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Twitter Impressions Were Fraud: Part 1

Written by Spencer Sonaty and Brent Snyder

Twitter Impressions Are Were Fraud: Part 1

Have you ever wondered how many followers you gained from a well performing tweet, or which content improves your engagement rate? Honing the art of using metrics to shape your Twitter strategy should be a constant pursuit. This has been problematic for some time, though, for two main reasons: access to quality social data is very expensive, and measuring impressions as a base for performance has become fraught with pitfalls in recent years.

Twitter now provides accurate metrics to aid in the transparency of how tweets perform, so every Twitter user can gain insights about the content they are posting and the engagement it garners.

In today’s social environment engagement is a topline metric, but engagement is impossible without first generating impressions. Low engagement rates (engagements / impressions) have become the norm, but mainly due to a lack of data surrounding impressions. Impressions have previously been calculated as the number of people who could potentially see a tweet: (total followers x frequency). With the new dashboard on Twitter, impressions are reported as the number of times users were actually served a tweet; a combination of both a user’s followers, and non-followers who also found the tweet via search.

While this clarified view of impressions is monumental, Twitter also breaks out several different types of engagement, including: favorites, detail expands, user profile clicks, replies and retweets. In addition to these metrics, users can see impressions by hour, followers’ locations, gender and popular interests.

Reporting on actual impressions and distinct engagement types will result in more accurate reporting, and better understanding, of engagement rates. This level of insight is vitally important, as users will be able to learn what types of content to use, and when to use it, to better grow followership and engagement overall.

Check out part 2 next week to read how Twitter could be changing the digital ad landscape forever.

Twitter’s Redesigned Profile Page: An Update That is Purely Imitation

I obtained the new Twitter profile layout this past week and finally got to tinker and toy with the updated design on the profile page. After reading about the new aesthetics and seeing example account pages, I was excited about how I would be able to make the changes to my personal page.

While I do like the update, I was not completely blown away by all of the new features. The enlarged profile picture and banner image are nice touches, but the 1500 pixel x 500 pixel dimensions are not common for images. This made it very difficult to find a photo that fit neatly into the new banner.

The information bar below the header also includes a new “Favorites” section, showing the number of tweets that a user has “favorited.” While seemingly harmless, this opens up a glimpse into what types of tweets each user enjoys, almost like reading through the pages of someone’s social diary.

The one major issue I have with the new design function of Twitter’s profile page is the background. It is BORING! Below you can see a comparison of my Home page layout and the Me (profile) page. Notice anything drastically different?


OldTwitterIf you noticed the gray background on the profile page, you are correct! For 3 of the 4 page options in Twitter— The Home, Notifications and Discover pages—there is a background image, mine is a University of Michigan logo. However, the Profile page somehow does not include this, it is a simple, bland gray background.

To say I am making a mountain out of a molehill is understandable, but it is an odd, and hopefully overlooked, design flaw.

All of that said, I do like the overall changes that Twitter made. While somewhat minimal, I think this update keeps things fresh and offers a few new tools to help boost engagement. However, I believe there is a reason why these changes were not too alarming; they already existed.

Facebook is big brother when it comes to social media. With 1.28 Billion monthly active users, Facebook has over 5 times as many as Twitter, which has 241 Million monthly active users. Twitter has always found ways to incorporate features, tools, and UI concepts from Facebook into their platform, and this new profile design is no exception. Facebook actually introduced the full width cover photo first, launching it several years ago in 2011.


As seen above, the similarities between the Facebook profile page and my new Twitter profile are fairly obvious. Is there any other reason that Twitter is playing copycat other than the fact that they want to emulate the best performing social media platform out there? Likely not. One of Twitter’s primary goals is to grow its active user base, and by making design changes to court unregistered users, the platform hopes to lure the mainstream audiences who are comfortable with Facebook’s user interface.

