Twitter: new medium, new metrics

It's a new year, so I'm hitting the reset button on my attempt to come up with a Twitter metrics methodology relevant to news organizations.

There's no better place to start than with Avinash Kaushik's November 2009 blog post.  Among other things, Kaushik is Google's "analytics evangelist."  He's not only an innovative web analytics thinker but also someone who really cares whether the common everyday professional understands this stuff – and uses it.

Why should news orgs measure their Twitter efforts?  Why don't they just tweet away and just count how much traffic Twitter sends to their sites?

OstrichTwitter is essential for news orgs.  News orgs won't be able to attract, build and engage audiences if they don't use social media successfully.   If news orgs don't believe this then…(insert your fave cliche about ostriches or whatever here).

Twitter takes a lot of time and effort.  At the very least, news orgs should use Twitter metrics so they can use their journalists' time and efforts effectively.  Who tweets?  Who doesn't?  Who should – and shouldn't?  Who should tweet more?  Less?  On what?  With whom?  Are news orgs reaching and engaging the audiences they need and want?

So, here are the key thoughts I have from Kaushik's blog. 

First, just as you shouldn't apply traditional mass media metrics to the web, you shouldn't use traditional web metrics to measure social media. 

Example: Total circulation/readership is a key performance indicator for print, but monthly unique visitors isn't.  You can count anything, but you shouldn't waste time on counts that don't directly lead to specific actions.

Kaushik:  "One of the biggest mistake companies and brands make about Twitter is that they think it is one more 'shout channel' like TV and radio and magazine ads or press releases. Twitter is not that. Twitter is a 'conversation channel,' a place where you can find the audience relevant to you (and your company and products and services and jihad) and engage in a conversation with them. It is not pitching, it is enriching the value of the ecosystem by participating."

For Twitter, Kaushik likes Klout's methodology for assessing reach, demand, engagement and velocity.  Klout gives metrics on each of these areas from which you can "pick and choose according to the objective/action/decision needed."

Klout also gives a total score or compound metric, which Kaushik warns against.  Compound metrics "can be subjective, inapplicable to many and efficiently hide the insights you need to understand what actions to take."

Instead of the simplistic follower/following ratio that many use to define Twitter success, Kaushik likes total retweets, number of retweets per thousand, messages per outbound message and churn.  These metrics measure conversation, not "just yelling."

About all of those followers:  Kaushik's intrigued (as am I) by GraphEdge's assertion that those followers who are following more than 2,000 people aren't "legitimate" because they aren't really monitoring your feed.  

I don't think those following more than 2,000 should be completely discounted.  After all, someone could be following you and not following the other 1,999 people.  And that someone could be really important to your targeted audience.

GraphEdge and other tools show much promise in figuring out what news orgs need to do with Twitter.  But it's going to take some time and a lot of effort.  Kaushik:  "Be willing to work hard. Be willing to put in the sweat equity. Be willing to try 45 things (tools/metrics/strategies) to find the three that work for you."

Ack!  Forty-five things to find three?  Unfortunately I think (actually, I know) he's right.  I'll be digging into Klout and GraphEdge, but I don't know if I'll be looking into 43 more things.  For news orgs, it might take more than that to find the magic three.