Avoid Vanity Metrics – 4 Things Every Business Owner Must Track Using Twitter

Photo Credit: eldh via Flickr - 4 Things Every Business Owner Must Track Using Twitter

Photo courtesy of eldh via flickr

You track the obvious using Twitter: how many followers you have, how many times you’re getting retweeted and how many of your tweets are being favourited.

But it’s easy to get distracted by vanity metrics, which are highly visible metrics that are easy to track but don’t indicate real value.

Community isn’t about size – it’s about the strength of the tribe.

Here are 4 things every small business owner should track using Twitter to avoid vanity and grow a strong community.


1.  Mentions of your name

The real power of Twitter is that you can listen to everyone who’s having a conversation about your business online.

Most people track their own handle (so you can see when someone is mentioning your business) but people might not use your handle, or get it wrong. If you track your name (and various ways to spell it) you’ll never miss out.

For example, our handle is @getspokal, but often people assume it’s @spokal or they’ll tweet #Spokal. By tracking all of these names on Twitter, we make sure we’re always tuned in.

Otherwise, we would miss tweets like this. 

So, how can you track mentions of your name using Twitter?

Take advantage of free tools like the Twitter search function inside Twitter or TweetDeck (simply add a column called search and enter versions of your business name). You can also use Hootsuite to monitor a search, but Hootsuite is geared towards advanced marketers.  

p.s. Are you using Google Alerts?

Google allows you to track mentions of your business (or any term) on the internet. They’ll send you an email when someone posts a relevant article, blog or news report, so instead of just monitoring your business on Twitter, you can monitor the entire conversation on the web.


2. Your Retweet vs Tweet ratio

You probably track your retweets using Twitter, but do you track your retweet ratio?

Retweet Ratio - 4 Things Every Small Business Owner Must Track Using Twitter

This will show you how much of the content you’re sharing gets shared – it’s a measure of your online reach (how often what you share reaches beyond your immediate network) and it will help you understand if you’re providing enough value (people share good content).

You can use a tool called retweetrank to determine your retweet ratio.

They’ll also show your retweet rank, which is how your retweet ratio compares with the entire Twitter community. According to retweetrank, we’re in the top 8% of the most influential people on Twitter – we’re ranked 385,962 out of 500 million accounts.

But while it’s interesting to compare yourself to the community, it’s more important to focus on building a loyal following. So don’t obsess over rank, obsess over your customers. 

Not sure you have enough followers to get retweeted?

Your follower count has less impact on retweets than you might think.

4 Things Every Small Business Owner Must Track Using Twitter

Award winning social expert Dan Zarella analyzed over 20,000 people using Twitter and graphed the average Retweet To Follower Ratio (RTpF). As you can see, while most people have the same RTpF ratio, some get more retweets than others – but it’s not dependant on their size.

While the number of followers exposed to a Tweet does have a positive effect on the number of times that Tweet is ReTweeted, it is a weak correlation, meaning that other factors play a much larger role. – Dan Zarella, Inbound Marketing Specialist

Dan’s study shows that tracking your Retweet ratio isn’t about the size of your tribe, it’s about the strength.

You can read Dan’s full analysis on The Science of ReTweets and let me know what you think, or glance the highlights on Mashable

3. How many times your links are clicked

What’s more important that tracking retweets using Twitter?

I believe how many people click on your links and engage with the content you’re sharing is more important. Because anyone can retweet without reading, so while you may get a lot of shares, you might not be providing value.

This is a symptom of vanity metrics.

By measuring how many clicks you’re getting, you’ll have a closer idea of what people want to read (or are curious about) and what you should share to grow a strong community. This is one metric we’re measuring to make sure we’re building a following of people who love our content.

How do you measure clicks?

You can use Tweetthrough.com, a free service that measures the average CTR (click through rate) for anyone on Twitter. Currently the average CTR is 6.23% – meaning that 6.23% of the links that get shared by the average Twitter user are clicked. 

Most social media scheduling tools will also show you your CTR. Buffer will do it for free and Hootsuite will if you have a paid account (which starts at $9.99/month).

p.s. Want to learn more?

Jeff Bullas wrote a good piece on how to quantify your twitter reputation – he also looks at some famous Twitter handle reputations for comparison. 

4. How many people are responding

Do you measure traffic or engagement?

Photo Credit: andresfranco.net - 4 Things Every Business Owner Must Track Using Twitte

Photo Credit: andresfranco.net via Flickr

I measure engagement.

It’s a better analysis of how you’re developing relationships online, which is the goal of inbound marketing. Because even though 97% of people won’t buy from your website today, 70% will eventually buy something you offer – it’s up to you whether it’s from you or your competition.

Just like I’d argue it’s more important to measure the comments on a blog post than overall traffic (as it shows how many are actively joining the conversation), it’s more important to track how many people are responding to your tweets than your total following.

Those people are your true fans.

This is why people say Twitter is an engagement platform.

As a small business, your goal isn’t to build a following of 5,000 or 10,000 followers. Your goal is to build a network of people who are interested in what you do because if someone is engaged, there’s a higher chance they’ll become your customer. Or a true fan (which can lead to more customers).

If you’re prioritizing growing your following over engaging your following, you won’t get there.

Seth Godin wrote a great short post on The Trap of Social Media Noise, where he focuses on the value of building a real network, not a bloated one. 

Relentlessly focus. Prune your message and your list and build a reputation that’s worth owning and an audience that cares. – Seth Godin, Global Thought Leader on Marketing


According to a study by Barracuda Labs, the average price for buying 1,000 fake Twitter followers is $18. And the industry for buying followers is worth roughly $40-$360 million. 

Don’t fall into the trap.

While you can buy a following, you can’t buy a tribe.

Focus on real metrics, not vanity metrics, and you’ll build a loyal and engaged Twitter following that will support your business.

So, how do you measure the value of your community? What do you track using Twitter to see if you’re on the right path?


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  • Collin the Amazing

    Interesting resources, I had no idea you could track your retweet ratio! Congrats on being in the top 8%!

    • Alexandra Skey

      Thanks Collin! The retweet ratio is a good metric to add to your toolbox for measuring engagement. Keep me posted on what else you use to measure engagement.

  • Tea Nicola

    These are great tools for analyzing twitter traffic. I am 100% with you that vanity metrics are not truly representative of your engagement and your following.

    But buying followers is not even vanity metrics… that’s just vanity! 🙂

    • Alexandra Skey

      Hi Tea,

      Haha, great comment. I agree with you 100%!


  • Tera Kristen

    Those are some excellent Twitter metrics. I would also warn against not tracking anything, which is a trap I fell into early in my career. Intuition and emotion definitely plays a part in social media – but not in measuring effectiveness. It’s important to make sure that you have solid evidence to back up your decisions – and these metrics are definitely solid. Thanks Spokal team!

    • Alexandra Skey

      Tera that’s great advice. Sometimes you’re just so keen to “get started” that you don’t even realize you need to track your progress. Thanks for bringing that to light, I’ll be sure to include it in the next revision of Twitter analytics 🙂