As the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Twitter’s Newest Update: Enhanced Profiles and Tools for Better Engagement

The most utilized and prominent feature of Twitter.com is the timeline on your homepage. It consists of a stream of tweets, retweets, pictures and videos, supplying users with instantaneous news updates and information. This main, landing page houses most of the relevant information that Twitter is known for, and, from personal experience, the next most utilized feature is the Notifications page. Twitter is now attempting to change all of that and bring the “Me” page to the forefront. The company announced on its blog last Tuesday that they will be overhauling the look and feel of the personal profile page. The bio page is the only way to get a brief, personal description about the account and now Twitter is elevating it in the hopes that people can better utilize, visualize and engage with other users on the platform.

There are only a handful of changes, but there are major facelifts that will greatly alter the aesthetics and layout of the profile page. The enhanced header image now stretches the entire page and the profile avatar has also drastically increased in size. The bio text has been moved to the left column, while your account’s statistics—Tweets, photos/videos, followers, following—have been moved to a header directly under the banner image. Many websites and critics have noted how similar the new layout looks to another, prominent social media platform, Facebook.


That being said, Twitter has not only made improvements to the size of the web profile, it has also made enhancements to elements on the personal feed to spur engagement and conversation.

The Best Tweets feature highlights tweets posted that receive more engagement—replies, retweets and likes— will appear in a larger sized font relative to other tweets in your personal stream.

Users can also utilize a new Pinned Tweets tool in order to “pin” one of your own tweets of your choice to the top of the feed, which will help followers to see it and engage with it.

As an effortless way to sort through the over 400 Million tweets sent per day, users can use the  new Filtered Tweets feature to choose the timeline layout they want to view when reading another account’s tweets. Options include: Tweets, Tweets with photos/videos, or Tweets and replies.


The First Lady Twitter Page

So far, reaction to this new layout has been mixed. One of the most common comments has been that it is way to familiar, since it is a pretty blatant copy of Facebook’s profile page layout. As of April 14th, a poll conducted by Mashable provided mixed feedback on the new design, with 700 replying “Yes” to liking the new layout and 571 replying “No”.

Twitter began rolling out the new layout and features on Tuesday, April 8th and all 241 Million users will have it by April 22nd.

In addition many celebrities and notable, verified accounts have gotten early access to the new layout. Additionally, all new users who register a new handle will have the new design.

To get a glimpse of the new profile layout, check out some of the following Twitter accounts:

Twitter – @Twitter
The First Lady – @FLOTUS
John Legend – @johnlegend
Kerry Washington – @kerrywashington
The Man – @KeepPassingOpen (Mashable’s Test Handle)


Twitter’s Newest Feature!

Last week Twitter released an all-new feature for its multi-feed platform, TweetDeck. Now users can create custom timelines and handpick which Tweets to feature within them.  You may ask, ‘why would I want to handpick the tweets for my own feeds?’ The answer is simple. All feeds in TweetDeck are embeddable with a few easy clicks and basic knowledge of html.  

This update comes at a pivotal time when Twitter has the post-IPO itch to finally beat their bottom line and turn a profit. More and more ads are going to appear in users Twitter feeds. Custom functionality lets users decide what their audience sees; effectively allowing publishers to focus on sharing rich content and shuffle ads under the rug.

While it may seem overwhelming to be tasked with handpicking Tweets to load into the feed, the good news is that beta API access is available to chosen applicants. Those who receive access could potentially create scripts to auto-populate feeds usig the Logic functions within the TweetDeck Custom Timeline builder. These allow users to word match, filter users, and even filter types of Tweets that are shared (i.e. All Tweets, Tweets with images, Tweets with videos, Tweets with any media, Tweets with links, Retweets, etc.)

A few main uses come to mind when thinking of custom feeds:

  1. News Sources embedding a feed on their blog during a breaking story and having the ability add only Tweets from trusted sources.
  2. Highly followed content creators/sharers/aggregators who, for example, embed feeds to share their “Favorite Tweets in response to the Emmy award nominations.”
  3. Brand websites embedding feeds to feature real customers’ advocacy and praise of their products.

