check How and How Often Users Are Sharing

To track how far your message has reached, look for evidence of sharing within your audience.

On Twitter, keep track of retweets, both the old- and new-style versions. “Old-style” retweets have the prefix “RT” before the original tweet along with the handle of the originating account. Users may choose to add their own comments in the retweet, and may edit or winnow down the original text to fit their comments. “New-style” retweets are simply a reposting of the original tweet in the user’s timeline; they can’t make any changes to the original text. Depending on which tool you’re using to measure retweets, you may need to look in different views. For example, Hootsuite will not show new-style retweets in a “Mentions” view; you need to track them in the “Your Tweets, Retweeted” view.

On Facebook, look for both “likes” and “shares”. Whenever a user likes a post, it increments a “thumbs up” value associated with the post; all fans of the page see this value. If the user chooses to share your post, the original post will appear in the user’s timeline. They can also choose to add a comment to prefix the shared post.

Likes and new-style retweets are what I consider “lazy successes”. It takes a user only one click to perform these actions, so it may not indicate that they read the complete post or whether that post was informative, helpful, or useful to them. Facebook comments and shares, along with old-style Twitter retweets with additional text, are more valuable for quantitative feedback.

Use Query Variables or URL Shorteners

Whether you’re sending out links in your tweets and Facebook posts, including website URLs in direct mailings, or displaying QR codes in your promotional materials, go the extra mile to insure that you can properly measure user activity.

Several URL shortening services, such as bit.ly or Hootsuite’s ow.ly, have back-end reporting tools you can use to track and analyze click-throughs. Hootsuite can also overlay tweet click-throughs with your Google Analytics reports to show possible relationships between your posts and website traffic.

Query variables, which are additional pieces of information you can include in a website URL, can provide you with richer metrics. Web analytics applications and services such as WebTrends, Google Analytics, and Radian6 can collect information from query variables whenever a user visits the URL. What’s nice about these variables is that you define them: add whatever information you’d like to collect, such as the campaign’s name, a specific marketing code, or which channel you’re sending the URL out to. You can then work within your chosen analytics platform to track, monitor, and report on the variables.

Never Rely on a Single Metric

When it comes time to gather, analyze, and report on the results of your campaign, never base your success or failure on a single metric, such as followers or fans. Always use multiple measurements and track trends in their activity over time. This allows you to form the complete picture of your campaign, and makes you better informed about what contributed to the results.

Crossing the Finish Line

Building realistic expectations, setting your timeframe, defining your transactions, and understanding how ROI will relate to your campaign will all help immensely when it comes time to measure your efforts. Be diligent in checking (and responding to) active responses from your audience and how they’re spreading the word about your campaign. Give your measurements a boost by considering URL shorteners and query variables to supply additional information about your users. And, finally, don’t hang the success (or failure) of your efforts on a single value or metric.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I don’t consider the thoughts I’ve gathered here as the “be-all-and-end-all” compendium of social media measurements. If there are specific methods or insights that have worked well for you, please feel free to share them in the comments.

I want to thank the good folks at Marketwire and the #smmeasure chats for helping to inspire this post. Their weekly social media measurement Twitter chats have been quite valuable in my own social media efforts, especially since metrics in this space are still not clearly defined or universal. The #smmeasure chats take place each Thursday at 12 noon Eastern Standard Time. Follow the @smmeasure Twitter account or the #smmeasure hashtag to participate.

New Metrics Are No Excuse to Continue a Pattern of Lazy Analytics: An Example Using Klout

As a student of analytics, I’ve learned that measuring success is never as simple as comparing two numbers. In fact, that’s exactly the kind of lazy analysis that can show false positives (or even worse, false negatives). To really do analytics justice, it’s vital to devote time to researching and understanding what you’re attempting to measure so that you can provide informative, relevant, and accurate findings.

A few months ago, a new metric for Twitter was created by Klout, a San Francisco-based company. Their “Klout score” measures your overall influence on Twitter: how much people listen to and respect your messages, and how likely they are to act upon and share those messages. Many third-party clients, such as Hootsuite and CoTweet, are now displaying the Klout score in their dashboards.

I personally think it’s great that Klout is gaining widespread acceptance. I feel it brings a true standard to the “quality” factor of social media analytics in contrast to the “quantity” factor of followers. However, I believe this score, like any other single metric, needs to be used carefully.

In this post, I’ll explain the mechanics of the Klout score, show an example of how similar Klout scores can be misleading when taken out of context, and explain why you can’t lean on new metrics to continue a pattern of “lazy analytics.”

The Klout Score

The Klout score is calculated from a broad range of data: your follower totals, how many accounts follow you back, how often you’re retweeted or mentioned, how frequently you tweet, etc. These data points are then boiled down into three values: your true reach, your amplification, and your network.

