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Better Twitter Analytics for Nonprofits

The importance of measuring the effects of your organization’s social media outreach is not in question. But what metrics should you track? What analytics tools do you need? And what can you do with those numbers, once you’ve got them?

The whole point of social media measurement, after all, is to enable you to assess whether you're meeting your goals for social media, and to make your social media strategy more effective. I see this as basically a three-step process:

  1. Data Collection
  2. Analysis and Interpretation
  3. Action

More and more nonprofits are getting onto Twitter as it's now clearly entered the mainstream, so let's take that platform as our example.

Monitoring and Analytics Tools for Twitter

Twitter.com itself (and of course the desktop clients like Seesmic and Tweetdeck) will give you current data on basic measurements: Your account’s followers; how many people you’re following; how many tweets you’ve published in total; how many Twitter Lists you’ve created,  follow, or have been added to (and how many other people follow each of your lists); and how many direct messages you’ve received.

(Twitter’s off-again-on-again new Retweet feature attempts to add data on how many times you’ve retreated other people’s tweets and who has retweeted yours, but at the moment I don’t find it very useful: it will only show (some of) the actions made via the website’s Retweet button, and doesn’t seem to be very accurate at that.)

We’ve talked here from time to time about tools like SociafyQ.com, which tracks all your social networks and presents your basic followers/following type of data in a convenient graph format — giving a useful quick overview of growth trends over time — and about how to use shortened URLs to track clicks on your tweeted links, helping you to gauge what topics are of greatest interest to your Twitter audience.

You may also be interested in  Five Simple Ways Nonprofits Can Measure Social Media ROI (Return on Investment)  at Nonprofit Tech 2.0, as well as these two posts in particular from Beth Kanter, acknowledged queen of nonprofit social media: Using Metrics To Harvest Insights About Your Social Media Strategy and What are the best Twitter measurement tools and how are you using them?

There’s certainly no shortage of third-party Twitter analytics tools out there, and most of them are free or at least offer a free version. Here are some lists of Twitter tools you may want to explore:

Great… now, what do all those numbers mean?

The most detailed measurements are of limited use to us, in any practical way, without the next two steps in the process — Analysis and Interpretation, and Action.  Sounds a bit scary, doesn’t it? Like you’d need to put a half-dozen statisticians on the job…

I much prefer the way analytics expert Avinash Kaushik says it:

Most twitter analytics tools just do data puking…. You must pause and think: So what is this saying? What action can I take?

Now, that's concrete. Two simple questions that give focus to this whole business of measuring social media — and, most importantly, help to distinguish between truly useful metrics and, well, measurement for the sake of measurement. That's something we can work with!

In a must-read blog post called Social Media Analytics: Twitter: Quantitative & Qualitative Metrics,  Kaushik describes in detail his take on four new Twitter analytics tools that, he believes, show promise for delivering better, more useful data — numbers that give information you can actually use in creating and refining your social media strategy:

Over the next few days, we’ll look at each of these tools from the perspective of nonprofit organizations, with the focus firmly on Avinash Kaushik’s key questions — “What is this saying? What action can I take?” 

Let’s see if we can figure out together how these metrics can help your organization to use Twitter (and, by extention, other social media platforms) more effectively, whether your primary goal is awareness and public education, outreach and community building, or perhaps even fundraising.

Are you up for a brainstorming session?

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    Twitter Trackbacks for Wild Apricot Blog : Better Twitter Analytics for Nonprofits [wildapricot.com] on Topsy.com  said:

    Wednesday, 09 December 2009 at 9:46 AM
  • Joanne FritzJoanne Fritz

    Joanne Fritz said:

    Analytics...the word makes me shudder! I'm missing that part of the brain, but I'm going to follow you on this Rebecca and hope some of it sinks in.  Thanks!

    Wednesday, 09 December 2009 at 11:19 AM
  • Laura NorvigLaura Norvig

    Laura Norvig said:

    There are so many tools out there - thanks for breaking this down for us, Rebecca - I can't wait to learn more about these four tools. Right now I'm pretty much just using Bitly and also tracking follower growth over time.

    Wednesday, 09 December 2009 at 8:17 PM
  • John HaydonJohn Haydon

    John Haydon said:


    To me, stats tools fall into three categories based on their purpose:

    1. Traffic / clicks - Bit.Ly, Google Analytics
    2. Measuring one's effectiveness with Twitter - Tweetstats
    3. Measuring one's network - Mr. Tweet, Klout, Twitter-friends

    There are hundreds of tools out there for analysis. I just try and use two or three for each category.


