Wild Apricot Blog

View: Tags | Archives

What Can StreamGraphs Tell You About Your Nonprofit's Twitter Strategy?

Lori Halley 13 December 2009 6 comments

This is the first of four innovative tools we're looking at in the Better Twitter Analytics series, seeking a new way of looking at data to help you shape and improve your nonprofit's social media strategy.

Twitter StreamGraphs is a Java-based visualization tool that can give you a quick overview of the last 1000 tweets around any search term on Twitter — and that includes usernames and Twitter lists.

Twitter StreamGraphs website screenshotPut in your search term, your username with @ in front of it, or @username/list and what you get back, assuming that you have Java enabled on your browser, is a colorful visualization of the tweets related to your search.

Each of the curving areas in different colors represents a different related word. Click on any one of those to see specific tweets listed at the bottom of the page. Along the bottom of the graph you’ll see the dates, and you can click on any of those to change which day’s tweets you’re looking at.

So, basically, Twitter StreamGraphs is a search tool that gives you another way to visualize the results you get when you search for any keyword on Twitter.

Pretty, yes, but is it useful?

When I first came across Twitter StreamGraphs a couple weeks ago, I have to admit that I dismissed it as an interesting toy. Maybe it was the color choice — pinks and purples — which I found hard to take seriously! But when an analytics guru finds a tool interesting, you know it probably warrants a closer look. So, we’re taking Avinash Kaushik’s practical approach to social media analytics here, where you want to ask yourself two simple questions:

  • What is this saying?
  • What action can I take?

For an example, let’s take Toastmasters International. It’s one of those surprisingly rare cases where the Twitter username and the name by which most people know the organization are the same, which simplifies things a whole lot!

First, have a look at the StreamGraph for tweets coming from the Twitter username @Toastmaster, to get an overview of the messages put out by the organization on Twitter:

Twitter StreamGraph for @Toastmasters

It looks like @Toastmasters has been running a trivia contest to highlight the 85th anniversary of the organization, to judge by the dominant keywords:

  • Anniversary
  • Trivia
  • Question
  • Smedley
  • 85th

Let’s set aside the obvious contest-related words — it’s probably safe to assume this is promotion of a one-time event, not typical of the account’s tweeting patterns — and look at the rest of the keywords that show up most prominantly:

  • Toastmasters
  • Tips
  • Job
  • Speech
  • Club
  • Meeting

What do the keywords here convey about the organization?  How well does the content of the tweets correspond with the messages the organization puts out on its website and through other channels? In short, do the tweets reflect the brand? If not, there's an action for you!

Now, what are other people saying about the organization on Twitter?

That’s where StreamGraph number two comes in. Here’s what we get for a simple search on “Toastmasters” as a keyword:

Twitter StreamGraph for keyword Toastmasters

Some of the most obvious keywords that jump out from this graph are:

  • Toastmasters
  • Club
  • Speech
  • Meeting
  • Public
  • Speaking
  • Training

So, how does this content overview differ from the message that @Toastmasters is putting out, and where do the two sets of terms overlap?

Click on a few dates on the StreamGraph to check out the corresponding tweets… What does this content tell us about the primary interests and concerns of @Toastmasters’ target audience? 

Is there an untapped area of interest that could/should be addressed?  If so, it might be worthwhile for the organization to do a bit of experimenting — changing the wording of tweets to align more closely with the keywords used by the audience, and keeping in mind the interest of the audience in deciding what content to tweet.

No organization is associated with one simple keyword, of course — not even when that keyword is its name. For a more complete analysis of your own nonprofit’s Twitter presence, you’d want to add at least one or two more graphs for comparison, scouting for keywords related to your mission and clicking on individual words in the StreamGraphs to find related terms people are using around that topic and what they’re actually saying.

two Twitter StreamGraphsBut the words are only one part of the visualization. Take a look at the two graphs together:

Remember, each graph covers just the last 1000 tweets. The @Toastmasters account covers a date range of July 13th to December 11th (the day I grabbed this screenshot), while the second graph, showing the last 1000 public tweets using the word “Toastmasters,” only goes back to December 3rd.

