Hasta La Vista, Twitter Share Counter: How to Measure Engagement Without Social Share Counters
It’s been a few weeks since we bid adieu to a good friend, the Twitter share counter, but life must go on. Twitter recently removed the count API, which means that content and social media marketers alike are facing a new challenge—we can no longer factor in the number of Twitter shares from our content as a measure of engagement and validate it with social proof (a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation).
While this has caused quite a headache for some marketers, Twitter did explain their reasoning on their blog. The short version: this was a hard decision for them, but to build a predictable, dependable platform they ultimately had to forgo this feature. And whether or not we understand or appreciate these reasons, the decision has been made and, as promised, on November 20th the Tweet counter was removed.
That’s not to say that this function won’t ever be reborn or incorporated into another tool, but for now the message is clear—marketers can’t rely on the share counter to measure the engagement of their content on Twitter anymore. But was this ever really a good measure to begin with? As Twitter put it, the share count never really reflected the real impact of your content because it couldn’t factor in replies, quote Tweets, variants of the URL shared, and the reach of each share. So perhaps this is a good change, one that forces us to think outside the box and work with more than what’s handed to us. But how?
In this blog I’ll walk you through a couple ways you can adapt to this change:
1. Update your web design
For companies that are using the Twitter share count widget, the removal of the API means that the current count now shows a rather unattractive “0”, even though your content is being shared. There are ways to go from zero to hero by tweaking your website, but it’s important to weigh each option before doing so. Let’s explore the options:
Remove each social share button’s individual count: By removing each social media’s share count and only revealing the total number of shares, you can hide Twitter’s 0 share count while still displaying how many times your content has been shared elsewhere.
Ask yourself whether it matters how many times your content is shared on each specific network. It’s possible that displaying the individual count could hinder the social potential of the content because someone might be less inclined to share on a certain network that hasn’t had as much share volume. For example, if your shares are low on Facebook but high on LinkedIn, people may assume that your content isn’t shared as much on Facebook because it’s not the right fit for that network’s audience—whether that’s true or not.
Remove the social share buttons along with their count: In doing this, you may make it more inconvenient for your audience to easily share your content with their networks. However, this might be the way to go if there are other calls-to-action on your website that you would rather the visitor pay attention to. For example, if you’re trying to point them to your “Product” or “Resources” page, or if you want them to register for a webinar, the share buttons might overwhelm them with options versus removing them, which automatically limits their options.
Remove the total count and share buttons altogether: This option is more drastic than the other two, but there is a time and place for everything. Perhaps you’re just starting out your blog and you don’t have that many readers. Displaying a share count may make it seem like you’re an amateur or, worse, make it seem like you’re content isn’t valuable. And you know that’s certainly not the case! Just like you don’t want to show all your cards in poker, hiding this information completely could be beneficial until you reach a traffic or share volume that offers social proof.
2. Take advantage of other tools
In a way, Twitter made us quit “cold turkey” from our dependency on a tool that simply handed us information. But just as the saying goes, nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort. Understanding how visitors engage with you amounts to more than just the number of times something has been shared on Twitter. Engagement revolves around listening to behavior, acting accordingly, and analyzing the results. And beyond social shares, clicks, conversions, and bounce rates all factor into an individual’s engagement. You can gain valuable insight into each by turning to other tools. Here are a few places you may want to take a look:
Get insights from Twitter Analytics: Although Twitter removed share counts, they still provide users with an analytics platform that holds a lot of valuable information about engagement. You can use this information to understand how your tweets are performing and who is following you. Both valuable data points that help you understand what resonates with your audience and if your target audience is engaging with the content you created for them.
I pulled the example below from my own Twitter Analytics dashboard. While these metrics only measure my Twitter activity, based on the topics my top posts and mentions revolve around, I can get a pretty good idea of what topics resonate the best with my audience and reach the most people.
Dive into website analytics: Powerful website analytics give you insight beyond the number of people who visit your website. Google Analytics, for example, lets you see what type of people are coming to your website and viewing your content, where they came from, how long they engaged with it, and what they did from there—bounce or dive deeper.
You can use this information to understand how certain audiences react to your content. Perhaps your target demographic is more likely to engage with certain types of content and then move further into your website. Or, if your website has a high bounce rate, maybe the content on your main page isn’t engaging enough.
Use social search analytics: With a tool like Keyhole, you can analyze Tweets by searching keywords, hashtags, or URLs. Let’s explore this tool using their free version, which provides up to a week of sample data from Twitter, to search the hashtag #contentmarketing. You’ll see that this hashtag search brings up valuable information about how people engaged with the topic between December 13-December 16. When analyzing your own content, you could easily search for your content’s URL instead to see how people are engaging with it.
These types of tools often allow you to dig deeper to help you identify who your audience is and who the key influencers are. If there’s a key influencer in your space who’s sharing your content, it’s likely they’re one of your brand advocates and it might be worth reaching out to them.
However you choose to adapt to the change, the key thing is that you do. Take this as an opportunity to look beyond vanity metrics (metrics that aren’t actionable and are easily manipulated), and become a more effective marketer. To do this, you need to look beyond the tally of people that engaged, you need to be able to understand why they do or don’t. The Twitter share count is just a number and alone, it isn’t very telling of what really matters. By factoring in data from other tools, marketers can arrive at metrics that matter—metrics that map out how people engage with content and why.
How does your organization incorporate social sharing on its website? How does it factor into your social media metrics? Please share in the comments below.