Getting back into blog reading

One early upshot of my temporary Twitter hiatus was to realise how much I was missing picking up on other people’s blog posts. Twitter had become my single notification channel for new posts from people I know as well as discovering new ones.

Having said that I’ve been aware that I have been reading blogs less and relying on the Twitter stream more and I miss spending longer reading what other people are thinking.

So, yesterday I resolved to get back into reading blogs on a regular basis.

Up until about 3 years ago I had a routine based around Google Reader which helped me to subscribe and follow various RSS fields. Most mornings  I would spend 20-30 mins scanning my feeds and picking out the ones that looked more promising. Mostly it was just consuming but occasionally I’d build a blog post of my own around what I’d read.

Google Reader is no more but there is a handy equivalent aptly called Old Reader, basically a clone of the latter.

The changing blogging landscape

I’d imported my feeds into Old Reader ages ago before I got out of the blog reading habit so my first job was to go through and unsubscribe from blogs that were no longer relevant to me (lots of specialist ones about eportfolios for example) or were obviously inactive.

What surprised me was how many blogs that had once been very active hadn’t been posted to in years. Some had even let their domain subscriptions expire. This in itself shouldn’t be that surprising. I’m doing a very different job to what I was doing at Netskills (when I’d last been in the blog-reading habit) and that will be true of most people.

But you could also read it as a result of the way that our use of the social web has changed over the last few years, away from longer form writing to updates on more closed platforms.

People still blog but there seems to be less of culture around the practice, or rather that I’ve let myself lose track of it. Maybe there’s something about the rise of “thread” posting on Twitter indicates that there’s still an appetite for articulating more extended thinking. I have a problem with “threads” as an alternative to blogging but that’ll have to wait for another post.

Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older but I find that I want to take my time over things more these days and engage more deeply. Rekindling my interest in blogs might be a way of doing that. I’ll try it out for a bit and see if I get back into the habit.

So, help me out here. Which blogs do you read on a regular basis? Who’s writing good stuff about TEL?

Please RT. 😉

 

 

Twitter Analytics arrives, but just because you can measure something…

Originally published on Netskills Voices

Twitter has recently rolled out a new Analytics tool to the majority of its users so you can now see a little bit more about what happens in the life of one of your tweets. Is this going to be useful information for you?

Twitter Analytics screengrab

Gauging the impact of your use of Twitter has, for most people, been a bit of a hit and miss affair. What do you measure? Total number of tweets, replies, RTs or favourites? These have always been quite crude measures.

Until now, the more sophisticated tools have required either detailed technical knowledge or have come with a significant cost attached. Twitter’s Analytics service seems to fill a gap between what’s easily available for free on their main site and the more commercial tools.

Getting started

This couldn’t be simpler, really. Go to http://analytics.twitter.com and sign into your Twitter account if you haven’t already done so.

If it all looks a bit empty when you get there, it’s because it only activates when you first visit the site. No retrospective data is available. Tweet away and you’ll find the data starts to appear.

What does it tell you?

For each tweet (only manual RT’s show up) you can see how many impressions you made and what level of engagement each tweet had. An impression means simply that a tweet has been delivered to someone’s Twitter timeline. It doesn’t mean they have actually seen it.

The engagement measure is a bit more interesting. This means that a Twitter user has done something with your tweet. Drilling down by clicking on this figure shows you that this can include things like:

  • Replies
  • Retweets
  • Favourites
  • Link clicks (if there is one in the tweet)
  • Hashtag clicks
  • Embedded media clicks…
  • …and a few others

Twitter Analytics screengrab

The most potentially useful piece of data you can get from the tool is the engagement rate, a simple measure of the number of engagements divided by the number of impressions. This means you can say things like “well only 50 people saw that tweet but I know that 63% of them clicked the link to our website” which is much more data than you’ve been able to get this easily before.

There’s a handy bar chart showing variable activity over the last 24 hours. The whole thing is fairly intuitive and well presented.

If you want to do more interesting data analysis you can export the data as a CSV file.

You can also get a profile of your followers showing gender, location and “interests”. There is little indication how these interests are worked out. Education is high on the list for my followers as you’d expect. Apparently 29% of my followers like “comedy”.

It’s also restricted to your own tweets, replies and promoted tweets. If you want to track a conference hashtag then there’s not much for you here.

Quantity or quality?

[SPOILER: Quantity]

If you’ve used something like Google Analytics you’ll notice that there’s a wealth of data that just isn’t available here. For example, there’s no indication of how or where people are engaging with your individual tweets. It might be interesting to see the geographical reach of a single tweet or perhaps what devices people are viewing it on.

One of the things we emphasise on our blogging workshop is that this quantitative data isn’t the be all and end all of social media.

It tells you nothing about the quality of your interactions with people or organisations. You could be the most outrageous troll sporting a fantastic engagement rate but leaving discussions, reputations or emotions in tatters in your wake.

Additionally, number of impressions or engagement rates may not even be important information for you. As an individual, I don’t use Twitter to have loads of followers, RT’s etc. I use it to have and follow conversations, the value of which isn’t determined by my engagement rate.

Is the data valuable?

Why is Twitter making this available now? That’s unclear but it could be argued that if people can see what happens with a tweet it’s more likely to encourage increased use with all the benefits in data and monetisation that you’d expect Twitter to want.

But does the user get enough benefit to balance that out? Although there are now more numbers to look at, the data is still pretty crude and requires proper interpretation (or leaps of imagination!) to derive much meaning from it.

The tool certainly gives you more information than has been available through Twitter in the past. The additional data might be useful if you are trying to set targets for an organisation’s Twitter account or need ammunition to convince others that use of Twitter is worthwhile.

So, have a look if you’re responsible for managing your team’s Twitter account, are in charge of the marketing for an event or are an individual curious to get a better picture of what happens after your click the Tweet button. There might be some useful insights in there.

But don’t be seduced by the lure of lots of numbers if they’re not actually that important to you! Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean that it’s actually worth measuring.

Many thanks to @catherinelliott, @hopkinsdavid, @bhanwar, @ntaylorHEA, @philswinhoe and @carlvincent for being sports and boosting my engagement rate so I had some numbers to look at. 🙂