What do the pictures tell us?

Clearly, the volume of tweets about the organization by far outweighs those coming from the organization. That is to be expected, however: After all, it’s one voice compared to many voices.

It would be nice to be able to compare date for date, to see if there's a correlation, but the volume of tweets is too different between the two search terms, so the resulting graphs are way out of scale. That's something to keep in mind for your own nonprofit, however, if your tweets and those related to your keyword search are somewhat more equal, which is more likely to be the case with a smaller organization, with a smaller membership/audience, and with a more targeted keyword search.

A little clicking around reveals that many of the general tweets including the keyword "Toastmasters" are location-specific. This is not surprising, perhaps, as an international organization tends to interact most directly and most often with its members at the local club level — that’s often where the most immediate “relationships” are developed with members, day to day.

To zero in on that local level, we could repeat the Twitter StreamGraph analysis with user accounts for local clubs or chapters, to

  1.  look at what the local clubs are doing on Twitter, compared with the parent organization, and
  2.  compare the club accounts’ content with their own local audiences.

For example, the Toronto Toastmasters might generate a StreamGraph for their Twitter username (@TOToastmasters), and compare that the results for search terms such as “Toronto Toastmasters” and “Toronto public speaking.”

Twitter StreamGraph for @TOToastmastersAgain, we’d want to look at the dominant keywords, and how well the outgoing messages match with what is of most interest to the audience.

What else might you do with this tool?

If you are using a unique hashtag to track a campaign, you could generate a StreamGraph for your hashtag (without the # sign — this tool doesn’t seem to be able to handle the special character) and see if there’s a relationship between the frequency of “outside” mentions of that hashtag with the pattern of your organization’s tweets.

Looking at the audience use of keywords and the specific tweets, too, you might be able to gain a sense of whether they’re getting their questions answered, which might suggest topics for future tweets.

And again, it might be useful to adapt the club’s Twitter content to more closely align with keywords that come up in the general conversation of the target audience. Worth a try?

Another action might be to explore whether audience tweets about the topic pick up when the organization increases its tweeting frequency.  If so, that’s probably a good clue as to what’s working for you on Twitter and what’s not...

This isn’t the kind of data you can quantify easily and take into the boardroom, but if you’re the person in charge of your nonprofit’s Twitter strategy, there are useful insights to be gleaned from a little quality time with the Twitter StreamGraphs tool.  I’ve just skimmed the surface here, with the focus on comparing the organization’s outgoing messages with what’s going on in the audience and looking for points of relevance. We haven't even looked at what a Twitter Lists search might turn up!

But now it’s your turn to play —

How could your organization use Twitter StreamGraphs?  What other information could be extracted, to help you make your nonprofit's Twitter strategy more effective?


Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Sunday, 13 December 2009 at 12:26 AM


  • Twitter Trackbacks for Wild Apricot Blog : What Can StreamGraphs Tell You About Your Nonprofit's Twitter Strategy? [wildapricot.com] on Topsy.com  said:

    Saturday, 12 December 2009 at 4:11 PM
  • uberVU - social comments said:

    Sunday, 13 December 2009 at 4:26 AM

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by rjleaman: Wild Apricot Blog : What Can StreamGraphs Tell You About Your Nonprofit's Twitter Strategy? http://bit.ly/891aMq

  • Avinash Kaushik said:

    Sunday, 13 December 2009 at 10:09 PM


    This is an excellent deep dive into StreamGraphs!! I learned a couple of new ideas that I had not thought of.

    Thank you,


  • Newsletter templates said:

    Monday, 14 December 2009 at 2:15 AM

    Wow ! that’s great …..hope to expect more.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Monday, 14 December 2009 at 4:21 AM

    Avinash, thank you for inspiring the deep dive - and making analytics fun!

  • Jeff Hurt said:

    Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 8:53 AM

    I'll be playing for this for a while to see how it works and what I could do with it. Thanks for the tip and post about it!

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

Search: WildApricot.com 

About results ( seconds) Sort by: 
Sorry, an error occured when performing search.
Scroll to top