Regardless of how you choose to use a Custom TweetDeck Feed, it’s great to know that Twitter continues to innovate things that aren’t just to make them money.

Is Twitter Becoming a Giant Ad Stream?

Twitter is supposed to be about meeting interesting people and having conversation. At least that was what I loved about Twitter. I got to meet people from all over the world that I never would have met otherwise. There was nothing more exciting than having a dialogue with someone in Australia or Singapore, sharing ideas and passions around the globe was exhilarating.

But what happened to the conversation?

Of late, it seems like good old-fashioned chat is missing…all replaced by streams of brand messages, Twitter parties and giveaways. Yes, these are important to the survival of Twitter and it’s monetization and one can only imagine how much worse it will get once the IPO is finalized and even more focus will be put against sponsored content and adverting.

I wasn’t sure if it was just my imagination or something I was personally doing wrong, but I was missing the good old days when conversation was rampant. So I asked the question on Twitter.

The result? I blew up my Twitter stream for over an hour with many women voicing the same longing. I was not alone. We all longed for the days of chatting and sharing ideas, networking and meeting new people. The recent “Blue Line” feature did nothing, in my opinion to help conversation along. Most seasoned Twitter users know the beauty of hashtags for following group conversations so it added little value.

Twitter’s Challenge Will Be Balancing Profitability with Conversation

Twitter will need to create new tools that help balance dialogue, news, culture and real time ability to connect the world with advertising messages. If it turns into purely an ad stream, it will lose all credibility with its audience. And like all other advertising channels, users will tune out and ignore the advertising.

Brands leveraging Twitter’s dynamic stream need to balance sales and promotional messages with actual exchanges with their audiences that are personal and engaging.  Twitter parties can be great conversation vehicles if structured around topics that invite conversation that support what a brand stands for and are not just all about winning a prize.

If conversation leaves the Twitter stream, I believe that will bring about its demise and no amount of celebrity’s tweeting or advertising will save it.

The Value of Twitter Impressions

The values of Twitter impressions is pretty hotly debated – more so than the value of other impressions, like Facebook, or online advertising.  The nature of the Twitter feed means that at any given time, only a fraction of your followers are being exposed to your tweets.

The ephemeral nature of Twitter means that once a piece of content has been live long enough to fall below the threshold of how far people are willing to scroll down their feed, it’s effectively gone.  Facebook’s ranking algorithm can resurface content based on your profile.  Popular Pinterest content lives indefinitely on boards and in search.  Blog posts live forever, in many cases.  Twitter, however, is a unique creature – it’s immediate, and we, as users, have no expectations that the content will have a long-term value.

Part of the issue is that we use the term “Impressions” across all of these channels, but the value of those impressions vary wildly from one platform to another.  In advertising, impressions are identified only as the number of people who were able to potentially view a given ad or piece of content, and does not document or measure actual consumer behavior, or attention.  As with traditional media, there is no way to know who sees an ad in a magazine, or who pays attention to a commercial on TV.

However, given the large amounts of publicly available data for Twitter, specifically, and online media, in general, we have been able to better understand the consumer behavior that happens around engagement with tweets, and how those potential impressions convert into a measurable action.

For the purposes of this study, we are considering an engagement to be an @Reply or a Retweet on twitter, and consider them to be “conversion metrics,” in the same vein as a Facebook ad seeking “Likes” or engagement as a conversion metric.



To begin understanding viewership, we can look at the level of engagement in a random  sample* of 500,000 pieces of twitter content.

viewership, we can look at the level of engagement in a random  sample* of 500,000 pieces of twitter content.

Of this random sampling:

  • 55% of all tweets were Regular Tweets (not @replies or retweets)
  • 38% of all tweets were ReTweets
  • 7% of all tweets were @Replies

Given this set of information from our dataset, we see that 45% of all tweets are engagement, in some form or fashion.


