Twitter Analytics is now free for all: so what can libraries get out of it?


Twitter stats packages are sort of fascinating but also not. I look at a fair few because I need to be able to talk about them in social media workshops: what tends to happen is I put my username in, go 'ooooh that's interesting!' a few times, but then never actually go back and check the analysis on a second occasion.

As individuals we don't really need Twitter stats apps (unless you take Twitter very seriously) but as organisations they can be genuinely useful. They can help us understand our network, show us what works (so we can build on it) and what doesn't (so we can phase it out).

For an analysis package to be useful to an organisation it really needs three qualities:

  1. It must give you information you can ACT on. There are a million stats apps out there, but if they don't tell you anything which you can use to inform better practice for your twitter account, then they don't really have any value.
  2. It must NOT tweet things about that information on your behalf. Some apps tell you useful things - but they tell the rest of the world those useful things too. I'm dubious about this at the best of times (for me an auto-tweet saying "This week on Twitter: X follows / unfollows, Y ReTweets and Z total reach!" either looks a bit awkward if X, Y and Z are small numbers, and a bit show-boaty if they're large) but I really don't think organisational accounts should have anything tweeted on their behalf.
  3. It ideally needs to be free. Some things are worth paying for but realistically it's hard to get the people who control the purse-strings in libraries to shell-out for a Twitter stats annual subscription...

Thankfully the official Twitter Analytics, newly available for all, meets all three of those criteria. If you just tweet as yourself, sign in to and have a look a round at the things worth noting; it's interesting to see how few of your followers actually see your tweets, for example.

If you tweet as an organisation or group, Analytics is definitely worth your time. But it's quite overwhelming at first as there's a LOT of information there - so here's a guide to what to look out for.

Twitter Analytics: What You Can Learn, and What You Might Do

We'll look at the two main tabs in turn.

The Tweets Tab is potentially the most useful thing the tool offers, because it deals with follower engagement, which is the most important metric (much more so than number of followers). It shows you how many people see your tweets - not that many; only just over 10% of my followers see each of mine, on average - and how much engagement you're getting over time in terms of people replying, RT'ing, and so on.

So, dissecting the screen (I'm using my own account as an example as I don't run my Library's account anymore, but as I say the notes and advice are aimed at organisations using Twitter) one area at a time:

Tweet Impressions

'Impressions' basically means views. So in other words, the figures aren't the total number of people who've seen your tweets, they're the total number of times the tweets have been seen.

Things to note here are the spike on August 14th, and the big drops at weekends.

Things to note here are the spike on August 14th, and the big drops at weekends.

What can you learn? Most days your tweets will have a similar number of impressions – some days that’ll be much higher. Why was it higher that day? Was it simply that someone with a huge amount of followers RT’d you? Or was it that you posted a particular type of content which struck a chord with people?

Clearly there are far fewer impressions at the weekend – is it worth scheduling some tweets to maintain a more consistent level of service?

The overall number of impressions is only really meaningful if you know how many times you tweeted - if you tweet 15% more and get 15% more impressions, then clearly you're maintaining the status quo rather than having a particularly successful month. Twitter Analytics doesn't (currently) give you your tweets totals, so use an app like SumAll to find that out, and cross-reference the two.

What might you do? Go back and look at your tweets from your most successful day, find out what you did differently, and aim to repeat and build on it. Also if the overall impressions for the month are up significantly on the month before, identify why and try and do more of the same. If you feel it's worth scheduling tweets to cover the weekend, a social media dashboard like Hootsuite can do this for you.


This shows you the main actions people have taken based on your tweets over the last month, and compares it with the previous month.

This is useful for measuring campaigns

This is useful for measuring campaigns

Ultimately if you're using social media for communication and marketing, you want people to take actions, it's vital.

