Monday, October 19, 2015

Four useful tools to monitor Twitter use and engagement

If you search on Google for “Twitter monitoring tools” you’ll probably get a lot of blog posts and resources with links to tools such SocialBro, Crowdbooster, TwitterCounter and many more. And of course don’t forget Twitter Analytics itself, available to all users for a little over one year now, that allows you to track engagement on your timeline activity and followers growth.

However, for most popular uses there are limitation in terms of free use and you’ll have to purchase a subscription to use all their features. And Twitter Analytics doesn’t give you all you may need in terms of tracking Twitter use and engagement. For example, you may need to track activity around a specific hashtag or Twitter account, around an event or an online campaign. Or to analyze the Twitter users in a specific list. Or to monitor the number of followers and growth of several accounts, some of which are created and managed by others.

For several of the projects I’ve been working on in recent months, I had to spend some time looking at possible solutions to these needs. After some researching, testing and experimenting, here are four useful tools that you can use to enrich your digital analytics around Twitter.

Keeping track of Twitter followers numbers 

Example dynamic followers count 
 While number of followers to a Twitter account may not be by itself very meaningful as a metric to track users’ engagement, it is still a quick, useful indicator of your ability to connect and expand your audience. Tracking Twitter followers numbers is easy when you have to look at the followers of just one Twitter account. But what if you need to monitor and aggregate the followers of several Twitter accounts, how can you easily do it?

After some searching and (several) failed tests with different solutions, I finally came across this excellent Google Script created by Sarah Marshall. After you setup and configure the Script, you’ll be able to automatically add Twitter followers numbers to a Google Spreadsheet, for as many Twitter account as you need.

This is a great tool to have a quick overview of the followers of different Twitter account at a glance. Moreover, Sarah has kept updating the Script, whenever Twitter has changed the way its API works.

Exporting Twitter lists 

TwExList is an excellent service to export a wide range of information from Twitter. For example, you can export information such as followers and following, tweets, mentions and favourites of your own Twitter account or of another user account. Likewise, you can export information around a Twitter list, regardless of whether you have created the list or not.

Example TwExList Excel export - click to enlarge the image

Very simple to use, in four easy steps TwExList offers you different options - from Excel and CSV to html - to export the data you’re interested.

Given the many different types of information that you can export using TwExList, there are many, many ways in which this tool can come in handy. For example, you can analyze your Twitter timeline posts, to see which one created more engagement (retweets and favorites); or you can inspect your followers - or the members of a list - to see influencers and active users . Finally, you can use this service to keep an eye on your ‘competitors’ and see how they are using Twitter, the kind of following they have and how they create and sustain engagement.

The service is free to test, limiting the export to the last 50 tweets in a list. Different pricing options are available from single to unlimited exports.

Monitoring Twitter engagement 

Two very useful tools you can use to measure engagement and track conversations on Twitter are Zapier and TAGS.

Zapier connects web services and apps to automate ‘actions’ between them on the basis of defined triggers. For example you can use Zapier to connect Twitter and Google Drive so that each new engagement action (mention, RT or reply) around a Twitter handle or around a hashtag is recorded and added as a new row in the connected spreadsheet. Amongst others, information that can be recorded includes: post link; user name and location, RT counts, etc...Pricing plans for Zapier start with a free account, for 3 Zaps and up to 100 records/month. Paid accounts start at $15/month for 10 Zaps and 3000 records/month.

Use Zapier to connect Twitter and Google Sheets - click to enlarge

A great alternative is TAGS, the free service developed by Martin Hawksey. TAGS (short for Twitter Archive Google Spreadsheet) is a Spreadsheet Template that users can easily copy and configure to suit their needs to track mentions and search terms on Twitter, and automate the collection of these results.

One of the things I love about this service is that, together with a worksheet collecting the various tweets, the spreadsheet template comes with a summary and dashboard sheet already built in, so you don’t have to worry about setting this up but can start focusing on the analysis of your results immediately.

Example of TAGS dashboard
Additionally, TAGS comes with two nice add-ons: a searchable, online archive of the tweets collected and an explorer to visualize the engagement and connections between different users.

Example of TAGS searchable archive - click for live version
While I’ve started using TAGS as part of the toolkit to monitor online engagement for social reporting around events, increasingly I’m recommending it as a good solution for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of a specific Twitter handle, or a particular hashtag or search term.

What other tools do you use to support and complement your Twitter Analytics?