Home > Uncategorized > Retweet = impressions 2.0
Retweet love.  We love our Retweets.  That little counter located somewhere near our blog posts is indicative of interaction:  someone thought enough of a post to take an action, to click on a button, to shorten it with Bit.ly, or to otherwise share it with their followers.  

The trouble with that line of thinking is the mere act of a Retweet is not the same as knowing someone actually read the post. Case in point?  The blind Retweeter – the person that simply Tweets or Retweets a link because it had a clever headline, or because they were seeking content.  It borders on callous, in my opinion, to put a stamp of approval on content, on which in reality, there is no basis for approving.

The problem isn’t all together different than the one public relations professionals faced with impressions.  A placement on page B4 in a daily newspaper with a circulation of 500,000 does not necessarily mean half a million people read that article, understood that article, or found resonance in that article.  In other words, Retweets are like impressions 2.0.

Retweets are like AVE
Beyond impressions, in some ways I can also see similarities between Tweet counts and advertising value equivalency (AVE).  Though AVE has become almost sacrilegious to mention in some PR circles, there are professionals that stick with the number as a measurement, because it’s a number.

More than a few times, I’ve observed a peer has commented to the effect, “I report to the CMO and AVE gives me the hook to have a conversation, to argue for budget or headcount.  It’s a way I can demonstrate value in financial terms in dollars and cents.” 

That single number in and of itself is a disservice to the organization.  In terms of monetary value, it has little meaning.  Paid and earned media have different values and should be measured in different ways —  but the clinging to Retweets in the same fashion, is simply the social media application of AVE.

(Note: to be clear, I support AVE, not in the sense of equivalency, but in the fact the data can be charted and graphed over time, which provides an indication of quality of coverage that can be benchmarked year over year – and I’d put Tweet counts in the same category – it’s an indication, not definitive.  To that end, there are few measures that are definitive, what we have is indications…and judgement.)

Different buttons, different count
Working on this blog and experimenting with Retweet buttons, is what put this topic on my radar.  I did a little experiment – RT! Comparing Retweet Buttons — in fact ran it twice to see just the differences.

For me, no clearer example played out than in watching the Tweets stack up of this post on TopRank’s blog:  7 Social Media Lessons from Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid. The “official” Twitter button, which I understand is powered by Tweetmeme, puts the count at 600, though Backtweets puts the count at 613. Why the difference?

My experimental post caused the CEO of Topsy to reach out to me on Twitter to argue that Topsy removes duplicate Tweets.  He called this spam, which may or may not be true (I’ve since searched for those Tweets to link to here, but it appears they have been removed). 

On the other hand, the founder Backtype (and Backtweets) also reached out (comment posted in the screenshot nearby) – and the bottom line is Backtype counts everything.  There are merits on both sides, though I tend to lean towards the Backtype way of thinking:  if Lady Gaga were to Tweet my post twice, I’d want to know about it.

Retweets place in measurement
Tweet counts do have a place in measurement.  Initially, they serve as an acid test of sorts, a way to test how a concept or idea is playing out. In the long term, they can be useful to benchmark posts that tend to resonate more, a quick look at Google Analytics allows you to easily correlate actual page views to Tweets, and generally, I’ve found the correlation is quite positive. The key is to define the goal of content, what are you hoping to accomplish?  What is that measurable outcome you’re seeking?  For that, I’d refer back to what’s become a guiding principle – PR should be as closely correlated to sales as possible – impressions are interesting, clicks are better sales are best. 

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