    Thursday, 10 December 2009 at 8:26 AM
  • Rebecca said:

    Oh, c'mon, Joanne - it'll be fun!

    Laura, you're so right about the plethora of Twitter measuring tools out there. It's hard to know what to choose and what to look at, never mind what to do about what you're seeing.

    John, your breakdown is a useful way of batching the tools - but I'd love to hear your thoughts on how a nonprofit can best measure "effectiveness": what stats to look at there, and how to interpret them...

    What's behind this foray into Twitter metrics?

    Well, I have a suspicion - and this is based on some of the small nonprofits I belong to; your situation may well be very different - that many of us are settling for seeing an upward trend in the various numbers associated with Twitter use. Upward trends are terrific, but maybe we can find a way to extract more specific insights?

    I'm really intrigued by Avinash Kaushik's comment to the effect that new media / social media calls for new ways of looking at metrics:

    "Twitter is amongst new media channels that are challenging how we communicate, with whom we communicate and perhaps most fundamentally how we (Marketers) influence people.

    "Sadly execution and analysis of these new social media channels has been hobbled by old world thinking. When it comes to marketing because of the old world thinking from the worlds of Television and Magazines, and when it comes to measurement because of the world of traditional web analytics.

    "These new channels, Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and Tumblr and, yes, even blogs, are very distinct customer / participant experiences. Stale marketing or measurement thinking applied to them results in terribly sub optimal results for all involved."

    Pushing the envelope, as it were... ;)

    Thursday, 10 December 2009 at 9:10 AM
  • Beth KanterBeth Kanter

    Beth Kanter said:

    Rebecca:  Thanks for the ping.  Kismet!  I have a post about this in draft, but am having lunch next week Avanish.  I don't bother with all the puking data tools - they're pretty useless and a distraction.  I evaluate my strategy against metrics of two tools:

    Tweetmeme and twitanalyzer (google analytics plugin)

    How many people are clicking on the links to my content I share?

    What is the traffic referral to my site?

    What is the conversation referral to my site/content?

    Are people finding my tweets compelling enough to share with their networks?

    How does all this move the needled to my ultimate outcomes/objectives?

    Thursday, 10 December 2009 at 7:10 PM
  • Wild Apricot BlogWild Apricot Blog

    Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Twitter StreamGraphs is a Java-based visualization tool that gives you a colorful overview of the last 1000 tweets that come up in a search for any keyword, username, or list on Twitter. Pretty, yes, but is it truly useful for nonprofit organizations

    Monday, 14 December 2009 at 4:22 PM
  • Wild Apricot BlogWild Apricot Blog

    Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Among the new Twitter analytics tools, TweetPsych stands out for its very different perspective — it analyses the language of your tweets to create a "psychological profile" and to suggest other Twitter users who "think like you."

    Tuesday, 15 December 2009 at 5:48 AM
  • Marc A. Pitman, FundraisingCoach.comMarc A. Pitman, FundraisingCoach.com

    Marc A. Pitman, FundraisingCoach.com said:

    Thanks for posting this! I was just thinking about re-assessing how effective my Twitter use is toward reaching my goals!

    These tools will be interesting to explore. (I'm geeky that way.)

    Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 8:44 AM
  • Rebecca said:

    Beth, thanks for stopping by. Yes, that's always the key question, isn't it? "How does all this move the needled to my ultimate outcomes/objectives?" Tricky one, but all-important.

    Marc, I suspect you're not alone in putting a Twitter strategy reassessment on the New Year's "to do" list! ;-)

    Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 8:51 AM
  • John HaydonJohn Haydon

    John Haydon said:

    Rebecca - A nonprofit can best measure "effectiveness" by looking at engagement, mainly in the form of replies and retweets. You've covered all the tools, but it's good for non-profits to ask "Is anyone listening and interested in what we're talking about?

    Wednesday, 23 December 2009 at 7:52 AM
  • Rebecca said:

    John, thanks. I totally agree: Engagement is a nonprofit's best gauge of effectiveness in social media (along with measuring the resultant actions as best we can: tracking clicks via a URL shortener like bit.ly, for example, and noting the Twitter referrals in website analytics). In fact, the variety of metrics for measuring engagement are the main reason why I tend to favour Klout, personally, out of the four tools reviewed in this series.

    Wednesday, 23 December 2009 at 8:03 AM
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