In our example, Brand X has received 10,000 mentions on Twitter.

If 45% of tweets generate a response, and the average number of followers of a twitter use is 208**:

  • 10,000 tweets generates 2MM impressions
  • 4,500 of tweets were engagement = 900K impressions of engaged content
  • 5,500 tweets are original – 1.1MM impressions of original content
  • 0.4% of original impressions engage/convert
Conversion Ratios

Conversion Ratios

Google Average Conversion Ratio: 0.4%

Facebook Average Conversion Ratio (Click or Like): 0.1%

Twitter Average Conversion Ratio (Reply or RT): 0.4%

Twitter Average Click-Thru Conversion Ratio**: 0.55 – 1.45%

Twitter Impression Value

There is no question that many measured Twitter impressions go unrealized.  However, based on these findings, we find no reason to believe that Twitter Impressions’ value is less than the more directly measured impressions from Google Ads or Facebook Ads/Promoted Posts.  In the case of Click-Thru Rate, in fact, Twitter Impressions represent an even greater value and potential to convert than traditional ads.


*Random sample consisted of a random selection of 500,000 tweets returned from a combined Twitter Query of a selection of generic conversation words like “what” and “hey,” as well as top topics, including “Obama,” “Bieber,” “social,” “twitter,” etc.  When repeating the random selection, there was a less than 1% variation.

**Source: 208 – Beevolve Twitter Research: http://www.beevolve.com/twitter-statistics/   308 – CB Research with Sysomos

***Sign-up.to – What Results Should You Expect from Twitter Marketing: http://www.sign-up.to/blog/2012/10/24/twitter-marketing-what-results-should-you-expect-infographic/

***Sign-up.to – What Results Should You Expect from Twitter Marketing: http://www.sign-up.to/blog/2012/10/24/twitter-marketing-what-results-should-you-expect-infographic/


Twitter Hashtags – Do’s and Don’ts

We see hashtags and use twitter hashtags all the time, but what is the best hashtag etiquette?

Hashtags on Twitter can be useful tools in helping us to:

* Find Information on specific topics
* Follow twitter parties
* Analyze data
* Follow conversations
* Find out breaking news

It’s no wonder that Brands would want to utilize the power of hashtags.  But what makes a good hashtag? One that will spark you to act on that tweet and click on the link? Isn’t that what the Brands want? They want you to see the post that explains their service or products, they want you to think about the product and buy it now or in the future.

There are two thoughts about picking a well known hashtag vs a unique hashtag

1) If you pick a well known hashtag that has a great following, your content will be seen by many more people. However, you can also get into trouble by people feeling you have “highjacked” the hashtag if you have too much content flowing into the stream. That will create a negative tone and could backfire on you.

2) If you pick a unique, unused hashtag, then it will be easy to follow the analytics, and your stream will be pretty clean of content not related to your topic, making it easy for you to follow along.

Rules of thumb for a good hashtag (based on data I have found and from thoughts from the shoppers who need to click on them)

1) Keep the hashtag short (Under 10 characters – remember you only have max 140 characters, and if you want RT’s, keep them to under 122   characters).
2) No more than two hashtags in the tweet
3) Make the hashtag understandable
4) The Brand Name does not have to be in the tweet
5) Don’t duplicate the #hashtag for the same twitter handle.
6) Make the hashtag funny and catchy if possible.

Some of our Social Fabric Community Weighted in with their thoughts. These are the people that will be clicking on (or not clicking on) the tweets.. so Brands – listen up.

Here are the questions I asked the community:



Here are the responses I got… are you ready? I think they are great.

