You would be hard pressed to produce a social listening report these days that didn’t show Twitter as your top conversation source, regardless of the topic. What’s more frightening is most social listening services only offer 10% of what Twitter has to offer in the first place.

The “Decahose” – or a random feed of 10% of all that Twitter has to offer in terms of user Tweets – is what most social listening providers offer. When you look at social listening results in tools that have the “full firehose” (like Zignal Labs), it’s mind numbing.

But when you dig into your results you’ll often find that much of Twitter is repetitive. There are more Re-Tweets than Tweets. There are fewer conversations and more one-click, “me toos” every day. Which brings to mind the question, “Does all that Twitter volume actually matter?”

The answer isn’t as clear cut as you might think.

Social Listening: Originals vs. Copy Cats

The value in a single Tweet can be deciphered many ways, depending upon what’s most important to your company. For most, Twitter is an amplification tool, often used as an extension of brand awareness. If that’s one of the purposes your brand is on Twitter, then the Re-Tweets and volume is a positive. It potentially exposes your brand to more people, though the sheer math of it all shows that most of those Re-Tweets aren’t seen.

Still, it’s the mentality of brand advertising: The more people who can potentially see it correlates with more people actually seeing it and that begets more clicks, follows and potentially conversions.

But the real value for many brands is in who offers original Tweets about you vs. simply hits the one-click, copy-paste button of a Re-Tweet. The original Tweeters are accounts that are following what’s going on about you. They’re the users who are interested in you to the point that they’ll update their followers on significant news, deals or information about your brand.

Social listening report of Adele's album by source

Case in point, on Sunday Nov. 29, there were 29,400 Tweets mentioning Adele’s new album, “25.” If her record label was hoping for exposure, they got a good amount of it for a Sunday. However, 370 of those Tweets were from what Zignal Labs rates as “high” influencers (65 or more on a 100-point rating).

Organizing your Twitter results by influence and filtering out all but “high” ratings shows you that original posts from the Associated Press, The New York Times, Forbes and Rolling Stone topped the list. Guess what content much of the Re-Tweets was of? Yep.

Social Listening: It’s All In How You Slice The Apple

Do you care about 29,400 total post? Sure. But do you care about the 370 ones more? You probably should since they had a lot to do with fueling the volume. And then there’s the question of quality.

Are people who follow Entertainment Weekly clicking through and reading or are they just Re-Tweeting to share content and look hip to the latest news? Are New York Times followers more or less likely to click through and read or just share?

Twitter can be a whole barrel full of noise if you don’t define what you see as signal. And to measure whether or not your signal is good, or to even measure it at all, you first have to define how you want to slice that apple.

Why are you on Twitter? Who are you trying to reach? What are you trying to make them do?

Knowing those three things can help you decide what metrics you want to track. Then you have to track them over time to see how you’re affecting the numbers positively or negatively.

Social Listening: To Each His Own

Do Twitter conversations matter? Some of them do. There’s a reasonable chance Adele would not have broken all kinds of sales records in the last few weeks had the Originals in her Twitter audience not fanned the flames of the news of her new album, concert tour, appearance on Saturday Night Live and so on.

But for most brands, the Re-Tweets that fill most of your volume aren’t going to matter much.

To get a better grip on whether or not Twitter conversations matter to you, make sure you have a tool that shows you more than a fraction of what’s out there (Zignal Labs is a good start), one that allows you to filter down to the types of Tweets you care about and then decide which types ladder up to your goals for the platform.

Note: Zignal Labs is a content client of Falls, off the Rocker LLC.

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