This Post is UPDATED as of March 27, 2015.
If there’s anything that’s constant on the Web, it’s change. So it came as no surprise to us when Twitter confirmed that Google now has access to its Tweet database ‘Firehose’ (yet again); soon making Tweets searchable on the search engine giant. Good news indeed, especially for non-subscribers who wish to remain updated without having to log in (although it will be more fun if you could join us!). Once the new system is implemented – which won’t be until a couple more months – it’s expected to boost Twitter’s population as we know it.
When this news officially came out, our teams predicted Twitter would make changes of its own in lieu of creating a better user experience for all. Little did we know that it will employ these modifications sooner than we’d hoped. If you’re like us, you have probably seen something different – especially with your Twitter analytics lately.
About a month ago, we set up a little experiment to see how Twitter responds to different types of engagement. We wanted to study the effects of real, live action versus automation (using third party applications); and if there’s an effect on analytic results. We utilized test profiles for this purpose.
By now, we already know that it’s not just how much followers you have, but also how much they engage with you. It’s no use having a thousand audiences if only about 1% of them cares enough to interact with your brand (through @Mentions, ReTweets, or Favorites). It was intriguing that although our posts received a good number of engagements, Twitter analytics was NOT counting our test profiles with automated actions:
Why is that? Is Twitter changing their system without making a formal announcement? Or is this something that was evident before? We formed two theories based on the performance of real accounts and our test profiles:
Most – if not all – digital marketers use third party applications to help them manage their social media. Some of these apps are owned by Twitter (like Tweetdeck), while others are not (such as Hootsuite and Buffer). They allow social media marketers the convenience of updating their profiles without spending too much time on the site. Automation is a good thing: in fact, Twitter approves of it if it is used for:
If you have hundreds or thousands of followers, automation lets you have more control over your time. However, not every marketer uses this practice for good. In fact, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), more than 24 million of Twitter users are NOT active. That means they are either: a) abandoning their profiles; OR b) pulling Twitter content from third party apps.
This is detrimental to the platform’s growth because it’s not creating any action at all. But at the same time, Twitter wants to make third party apps a part of their development for user experience. Studies suggest that users who include automation apps are heavier users compared to those who don’t use any online tool for Twitter. This makes sense because to date, Twitter is one of the busiest and most crowded sites on the Web. Without some form of tool to help you out, you will feel lost, overwhelmed, or simply frustrated to use the site’s services.
But if your company uses automation or third party apps to manage Tweets, should you stop it now knowing their analytics is NOT counting those activities in its analytics?
Although nothing is official yet (and ours is merely a hypothesis), we’re all familiar with Twitter’s rules regarding engagement. Understanding the types of social activity involved and HOW they contribute to your site’s overall statistics is key to real success. If you’re using automation for purposes OTHER THAN to make it easy for you and your followers to remain updated with each other, then it’s time to re-evaluate your social media plan. Not only might you be in violation of Twitter’s policies; you could be annoying existing REAL followers that depend on your for informative Tweets.
If Twitter is indeed ‘updating’ its system to devalue automated accounts and/or their engagement from them, then it’s a call for social media marketers to start going back to live Tweeting, or posting stuff as it happens. This strategy does eat up quite a bit of time, but it’s possible to spend as little as 15 minutes a day on the site while still being productive. As social media experts, it’s our duty to find ways to beat the noise – yet get our message across.
Some changes are good – and this is one example of a Twitter feed that we hope to see soon:
These modifications were seen today on several profiles but NOT all; which indicates that the social media platform is likely experimenting on it still. Similar on Facebook, the side bar suggests related Tweets the user might be interested in. We have no word yet on when the new feature is set to launch on all user accounts. Once implemented though, this opens up opportunities for promoted Tweets as well as popular posts.
These are very exciting times for Twitter and the social media industry in general. It seems that digital companies want us to go back to times when impromptu interactions were the norm, and one needed to spend hours to make a lasting connection with other people. Automation sure has made our lives easier – but there’s something they can never replicate: human connection. As the ‘human touch’ becomes more and more vital to social media, how much time do we really need in order to churn out positive results?
As of March 27, we removed the automation function from third party apps in our test profiles. The results only enforce what we first theorized: Twitter analytics is NOT counting automated actions. After we removed the automation and switched to manual engagement, Twitter’s analytics was able to count our action into its data.
If you or your social media team has been using automation for Twitter engagement, you might have noticed changes on your overall data. Take our poll to see results from other digital marketers.