Janet from Going Crazy


Chrysa from Thrifty Jinxy

hashtag Chrysa

Carolyn from This Talk Ain’t Cheap

hashtag Carolyn

Christy from Insanity Is Not An Option

hashtag christy

Christine from The Cupcake Bandit

hashtag Christine

Amy from As The Bunny Hops

hashtag amy

Jackie from Aging Backwards

hashtag Jackie

Mallery from Mallery’s Deals

hashtag Mallery

April from Aprils Cooking and LifeStyle Show

hashtag April


Diane from Turning The Clock Back 

hashtag Diane

Michelle from Honest And Truly

hashtag Michelle

Heather from Living On Love and Cents

hashtag heather


I think the most key take away points are to keep the hashtags that are fun, clever and short.  If you want to draw someone into your tweet, to engage, RT and click on the link; then they’ve got to be interesting and worth clicking on.

Now We’re Cooking Social Media…With Gas!

Last week I had the privilege of speaking about social media to a group of marketing and communications professionals at the Southern Gas Association Marketing and Customer Experience Conference.

I’ve given similar presentations a number of times in the past and led a discussion not dissimilar from those we have with clients. Social media and content marketing are not the tools like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest that get all the attention from mainstream media. Effective social strategies create real relationships between your brand and your customers or clients. Companies who understand this leverage those headline-generating tools to add value to their customers’ lives.

At the SGA event, I found myself in a room of 30 or so folks all wondering how to use social to talk about more than utility rates and service outages in a heavily regulated industry. We discussed the role that Twitter can play in crisis communications; in times of true emergencies, companies and citizens alike publish news via this microblogging platform at lightening speeds compared to the broadcast news. Pinterest also came up as a highly engaging way to add value for gas customers. Imagine a company that posted photos of innovative kitchen designs (that featured gas appliances) or that showcased new homes with the latest energy efficient technologies (many of which may have nothing to do with natural gas.)

Companies that move in this direction will win as they transform in customer’s eyes from a standard provider of a commodity product into a trusted resource for inspiration and information. As our session ended, the attendees left the room with more questions than when they arrived, and that was a good thing. Instead of seeking the next new widget to put on their website, they left thinking about how to engage their customers in a conversation…one that leads to real relationships and adds value for everyone.

Shopping Begins Online

More than ever, the shopping process begins online. Average people search Google to find product reviews before ever leaving their home. They go to retail websites, blogs and ask their online friends looking for opinions about the product they are looking to purchase.

The other day I received a text from a friend who is not a blogger and is typically very un-techy. She had gone online to research and read product reviews on a blog before choosing a particular makeup product. She thanked me profusely and said that without my influence she would have not known to do that.

That incident reinforced everything I believe about shopping today; modern consumers value information about products before they purchase and not just information provided by the company.  They look for real reviews by real consumers and see bloggers as a trusted source.

Although the consumers reading blogs may not know the blogger personally, the relationship cultivated through the blogger’s product reviews, recipes and personal stories become real to the consumer. Bloggers interact with their readers either through comments, email or social media outlets. (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest are primary traffic drivers today.) When a consumer connects personally with a blogger, they become loyal to what the blogger promotes because of a relationship built on trust.

Brands have become increasingly aware of content marketing and are scrambling to keep up with this change in consumer behavior. Recently, the Harvard Business Review did a piece on this sharing, “…today consumers are more promiscuous in their brand relationships: they connect with myriad brands, through media channels beyond the manufacturer’s or retailer’s control or even knowledge”.

This market shift benefits the consumer, but many brands have been slow to respond to it. Brands that have succeeded during this change have gotten on board with blogging and the social world, reaching out for honest opinions to be shared with these micro-publishers’ loyal consumers.

Relationship Killers: Four of the WORST Mistakes Brands Make in Social Media

The biggest goal for any brand delving into social media should be to develop quality, productive relationships. That’s the bottom line. However, many brands still “don’t get it,” and consistently make mistakes that are damaging to them in social media and therefore damaging to their brand. In my opinion, there are four big no-no’s that not only kill those all-important relationships, but also tarnish your reputation:

1. Broadcasting:  Blasting out sales messages rather than listening and engaging has got to be the number one relationship killer of all time. Bar none. People hate to be sold—especially on social channels, where their main objective is to talk, get opinions, relax and have fun, or find answers to pressing problems. When a brand spends the majority of its time broadcasting, it’s a clear message to followers that they’re not interested in real, two-way communication.

