Retweets: How to Track Success on Twitter

Old-school, traditional communications focused on “eyeballs”: How many people read a newspaper, listened to a radio station (“ears” rather than “eyes”), watched a TV show? As markets fragmented—niche magazines, speciality TV stations—so did traditional communications: how many men 18-25 earning more than $25,000 watch this TV show? This information provided communicators (OK, “advertisers”) with a way to measure reach while improved sales figures was how to measure effectiveness.

In a mass communication world, there is a logic to this.

Yet in the personalized, online world, there’s still an obsession with quantity and not quality. Specifically, using the number of Twitter followers as criteria for success.

Quantity Has a Quality All Its Own, But…

Granted, someone with 5 followers cannot match the influence of someone with several million, but few of us can be an Ashton, Barack or Oprah. So we tell people “Follow us on Twitter” and as that number creeps up, we feel good.

Should we?

In Marketing 101, we’re asked: If you’re doing a direct mailing campaign, would you rather have 10,000 random names and addresses or the names and addresses of 500 people in your target market?

The answer is the latter. We should apply the same thinking to Twitter.

Followers Measures Channel Marketing, Retweets Measures Channel Quality

The number of followers you have is a measure of how well you market your Twitter channel, not the channel’s ability to reach your target audience and serve as an effective communications medium.

A way to measure if you’re reaching the right people is to look at the number of retweets, not number of followers. Someone retweeting your message is an endorsement. It demonstrates the message has value since someone has passed it along to their followers.

A more important metric is not just the simple retweet, but how many people revise your tweet before retweeting? It’s one thing to click the “Retweet” link. It’s another to copy the message and add hastags or a note like “Good stuff” or “Good dose of common sense” (keep in mind this is the Web, where 5 seconds is forever). Such comments clearly demonstrate the value of your message to your followers in that a follower is commenting on it and/or revising the message so that it has relevance to their followers.

Even a negative comment, like “This guy has no clue > RT @MattMooreWrites Abandon the Web and return to typewriters!” shows this tweet has provoked a reaction strong enough to elicit an action.

Still Pay Attention to Followers

With all of that said, track your followers and, time permitting, check out what they’re tweeting. Do they seem to be the right people you want following you? If not, and you are not seeing any retweets, perhaps you need to re-think how you’re marketing your Twitter channel.


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