Are you getting any results from all the time and effort you put into Twitter?
How can you really know whether Twitter is working for your freelance business?
In one sense, the answer is simple. If you're meeting potential clients, networking with other freelancers, having a good time, learning new things, and watching your follower count grow, then Twitter is clearly working for you.
For many freelancers that's enough.
But for those who'd like to know the mechanics of how Twitter is working for them, there are easy to use and low-cost tools available to help you dig deeper.
Keeping track of your metrics is a form of research. Your aim is to find out what works at engaging clients, and what doesn't.
In this article, I look at what you can (and can't) discover by digging into your stats, the types of stats you should be measuring, and the tools you can use to measure them.
Not Everything Can Be Measured
It's an old adage that the best things in life are free. You can't put a value on the awe of watching a sunset, or on the laughter of children playing in the snow. Likewise, it's difficult to place a numerical value on many of the best things about Twitter. For example, it's tricky or impossible to measure:
- Enjoyment. Twitter is lots of fun. You get to hang out with cool people from around the world. That's priceless.
- Trust. People and businesses who need your services are far more likely to hire you if they know you, like you and trust you. Twitter provides a safe space for them to get to know you. Even if they don't talk to you, they can look over your Tweets and get a sense of who you are. Like it or not, many clients will take a look at your Twitter feed before deciding whether to hire you.
- Brand recognition. Just by being around on Twitter, you become a familiar face. As your follower count grows, so does your pool of potential clients.
With all these, your intuition is your best guide as to whether Twitter is helping you out.
Not Everyone Needs to Measure
Freelancers are busy people. We have our client work to do. We have papers to file, tax returns to fill out. We have an inbox full of emails to reply to, and social media feeds to update.
Keeping track of your Twitter stats need not wreck your weekly schedule, but it does take time. You should only track your metrics if you really need to.
Tracking your stats can help you if:
- Your follower count has flatlined, and you want to kickstart a new spurt of growth.
- You want to get a better understanding of what your audience wants and needs.
- You want to see, in hard numbers, what you're getting out of Twitter for the time you put in.
- Twitter is sucking away your time and attention, and you want to get a grip on it.
If you fit into one of the categories above, then read on. Let's find out what's going on with your Twitter account.
What to Measure on Twitter
You can keep track of a range of different metrics on Twitter, depending on what you want to find out.
Time and Return on Investment
Tracking the amount of time you spend on Twitter can help you discover whether using the network is an asset to your business or a productivity drain.
A simple tool for discovering how much time you spend on Twitter is the Mind the Time add-on for Firefox. This gives you a weekly total for your time spent on all the websites you visit, including Twitter. You can transfer the numbers to a spreadsheet to give you a week-by-week overview of your time spend. Time Tracker does the same job for Chrome users.
It's up to you how much time you want to devote to Twitter. For those with a small to medium audience (100-10,000 followers), 15 minutes a day is enough to post updates and respond to any questions. Thirty minutes a day gives you the additional time to search out new clients and check out a couple of links. Any more than 30 minutes a day, and you should question whether your time could be better spent on other tasks.
Keeping track of the amount of time you spend on Twitter means you can also track your Return On Investment (ROI). To do this, you need to start asking your new clients where they first came across you, and note down which ones say Twitter. You also need to check how many of your current and new clients follow you on Twitter.
This gives you two ways of calculating ROI.
- Twitter as first contact. Total up the amount of work (in dollars) you've got from clients who have first met you on Twitter. Divide this number by your total Twitter hours. This shows how much new work you're getting from Twitter for each hour you put into Twitter.
- Twitter as client engagement. Total up the amount of work (in dollars) you've got from clients who follow you on Twitter. Divide this number by your total Twitter hours. This gives you an idea of how much work you're retaining as a result of engaging with your clients on Twitter. Again, the final number is the ROI for each hour you put into the social network.
As a general rule, the more of a Twitter veteran you become - that is the more overall time you spend on Twitter - the bigger your ROI should grow.
Ideally, you want your follower count to grow each month. Having more followers boosts the visibility of your tweets and your freelance business.
Keeping a record of how many followers you have at the end of each month allows you to see whether your account is growing or stalling.
If you've hit a plateau of growth, you can look at your engagement metrics to find out what's working, and what's not, so you can do more of what works to engage your audience and pull in new followers.
If you want to do the best possible Twitter marketing for your freelance business, you must track your audience engagement. These stats take the most time to track, but they offer the biggest returns in helping you grow your audience. I recommend creating your own spreadsheet to track these stats. Alternatively, you can use dashboard Twitter apps such as Crowdbooster or Hootsuite to give you a regular overview.
To track your engagement, you should weekly or monthly record the top five to ten tweets with the most:
- Retweets. When you're retweeted by your followers, this puts your name in front of a whole new crowd of people. It also tells you that your audience loves those tweets so much they want to share them with the world. In effect, when your followers retweet you, they're saying "more tweets like this one please."
- Favorites. As with retweeting, when a follower favorites your Tweet it shows they love what you're saying. They're less significant than retweets, as they don't boost your visibility, but they're still worth sharing.
- Replies. Creating conversations should be one of the main reasons you use Twitter. Replies are gold, so you want to see the types of Tweets that attract them.
- Clicks. When you share links on Twitter, which get the most clicks? Like retweets and favorites, clicks show that what you're sharing is relevant to your followers. Clicks also show you have an engaging voice.
The 4 T's of Twitter Engagement
When you've recorded your top tweets, track the following about each. These are the four T's of Twitter engagement.
- Topic. What was the subject of your Tweet? If it was a link, what site did you link to?
- Type. Was it a link, a personal update, a news story, a promotion, quote, a photo, a video, a joke, or a question?
- Tone. What voice did you use in the Tweet? Funny, playful, serious, provocative, headline style? You can try your hand at different voices.
- Time. What day of the week and what time did you send out the tweet?
As you track the four T's, you'll notice patterns emerging for the types of Tweet that attract the most retweets, favorites, replies and clicks. When you find out what works, do more of it!
Tools To Track Twitter Metrics
My favorite tool for tracking my Twitter metrics is Buffer App. I like it for several reasons:
- It allows me to schedule my tweets, hassle free.
- It provides data on all the important Twitter metrics, for every Tweet.
- It's free for basic use.
However, the downside of Buffer App is that you're locked into the Buffer App system for measuring your stats. Send a tweet outside Buffer App, and you get no stats for it. Also, it's $10 a month for a premium account.
Other top tools for tracking metrics include:
- Advantages: Crowdbooster's graphical display of retweets and replies is its biggest draw. It's great if you're visually minded. You can check it out with a free 30 day trial.
- Disadvantages: It's difficult to get an immediate overview of the content of your best tweets. A basic Crowdbooster account hits your wallet at $9 a month.
- Advantages: You can build a custom report that track a range of metrics such as growth, mentions, mentions by influencers, retweets, and clicks. The report is emailed to your inbox at regular intervals. It's free for a basic Hootsuite account.
- Disadvantages: To get in-depth stats reports, you need a $9.99 per month pro account. The dashboard is more cluttered than intuitive.
- Advantages: Bit.ly is free, and integrates well with Tweetdeck.
- Disadvantages: It only measures clicks. You'll have to count up retweets, replies and favorites yourself.
Over To You
Tracking your metrics allows you to see what works on Twitter, and what doesn't. When you find what works, you do more of the same to better engage your audience and grow your follower count more quickly.
Do you track your Twitter stats, or do you go by intuition for what engages your followers? What are your favorite tools for keeping track of your Twitter metrics?