Listening should be your first priority, followed by engagement. Don’t try to sell to people until you’ve earned their trust!

2. Taking Followers Offline to Resolve Issues:  If someone has a problem and comes to your social presence to try to get it resolved, the worst thing you can do is shunt them off to a customer service contact with a “form letter” response. Too often I see… “follow us so we can DM you,” on Twitter, or a quick move to traditional customer service channels on Facebook. People have an innate need to be validated—and “showing them the hand” is the fastest way to sour a customer relationship. Sometimes there are things that have to be resolved offline for legal issues, but the majority of complaints or requests for help should be addressed promptly and publicly in social channels. At the very least, if you MUST send them offline, do so in a friendly, personal manner. Address them by name, thank them for bringing the problem to your attention, and so on. Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes—how do you feel when you’re ignored or made to jump through hoops by a company you deal with?

Responding publicly has another important, beneficial, and cost saving benefit. Other people with the same issue, and you can/should assume there are many more, can receive resolution via your response, and see how you interact… and then make their own judgments about your brand character based on those interactions. If you’re doing it right, you will build brand advocates in the process, and when/if needed your best brand advocates will support you when they see that kind of open, honest communication.

3. Having No Brand Personality:  People who spend time on social media like to spend time with people—not logos. If you have a team of employees handling your social responses, don’t make them hide behind the brand logo when they interact with followers—give them a voice and a face. Ford does a great job of this with @ScottMonty building his personal brand along with theirs. Scott interacts with followers as himself, not the Ford brand. This humanizes the brand and fosters good communication. Being able to see the team members behind the company and interacting with them personally makes a big difference in fan loyalty.

When a company censors its employees and doesn’t allow them to participate in social discussion surrounding the brand, it’s usually because they’re afraid of “what might happen if…” They’re afraid they’ll spend too much time on social or say the wrong things. These issues can be resolved with a comprehensive social media policy so all employees know how and when they can and should interact. Remember, your employees should be some of your best advocates, and a natural extension of your “public face.”  You can’t do social right with employee censorship. Your people are your company’s personality. Let them shine for you. And… if you don’t trust your employees, maybe you have the wrong employees, or a business approach that will be difficult to sustain in this hyper-connected world.

4.  Making Social a Direct Marketing Channel:  Can you develop a relationship with a piece of direct mail? A TV commercial? A newspaper ad? An email blast? Of course not! Yet many brands treat social as an extension of their direct marketing efforts—mainly because that’s all they know. They’re used to handing off their marketing to an advertising agency and having them run with it so they can get on with their day. They think in terms of ROI formulas, but falter when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of one-on-one networking.  If that’s you, don’t feel too bad—it’s a habit that’s been drummed into you and hard to break. But you’ve got to break it! Adopt a whole new mindset around social, and think in terms of building relationships and an emotional connection to your brand, or you’ll always be frustrated with your results. Remember… Social Media drives engagement, engagement drives loyalty, and loyalty correlates directly to increased sales. Return on Relationship™ = ROI.

This goes back to the “Broadcasting” mistake I mentioned earlier. Think in terms of providing helpful content, fun ways to communicate, sharing information and asking questions. Leave the direct marketing stuff in traditional channels. Get a sense of who your audience is and give them what they’re looking for in your social communications, or you’ll get “un-followed” or ignored in a hurry.

What other “relationship killers” have you come across when dealing with brands online, and how do you think they could be avoided? Conversely, which brands have you noticed that are “getting it right” in social media when it comes to Return on Relationship™?

Originally posted at TedRubin.com