How to Measure the Performance of your Tweets

Jocelyn over at Mozak Design, a WordPress website design agency based in Portland, OR, Picked our Brain about measuring her Twitter activity:

“What is the best way to determine which {Tweets} are performing over time? Twitter Analytics? Bitly clicks? … trying to be efficient here.”

It’s a great question. If you are going to spend the time on any task, especially one which has a cost (whether that be time or money), you need to be able to see what you are getting for your effort.

The key to online and social media marketing is not thinking Twitter (or other any platform) is a numbers game.

It’s not how many Tweets you publish. It’s about creating Tweets which resonate with your audience. It’s about creating more of it. To do that, you’d better be able to figure out what is working.

Before you can measure performance, you need to know WHAT you are measuring.

Bridget Willard’s goal is community and relationships. Twitter is her way to connect. It’s those connections which drive her business. Speaking with her, she stated Twitter is where most of her business originates.

For many of our clients, the goal is nothing more than brand awareness. It’s about impressions.

For us, we have a few primary goals – relationship building, brand awareness, website traffic – and several secondary ones.

Before you can think about how to measure which Tweets perform best, you need to know what that means. Why are you Tweeting? What is it you want from your Twitter efforts?

With that answered, we can look at HOW to measure effectiveness.

Jocelyn has 2 primary goals in mind. One is brand awareness. Aside from her web development role, she is a public speaker. She needs to expand her reach. The second is additional website traffic. She is looking at social media to help generate leads.

A note about efficiency

Prior to jumping into the tools available and which you should use, we want to address her second point on efficiency.

One of Jocelyn’s strong suits is her ability to automate tasks to allow for increased efficiency – something she speaks on often, so we understand the drive for efficiency and fewer steps.

Efficiency, however, is not only about fewer steps or less work. It’s about getting the most from the steps taken. To be cliché, it’s about working smarter.

This doesn’t mean these concepts are completely mutually exclusive. For Bridget, they aren’t. After years of perfecting what she does, she found a method which works for her, one which simple and efficient.

For us, there is no ‘simple’. We have more than one goal for our Tweets. That requires multiple ways to measure effectiveness.

Our answer to Jocelyn:

Point of note – There are a number of paid tools available and wonderful for analytics. As a small business owner, though, it can add a cost which isn’t always necessary (or in your budget). As such, we prefer to focus on what is available at no cost. While this could mean a need to use more tools and less efficiency, we find they provide a better overall analysis in many cases. There is a balance between efficiency and working smart too.

How to best measure the effectiveness of your tweets

Twitter Analytics. While Twitter will provide information on link clicks, its value is best for measuring your effectiveness

  • At driving brand awareness – looking at Tweet impressions provides a good overall assessment of visibility.
  • Of content effectiveness – how often content gets ReTweeted and liked plus overall engagement rate.
  • At relationship building – overall engagement rate and replies show you are connecting with others.

Twitter’s internal analytics does a great job at both providing a snapshot of your overall effectiveness AND a way to measure how well specific tweets perform.

For specific tweets, you can isolate your top tweets. By looking for patterns – whether it be a hashtag used, the nature of the content, the length of the tweet, the type of tweet (image, link, text only) – you can begin to craft better content. Less work, more value.

Twitter Analytics Overall Metrics via @rnissenbaum
Twitter Analytics Specific Tweet Metrics via @rnissenbaum

Google Analytics. One of the most powerful tools available and it’s free! It is the perfect tool if your goal is driving website traffic.

Twitter analytics fails here since link clicks reported will include images clicked (every image has a unique URL) and links which send users to other websites or content. Google Analytics, with little to no knowledge, allows you to determine how much traffic Twitter is driving to your site:

Open up your Google Analytics account and select your date range (top right corner)

Select ‘Acquisition’ and ‘Overview’ in the main menu on the left hand side.

Select ‘Acquisition’ and ‘Overview’ in Google Analytics

Select ‘Social’ in the aquisition submenu.

Google Analytics - social media traffic, focus on Twitter

An ‘overall’ snapshot, and still valuable

While this only provides an overall look and not which tweets are driving traffic, it’s valuable. We know in this case, for the selected time period, Tweets drove 40 hits.

It does provide something more, though. Of the 40 referrals from Twitter, 8 were not previously on this website. In this case, Twitter was huge for repeat traffic (meaning we’ve hit our target audience AND continued visits mean an increased likelihood of purchasing).

While only 8 were new visitors, even if they only read one article, they could bookmark your site and/or share the link (future increase in direct traffic and/or more new users.)

