Monday, February 08, 2010

Are you Tweeting or Squeaking?

How to measure the impact of Twitter on your media relations program

You land a great story in The New York Times and then you see that people are Tweeting a link to that story. You know that the readership of the story is dwarfed by the number of people who are reading it because of the Tweets. Even a couple dozen Tweets by influential Tweeps can reach hundreds of thousands of followers. But, how do you measure that for your marketing department?

There is an accurate and repeatable way to measure the reach of your news stories on Twitter. If you take five minutes to measure them, you can greatly improve the metrics on your media relations program. Additionally, this quick research will uncover the people that are the true influencers in your industry.

Here are a few steps you can follow to measure the reach of your news story:

1. Count Tweets - People who are referring others to your news story will include a link to that story online. Topsy.com has a tool that allows you to plug in any URL and it will show you all the Tweets that include that story. This search engine gives you a quick count of Tweets and lists each message so you can drill into them a bit more. It wonderfully walks each shortened URL so you have all the Tweets in one place.

2. Count of followers - The total potential reach of your story is the count of followers of all the people who Tweeted that story. For the old-school marketers, this is like the circulation of a magazine. You know not everyone who received the magazine read your story, but it is a objective measure of the weight of the publication. Unfortunately, there is no super easy way to get this number right now. Topsy doesn't tally all the followers of the Tweets (Note to Team Topsy - I'd love to see this feature). Yahoo has a unofficial tool called Important People that will count followers for a key word, but won't work on a URL. It allows you to download your search into a spreadsheet so you can easily tally and filter it. For example, I did a vanity search on myself and I pulled up five Tweets that mentioned my name that reached a total of 27,000 people. If these tools don't work, you can count the followers by hand.

3. Click Throughs - Search advertising where you pay when someone clicks on your ad has dramatically changed advertising because marketers can measure the reach of their ads. In a similar way, you can easily measure the number of people who clicked on a Tweet and read your news story. More than one-half of all Tweets use a service named Bit.ly to shorten URLs. In addition to saving you characters in your Tweets, the service gives you a count of the people who have clicked on the link. To figure out how many people have clicked on a Bit.ly link all you need to do is add a + to the end of the URL. For example, add a + to the end of this URL and you can see exactly the number of people that have responded to an event I'm putting on in February.

Link to event - http://bit.ly/c0Ahzl

Number of people who clicked on this link: http://bit.ly/c0Ahzl+

It is also a great way to see how much traffic your competitors are getting on their news stories. All the information is public so anyone can use it.

If you use this tool, don't forget the Tweets that don't use Bit.ly links. I recommend that you estimate the total clicks based on the ratio of Tweets that use Bit.ly links.

4. The value of a click - When an executive is unsure how effective your media program is at moving sales, be sure you don't skip this step. Nearly everyone agrees that traffic to the Web site is gold for your company. Advertisers can pay $1 to $7 for a keyword for search advertising to get people on your Web site. If you can show your company a large click-through rate, you can multiply that by the market value for your company's name on Google Adwords. If you get 3,000 clicks on your Tweets and the value of the keyword is $1, then you have a story that is worth well over $3000. If you can speak in dollars, everyone will understand you. I wrote a blog post that details this process.

5. Web site referral traffic - Every company has a Web analytics tool that lets the Web master know where traffic to the Web site is coming from. The standard reports from this tool can be a PR person's best friend. Because news stories have a relatively high trust among readers, articles have the power to drive a lot of traffic to your Web site. You know this already, but do you ask for those reports? Even five minutes looking at a Web referral report will likely show you that several of your recent news stories are driving much of the referral traffic. Again, this is another opportunity for you to put a cash value on that traffic. Buy your Web person lunch and get regular access to these reports and add them to your next business review meeting with your boss.

Getting your news stories into the feed of people's updates is a great way to increase the reach of media relations program. It is exciting to see your story be ReTweeted and go viral. Now you have the tools you need to measure these programs.

Do you have tools that you use to measure the impact of Twitter on your media relations and marketing programs? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section.

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