Just Like Facebook, Twitter’s New Impression Stats Suggest Few Followers See What’s Tweeted

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Twitter has new analytics available that let anyone understand exactly how viewed their tweets are. Those stats also clear something else up. Just like Facebook, what you share on Twitter isn’t seen by all your followers.

Facebook has been under fire for over a year as brands have noticed that their posts have gotten less engagement than in the past. A common reaction is that Facebook’s news feed shouldn’t be artificially deciding what to show to a brand’s followers. “Just show everything, like Twitter does it,” is a general refrain.

Twitter even took a shot at Facebook over this, in its blog post today announcing the new impression statistics:

On Twitter, nothing comes between your Tweets and your followers.

The Myth That Twitter Shows Everything

The reality is that Twitter has never shown everything a brand (or anyone on Twitter) tweets to all a brand’s followers. Unlike Facebook, that’s not because Twitter is trying to filter tweets in order to somehow show what it considers the “best” stuff. Rather, it’s a consequence that it’s never the case that all of a brand’s followers will be on Twitter at the same time, all seeing each tweet that goes out.

As I explained last year, Twitter is sort of the “live TV” of social media, which means that if you’re not tuned in to catch a particular tweet live, then you’ve missed it. As I wrote:

Twitter shows you everything posted by those you follow: news, thoughts from friends, pictures and more. You dip in and out as you like. But similar to live TV, when you turn it off — when you’re not actively watching Twitter — then you’re missing everything.

Those 10 or 100 or 1,000 accounts you follow? Even though Twitter shows you everything from them, unlike Facebook, you’ll largely miss whatever they do if you’re not watching Twitter constantly.

Low Single-Digit Impressions?

Those who believe in the “Facebook should show everything” concept want Facebook to do what Twitter does — put their Facebook posts out in front of everyone who follows them. But Twitter’s new impression stats allow me to illustrate with actual numbers that even if this were done, their posts might not be as widely seen as they think.

I have 390,000 people who follow me on Twitter. Potentially, all of them will see what I tweet. How did that work out for this joke I made today about all the tweets happening in relation to LeBron James on Twitter? Here are my stats:

twitter analytics stats

You’ll see three numbers shown there. The first is most important, that 7,195 people were estimated to have seen my tweet. That’s 7,195 people out of 390,000 who follow me, or a 1.85% impression rate. An important note: this only counts tweets through Twitter’s own web site and mobile apps, so there might be some additional viewing. But it’s probably not that much more.

Anyone still think that everyone sees everything on Twitter? Those other numbers, by the way, mean that there were 360 people who engaged in some way with my tweet, such as retweeting, replying or following. That percentage is my engagement rate for the tweet, 5%.

Engagement Rates Below 1%?

That 5% engagement rate sounds pretty good, but it’s based only on the 7,195 people who actually saw my tweet. What’s the engagement rate for my overall audience of 390,000? That’s 0.1%, rounded up from 0.0923%.

Facebook, when it gets slammed for low engagement, is typically suffering because people take the overall potential audience on Facebook and use that to calculate an engagement rate. To compare Twitter engagement to Facebook (something we might do in a follow-up story), you need to use the overall audience.

If you think the example above is somehow unusual, consider these:

Twitter engagement

Those are all tweets that I did during the USA-Germany World Cup match. They reflect something that seems to be true for most of my tweets on any given day for about any particular subject: somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 of my followers will see them, or a 1.3% to 2.6% impression rate.

That screenshot above also shows one of the few exceptions I spotted over the past week, where one tweet particularly resonated with my audience. But with 16,075 impressions, that’s still only a 4.1% visibility rate.

(By the way, dealing with these new stats would be much easier if Twitter allowed you to sort tweets from highest-to-lowest for impressions, engagement and engagement rate).

Is It Different For Others?

Of course, maybe it’s just me! I’m trying to gather some stats from other publishers, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t just something happening to me personally.

For example, consider these stats from our Search Engine Land Twitter account, which has 259,000 followers:

search engine land twitter stats

Of the three tweets above, the most viewed tweet with 8,942 impressions was only seen by 3.45% of our followers. Our best overall engagement rate in the examples above, based on total followers, was 0.03%.

BuzzFeed Scores 22% Impression Rate?

Here’s another example, using data that Twitter shared in its post for BuzzFeed (there’s a chance this isn’t real data, but it sure looks real rather than a mockup):

buzzfeed tweets

In that example, we can see one of the BuzzFeed tweets stands out for having many more impressions than the others, 225,054. BuzzFeed’s account has 1.02 million Twitter followers, so this means BuzzFeed earned a 22% overall impression rate.

