While quite a few blogs have been written on twitter etiquette and there are some good blogs on using the right hashtag and creating your own hashtags, as luck would have it, I didn’t find many useful blogs on how to measure twitter hashtag reach.
Having already created the hashtag #vcircles to promote a new book, Virtuous Circles, published by the International Institute for Environment and Development on twitter and to encourage people to read and blog about it, it was important to have a plan for measuring reach. Admittedly doing this after the promotion began was a bit like rushing to close the stable door after the horse has bolted!
I found that most of the twitter analytics tools only provide real time searching and a lot of the good tools aren’t free. For example, Twapperkeeper used to provide a tweet archiving service, but now this service is to be part of Hootsuite Pro, which is a paid subscription package.
There are a number of tools that monitor the viewer numbers of a given twitter hashtag in real time for free:
Tweetreach On top of monitoring hashtag view numbers, the free version will also let you know how your tweets are divided between tweets, replies and retweets, how much attention each tweet got and who helped spread the word. For more information on how tweetreach can help you count the number of blog retweets read Phil Bradley’s blog
But, the biggest drawback of tweetreach and all the other tools mentioned above is that they only provide real time results or to your 50 most recent tweets. Tweetreach Pro allows you to generate twitter tracking with no time limits, but it costs money – the cheapest starting package is $84/ month. It isn’t a fortune, but given that I work in the non-profit sector I’d rather save money where I can.
The Archivist lets you create an archive of tweets. I found this late in my search, so I didn’t use this from the start and can’t share my experiences of it. But according to the FAQ you will see the last 500 tweets on the topic, which is much better than Tweetreach’s 50. The interface is clean and includes tweet volume, top users, tweets and retweets, and sources.
It collects data from the Twitter Search Application Programming Interface which it says means that it is subject to various limits and isn’t comprehensive. As an aside (and at the risk of suddenly sounding like a fireman), full access to twitter’s ‘fire hose’ supply of all public tweets is only for corporates with lots of money. The half hose alone is a mind-boggling US $360,000 and some of the big corporates like Google, Yahoo have paid considerably more than that for access to the full fire hose.
So, what are the free, effective tools that let you measure twitter hashtags over a longer stretch of time?
Twilert allows you to sign up and receive email notifications each time the hash tag is mentioned. You can set the frequency of the email alerts and, if you set this up in advance of launching your hashtag, and, if you keep all your emails, you have a comprehensive list of all hashtag mentions. While this is useful for ensuring things don’t fall through the cracks, you have to compile the data, and this can get onerous if you have a lot of retweets.
I give this my official ‘top tool’ stamp of approval as it helped me dig back further in twitter time to do some long-term analysis and track the hashtag over time, for free. It provided me with options to see tweets for #vcircles from the past hour, but it can also be set to more than a month before (mine currently goes back 36 days to when I set up the hashtag) or for all time. It lists out everyone who has retweeted from a hashtag, and the tweets are presented in an easy-to-read copy layout.
The Topsy Analytics tools allow you to generate comparisons of up to three different hashtags, @names or keywords at a time and for various time scales. My only issue is that it was a bit buggy – sometimes the pop up boxes on the analytics graph didn’t work, and I’d have to return later for some of the links to work. But, overall, if you’re on a tight budget working for a smallish organisation with limited resources this is a big help.
I’m sure I haven’t cracked this as there’s new tools cropping up all the time – so please let me know if you think there are better options. And thanks to everyone from the e-practitioner community who emailed their suggestions on how to do this – much of this is based on their ideas – find out more about their upcoming event.