Last week Derek Thompson, a writer for The Atlantic, wrote an article in which he questioned the real value of a tweet. In his article The Unbearable Lightness Of Tweeting, Thompson expressed disappointment because a tweet he was sure was going to get a lot of attention, both on Twitter and with click throughs to the actual article, didn’t draw the engagement he anticipated.
— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) February 9, 2015
As a journalist Thompson wanted to spread the word about his story and generate traffic to The Atlantic’s website. However, a little less than a week later, in his own words, here’s what he found:
“By Friday morning, it had about 155,260 impressions. According to the new Tweet activity dashboard, 2.9 percent of those users clicked the image, and 1.1 percent retweeted or favored it… but just 1 percent clicked on the link to actually read my story. One percent.”
At first glance, Mr. Thompson is right – a 1% engagement rate is rather low. But, 1,553 clicks isn’t that bad, but it might seem that way when there was the chance for over 155,000 clicks. But does it really mean that there’s no real value to a tweet?
It turns out – you just need to look at the bigger picture. You see, Thompson was using Twitter’s analytics tool and while it’s fantastic at showing a reporting snapshot, a reporting suite such as Sysomos MAP tells a more complete story.
We weren’t the only people that contemplated this question. Our friends over at SKDKnickerbocker thought that there is also a lot more value to a tweet and decided to investigate further into Thompson’s tweet. In the blog post where they did this, they start by pointing out that, “Twitter is a social media platform and the most valuable takeaway, in our view, is the way the message is shared beyond Derek’s 27.8k followers.”
SKDKnickerbocker pulled up Thompson’s tweet to explore its real value using Sysomos MAP‘s Tweet Life function. Tweet Life was able to show that this particular tweet actually seemed to perform quite well. They used Tweet Life to follow the chain of the tweet, meaning how many followers of followers retweeted Thompson’s tweet. In this case the chain went to a level of 10. Looking at this graphic to illustrate the chain, the tweet actually traveled quite far from Thompson’s initial following.
In a report that we did back in 2010 we looked at 1.2 billion tweets and found that the average tweet gets the majority of it’s retweets within the first hour before dying off. Tweet Life can also show you the full life of a tweet. Many studies have shown that tweets barely live on past 10 minutes. In the case of Thompson’s tweet, its half-life was at 10 hours and 13 minutes. That means that his tweet was still going strong over 10 hours later and wasn’t finished yet. The 80% life of this tweet came 2 days and 6 hours after it was tweeted out. This, my friends, is a tweet with legs and a half-life that extended well beyond most twitter activity.
There’s many reasons that could explain why Thompson’s tweet didn’t get as many click-throughs to The Atlantic as he had hoped. Perhaps people didn’t find the topic as interesting as he did. It could also be, as Bianca Prade from SKDKnickerbocker told us on the phone, that “sometimes people go to a social network to get their news on the platform that they’re on,” meaning that they could have got enough interesting information for themselves from Thompson’s tweet alone.
Twitter’s analytics dashboard can give you some interesting information about your tweets. But it also only shows you part of the story. This is why many brands and agencies turn to using Sysomos. With tools such as Tweet Life and many others in our software you can get a more complete picture of how well your Twitter and other social media efforts are performing.
If you want a more complete story of how your social is performing, contact us. We’d be more than happy to help you see the full picture.