That’s pretty impressive, and even more so if high rates like that are common among publishers. But even if they are, it’s still a case where most of the publisher’s followers are not seeing a particular tweet.

Tweet & Tweet Again To Reach 30% Of Your Audience

Twitter’s own post suggests that high visibility isn’t common. Consider this from it wrote today:

We saw that brands that tweet two to three times per day can typically reach an audience size that’s equal to 30% of their follower base during a given week. This indicates that Tweet consistency is a key factor when it comes to maximizing your organic reach on Twitter.

Twitter’s post began saying there was nothing between Twitter and your audience. But even Twitter acknowledges that you may have to tweet 14-21 times in a week in hopes of reaching only 30% of your total audience.

Twitter did call out that Wheat Thins apparently managed to tweet 14 times in a week, twice per day, to reach nearly its entire audience while Trident Gum tweeted 21 times in a week (3 times per day) and managed to reach five-times its audience.

What’s not clear is whether this is what can be typical for brand accounts or whether these accounts just had tweets that went viral, racking up an unusual number of impressions.

More Than Just Individual Impressions

It’s easy to focus on the performance of a particular post on Facebook, see low numbers and then declare that “organic reach is 100% dead,” as some have done. With Twitter’s new stats, it can now come under the same fire.

But those individual impressions can add up. Exactly as Twitter’s post says, tweeting often means that over the course of a month, you might reach a substantial audience. For example, over the past month, tweets to our Search Engine Land followers have generated over four million impressions:

Tweet_Activity_analytics_for_sengineland 2

Focusing on the performance of a single tweet or post is almost like focusing too much on how you rank for a particular term on Google. It can cause you to lose track of the bigger picture, of how you’re performing overall.

And More Than Just Impressions

When it comes to Facebook, our reach for the same period was about 900,000. So our Facebook posts were seen by about 1/5th the number of people on Twitter, which could make one assume that Twitter is the better social platform.

In reality, the answer is more complicated. Like many publishers, we share far less on Facebook than on Twitter. Increasing our share rate might increase our overall reach.

More important, however, is that one of our key hopes with social sharing is to drive traffic back to our site. According to Twitter’s stats, those 4.4 million impressions generated 7,300 clicks to our content. But Facebook, with far less impressions, generated 10 times that number of clicks to our content, about 70,000 over the past month.

What each publisher or brand hopes to get from each social network will vary. For us, both Facebook and Twitter are valuable — and that’s because we don’t focus on the performance of individual posts or tweets to measure success. We might look at those as ways to see what can be done to improve overall performance, but it is the overall metrics that are our guide.

Some Takeaways

Since I always understood that not everyone saw all my tweets, I’m not upset by these new stats — though the impression are much lower than I would have thought. But the real takeaways for marketers are, I’d say:

  • Stop complaining that Facebook should change, because if it showed everything just like Twitter does, your impressions & engagement might not rise
  • Make sure you do second-chance tweets and more, because most of your Twitter audience didn’t see what you shared the first time
  • Consider more second-chance posts on Facebook, perhaps, because if most of your audience isn’t seeing posts the first time, you might not be losing much trying again

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Facebook: News Feed | Features & Analysis | Top News | Twitter | Twitter: Analytics

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About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    The easiest way to see how many people are paying attention to your tweets is to unleash a Tweetstorn and count the Unfollows.

  • Dan Shure

    Nice writeup as always! – but isn’t the difference with facebook that they pro-actively suppress the chance of your posts being seen? Twitter’s percentage is simply based upon timing, “followers” who haven’t logged in in months etc.

    These percentages aren’t surprising – I did an analysis of Ben Folds followers back in 2012 – and came up with generally the same impression % (less than 10%) http://www.evolvingseo.com/2012/10/22/ben-folds-twitter-analytics-with-followerwonk/

    Also if you export the report you can do the sorting mentioned. And there’s TONS of metrics in the export actually, including user profile clicks, detail clicks, hashtag clicks. My export went back to about Oct 2013 – not sure if they go back a certain # of tweets, or by date.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Facebook filters what it shown; Twitter does not. The end result is the same. If Facebook didn’t filter and just did a “first in, last out” approach, there would be a constantly flowing stream of posts — just like Twitter. And just like Twitter, people would miss many of these posts, because people aren’t constantly on Facebook or working to “catch up” on what they’ve missed.

    But because people, until now, could only see the overall views for posts on Facebook, they focused on those figures — which give a low impression rate — to mistakenly assume that if Facebook would just show everything, they’d get more impressions.