Side note here – though Twitter and social traffic, in general, may seem or be low, monitor for a consistent increase in organic and direct traffic. Direct traffic increasing is an indication of both brand awareness and social media marketing effectiveness. Organic traffic means you could be showing up in more searches and brand awareness (clicking through from searches is somewhat behavioral based).

The data set in our example also shows almost a minute of time on the first page accessed (no data for the last page based on a limitation in Google Analytics reporting). That means the user spent time on your landing page reading BEFORE moving to the next page. With an average of 1.65 pages per session and more than 32% accessing more than 1 page, this gives us an idea of how well Tweets are working.

Digging deeper: Measure which tweets are driving that traffic!

This is where a bit of time and learning up front (being less efficient), leads to increased efficiency over time.

The end goal is to be able to tweet less with better results. That means isolating which tweets are driving web traffic. Knowing means further efficiency as you can re-use these so less work creating new Tweets. It also means, if you take the time to look at each tweet to find out why they worked, you’ll be better (and more efficient) at creating effective tweets in the future.

Tracking specific tweets with UTM codes

Urchin Tracking Module codes append a custom string of data to each link. This data allows you to pinpoint the specifics as to the traffic source.

A typical tweet designed to drive traffic to our article on why cross-posting on social media is a bad idea would include this link:

Even using a link shorter (Jocelyn’s mention of, this would still be the link shown in the address bar of your web browser.

While we can dig deeper into Google Analytics to accurately measure how much traffic from Twitter goes directly to this link (how effective it is), that’s time-consuming.

Using a UTM code, we can isolate which specific tweets work best. Adding the code to the above link changes it to:

We added a bit of data. This link, when it shows in our Google Analytics report will tell us:

  • It was part of our TSO Media campaign (we create campaigns for specific purposes – utm_campaign=tso_media)
  • That the medium was Twitter (utm_medium=twitter), and
  • The source was a tweet linking to the cross-posting article (utm_source=cross_posting_tweet).

We could (and do) further customize the source to help us identify the EXACT tweet in case we post multiple times with slightly different content. This will allow us to dial in what content resonates best for future use (efficiency).

Since we chose to use ‘medium’ for our social channel, Twitter in this case, we need one extra step – adding a secondary dimension  (we have since switched to using ‘source’ for our social channel to provide cleaner reports for our clients):

Choosing Google Analytics secondary acquisition dimension selection
Choosing Google Analytics secondary acquisition dimension selection step 2

For the cross-posting tweet – 2 different ones drove traffic from Twitter.

@tsomedia_crossposting_tweet and tsomedia_crossposting_post

Google Analytics UTM code acquisition data

This may seem inefficient and time-consuming, but,

And what we get, as a result of a bit less efficiency up front means far better analytics to measure performance later.


How to be efficient

  • Don’t confuse easy and efficient.
  • Don’t focus on using only one tool. It’s sometimes more efficient to use multiple ones when you have them dialed in perfectly.
  • Find which ones work for you, take the time to learn and create systems up front and how to use them, and then use them.Jocelyn is a whiz at automation and this is something she can easily do herself. If you cannot, consider outsourcing the system’s creation (and getting help learning how to create UTM codes) Wasting your valuable time kills efficiency.

A final thought on efficiency – don’t obsess over or try to over-analyze your data. Analytics will not tell you the full story. Social media marketing is as much (if not more) about relationships building as it is about driving traffic. Relationship capital cannot be ignored and it cannot be easily measured by data and formulas.


What would you add?

Which tools do you use or recommend?

What advice would you offer Jocelyn?

Leave us a comment or drop us a line.

2 replies
  1. Jocelyn
    Jocelyn says:

    1st: Thank you for answering my question in such depth. When I started Twitter I was just excited to get more impressions. But with time, thanks to help from experts like you, I’ve learned as you shared. That eye are just one piece of the puzzle.

    I’ve also shared adding in UTM codes per your suggestion and that is defiantly helping me hone in on where I get the most ROI for my efforts.

    But I think I love your last thought best: “A final thought on efficiency – don’t obsess over or try to over-analyze your data. Analytics will not tell you the full story. Social media marketing is as much (if not more) about relationships building as it is about driving traffic. Relationship capital cannot be ignored and it cannot be easily measured by data and formulas.”

    Like in most things, it’s great to look at the data to the degree it helps. But when it gets overwhelming or I find myself fixating on the numbers vs the big picture. I know its time to just go back to being social for a bit.

    • Robert Nissenbaum
      Robert Nissenbaum says:

      You are welcome. The big point was we need to know what is working but realizing that not everything can be measured and that getting bogged down in trying can mean passing the point of diminishing returns.


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