  • True reach is “the size of your engaged audience,” or basically those accounts with whom you engage with regularly, have common followers, and share similar interests.
  • Amplification “indicates how likely it is that your content will be acted upon,” in essence, the probability that you’ll get retweeted and how fast word with spread within your network.
  • The third value, network, is “a measurement of the influence level of the people who interact with you.” It’s important to note the emphasis on interaction here: this value is composed of the ratio of your followers vs. how many accounts you follow, how many of those you follow also follow you back, as well as unique senders and retweeters.

So, does this mean we can just look at the scores of any number of accounts and make assumptions about relative influence by directly comparing their Klout scores? No!

Let’s use an example to illustrate why.

An Example of Relative Influence… or is it?

As of August 30, 2010, I have a Klout score of 48. According to Klout’s calculations, this ranks me about halfway on the overall scale of 0 to 100, but based on the total number of accounts measured, I’m more accurately placed in the 80th percentile. Another Twitter account with a very similar Klout score is the CME Group, a Chicago-based financial firm billed as “the world’s most diverse financial marketplace.” Their current Klout score is 46; they’re also in the 80th percentile, overall. The CME Group’s Twitter account currently has over 750,000 followers, whereas I currently have 375. Their true reach is calculated to be 280,000, while mine is 9 (not nine thousand or nine hundred, nine… one less than 10).

At face value, based on Klout score alone, it looks like I’m just as influential as the CME Group, but when you start taking into account factors like followers and true reach, this assumption falls apart.

What happened? First, it’s because we’re making assumptions. Second, we’re missing context.

Let’s start digging into the data. You’ll notice that our network scores are roughly similar (59 for the CME Group, 57 for me), though my amplification is a slightly higher (21 for the CME Group, 26 for me). That still doesn’t explain why we have similar Klout scores, so let’s examine the supporting data points.

  • True reach: The CME Group has a massive amount of followers, but only follows back 0.003% of them; I follow back 20.3% of mine. They currently show 0% for both follower mentions and follower retweets, whereas I show 19% and 39%, respectively. This indicates that virtually no one seems to be talking to the CME Group or passing along their content. Note: While the 0% follower retweet looks like it’s a fluke, it may actually be a very small number (less than 0.1%) because of their high number of followers.
  • Amplification: The CME Group shows 77 total retweets, a mention count of 10, and 69 unique retweeted messages. I have 37 total retweets, a mention count of 254, and 31 unique retweeted messages. Their inbound/outbound message ratio is 0.26; mine is 0.74. This indicates that my followers tend to talk about me more frequently and are more likely to respond to me when I tweet.
  • Network: The CME Group’s follower to follow ratio is much higher than mine (172.71 vs. 3.16), their percentage of reciprocal followers is a bit lower (54% vs. 64%), and they have fewer unique folks who are mentioning them (10 vs. 71). They do have a higher number of unique retweeters, however (59 vs. 27). This indicates that my network is tighter and more engaged.

The key theme that emerges here is engagement. While my network and reach are much, much smaller in size and scope, I have a stronger connection with my audience. You also have to consider the function and audience of these accounts. The CME Group gathers and spreads time-sensitive financial information for consumption by their followers; they do some engagement, but are primarily focused on informing and sharing. I also share and retweet content (primarily on topics like social media and user experience), but I spend a larger percentage of my time connecting and talking directly with my followers. Not to mention, no one is trading stocks or making monetary decisions on my tweets (at least, not that I’m aware of). Finally, you need to consider the perspective: the CME Group offers a corporate experience vs. my individual one.

So, even though our Klout scores are very similar, you can’t say that I’m just as influential as the CME Group as a stand-alone statement. Our network, level of engagement, function, audience, and perspectives are significantly different enough to make this a false assumption. You could perhaps say we’re equally influential within our own unique networks, but not as a direct comparison. You have to consider the context.

Don’t Be Lazy With Analytics

As with website analytics, you should never use a single metric in a vacuum to make assumptions on the success or failure of what you’re measuring. Think for a moment about hits. Have you ever been asked to compare the number of hits on your website with those of another website? It’s a thoroughly unfair comparison. Even if the sites in question are similar in audience and purpose, you have many things to consider, such as: originality, readability, and freshness of content; strength and effectiveness of marketing and promotions; ease of use and overall usability; ranking for relevant terms in search engines. Each and every one of these factors, as well as a number of others I haven’t mentioned, all contribute to the success or failure of a website. Taking only one metric and directly comparing it to the same metric for a completely different website is not an apples-to-apples comparison, no matter what you may think. It’s essential to take everything in context and do thorough research of the data to determine relative success or failure when making comparisons.

It’s exactly the same with the Klout score.

You can see from my example how much happens behind the scenes in order to generate a Klout score. It’s a deeply interesting and unique metric in its own right, but, just like with website hits, it needs to be examined and valued in context with its supporting data points to form a complete picture of relative influence.

Don’t be lazy by looking at just one metric to measure your influence on Twitter. If you’re really interested in determining how well you’re doing or what you need to improve in order to make your presence in this channel more effective, do your homework: sift through the data, observe trends, and pay attention to the purpose and audience of your account. Klout allows you to refresh your score every six days, so take advantage of that feature and keep refreshing your score to see how your data shifts over time.

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