    Now that we have impression figures from Twitter, we can see what would happen if Facebook changed with real metrics — and metrics that suggest you’d still have low impressions.

  • Dan Shure

    Thanks! Yes, I think we’re on the same page about the end result being the same. I’m just not sure I like facebook’s method and prefer how it happens more naturally on Twitter.

  • http://busterbenson.com/ Buster Benson

    We go back to October 1st unless you have 3200+ Tweets since then, in which case we only include the last 3200 Tweets.

  • Dan Shure

    Thanks – pretty impressed to get a reply from Twitter, actually.

  • http://busterbenson.com/ Buster Benson

    Any time. :)

  • http://tomdavenport.co.uk PlayMusic

    “One of the BuzzFeed tweets stands out for having many more impressions than the others, 225,054. BuzzFeed’s account has 1.02 million Twitter followers, so this means BuzzFeed earned a 22% overall impression rate.”

    Not quite right: a lot of those interactions are probably retweets. A retweet increases the impression rate. Impressions are not only from your followers, they can be from others who see retweets.

  • Pat Grady

    Every store I ever shopped at, maybe even just visited, or store’s related to or somewhat similar to something I visited, wants to “engage” me, using tactics that scale for them… silly math, from the consumer’s perspective. I think of this, as the “getting to know each raindrop” conundrum. Each raindrop wondering how they can get you to engage with them… while each person wants a bigger umbrella…

  • Katherine Watier Ong

    That’s because Twitter personalizes its Twitter stream to each of it’s users. I cover how Twitter uses advanced machine learning in my series of posts about social media personlization: http://watier.org/katherine/social-media-personalization-twitter/

  • Dan Shure

    This was very interesting, and I watched a lot of the video in the link about machine learning. I just didn’t see him mention anything really about someone’s home stream. He mentioned searches, who to follow, spam, discover, etc – was there something about someone’s home stream specifically?

  • http://www.mybirthdaye.com mybirthdaye

    That is very amusing to note. I got the reasons for the less engagement on my post on facebook. I will experiment on facebook to see if it drives me more engagement with same post more than once.

    I often see this in youtube, big brands changing thumbnail to attract variety of advertisers.

    With all this stats, one can now stop complaining about the less engagement in facebook. Informative post, I found it on Kingged.

  • Katherine Watier Ong

    Related to the home feed, Twitter has not published that they are personalizing it to the end user, but I have seen anecdotal evidence that they might be, and there are articles around an overall trend related to Twitter testing personalization in the home feed: http://www.psfk.com/2013/10/personalized-twitter-feeds.html#!beUpi8

    At the very least, I am clearly seeing certain tweets in my feed because those tweets have already been interacted with by those in my Twitter network.

    There is too much content being generated on each social media network and they are all working on using machine learning to personalize to the end user in one fashion or another.

  • Dan Shure

    Thanks – yeah I guess b/c I only have 102 people in my home feed, I doubt my feed is filtered. But I could see this happening for people following maybe 500+ people – I would love to somehow test to verify! Maybe other people just assuming this is happening, but it would seem like big news to me.

  • snowyphile

    It was nonsense, anyway.

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org Paul Steinbrueck

    One of the big differences between Facebook and Twitter is that nearly all Facebook posts are viewed on Facebook whereas the most active Twitter users view tweets on 3rd part apps like HootSuite. Seems like for that reason Twitter’s analytics dramatically under count the actual views and engagement, no?

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I haven’t seen stats that breakdown the percentage of people viewing tweets outside of Twitter’s own site and apps. But I suspect that’s actually fairly low, especially for the typical non-social media marketing types that most social media marketers are trying to reach. But let’s assume that at least half of those using Twitter do so with third-party options not tracked. Double the figures above, and they’re still pretty low.

  • http://voidstar.com/ jbond

    Twitter = WOM; Write-Only-Media

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org Paul Steinbrueck

    Thanks for replying Danny. That’s a fair point, though, I think for the Twitter stats to be really useful at some point we’ll have to do better than assume what they don’t include.

    I don’t know about other folks, but I follow people on Twitter for totally different reasons than I “like” a Facebook page. When I “like” a FB page it’s because I’m genuinely interested in seeing that organization’s FB updates. But when I follow someone on Twitter, it’s so they can DM me. For people/brands that I really want to see their updates, I add them to one of the lists I check. So, I follow 70k+ people but I’m really only watching a couple hundred.

    If other people have the same strategy, that inflates Twitter follow numbers which pushes down engagement %. So, I’m much more interested in actual views on FB & Twitter than %

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