1000 Facebook friends who act and feel the same regarding the Library as they did before they joined your Facebook network, are of far less value than just 50 Facebook friends who actually modify their behaviour as a result of becoming part of your network. They might use the Library more, for example, or tell their friends about how great it is, because they're connected with you on social media. So, this part of the screen is really worth your attention.

What you can learn: Although looking at these graphs and seeing if you're doing better or worse than the month before is interesting in itself, I think the real value of this metric is to measure a campaign. It can tell you whether your specific audience responds well, or indifferently, to certain types of content and output.

For example, if you're spending a month promoting a new electronic resource at a business library, or inducting freshers at an academic library, or crowd-sourcing tips and advice at a public library, you can see how much engagement this results in compared with your normal patterns of tweeting.

What you might do: If the campaign is successful, run similar things again. Over time you should build up a picture of what your network likes and what it doesn't, which you can use as a platform to develop a more engaging social media presence. If I was an organisation I'd look at the graph on the left and think, okay, replies and favourites were up significantly, which is good, but RTs and link-clicks more than doubled - so what did I do to cause that? Whatever it was it's worth trying to repeat in future - if people are clicking links, preferably through to other content of yours such as your Library website, then social media is doing its job fantastically well for your organsiation.

The other thing this section, and indeed the Followers graph described below and the whole analytics package generally, is *reporting*. It's so great to be able to have figures to hand when reporting on your library's social media programmes, or justifying putting time into it, or looking to expand. Instead of telling your boss 'We've got some great engagement, people really seem to like our twitter account' you're able to say things like 'In the last 6 months our network has grown by 40%, and on average we get over 1,000 interactions on the platform per month - equivalent to a fairly busy Enquiries Desk in the physical Library'. Or whatever you want to say.

You can use the statistics to tell meaningful stories.

Tweet by Tweet impressions and engagements

I wish the columns of this one were sortable, because then you'd be able to instantly identify specific tweets which resulted in the most actions being taken. As it is you can glance down the list and see your most recent tweets and how they've been received - Impressions is how many people saw the tweet, Engagements is how many people interacted with it (not just RTs, replies and favourites, but clicking on hashtags, images, your username etc), and the Engagement Rate is the latter divided by the former.

The first number is Impressions, the second is Engagements, the third is Engagement Rate

The first number is Impressions, the second is Engagements, the third is Engagement Rate

What you can learn: Well the screengrab above appears to show that my network is a lot more interested in clicking on a link to Buzzfeed list of 'Medieval Beasts That Cannot Even Handle It Right Now' then they are in clicking on a link to a Wordpress guide! Which is entirely fair enough. Essentially this metric gives you an insight into what people react to. The engament rate is absolutely key to understanding what your network values - it could be that a tweet has 50,000 impressions if it gets ReTweeted by Stephen Fry, for example, which would distort the number of engagements to a massive figure. But it's the engagement divided by the impressions that gives you a true picture of what people care about, rather than just how many people happened to see it. Does that make sense?

What you might do: It's the same as above - identify what your audience responds to and do it more, basically. It works the other way too - it's not in the screenshot above but a little further down in my stats I saw a tweet that only got 93 impressions. This is because I tweeted at 5:10pm, and the largest percentage of my followers are from the UK, and everyone is either winding down or on the way home by then. So don't tweet anything important during commuting time. But you knew all that already.

Individual Tweet Analysis

An extension of the tweet-by-tweet covered above, this allows you to really drill down and see EXACTLY how people responded to each tweet.

People would have needed to click 'Detail expands' to see the picture properly.

People would have needed to click 'Detail expands' to see the picture properly.

What you can learn: This shows you exactly what people DO when your tweet appears in their timeline, either because they follow you or because they follow someone who ReTweeted you. The 'Follows' stat is interesting - it's not been possible before to see so explicitly when a specific tweet causes someone to take the plunge and hit the follow button, nor how many people are emailing your tweets to non-twitter users.

What you might do: Honestly I think you'd need to be in a full-time Comms role to get any real use out of this level of detail - there's simply too many tweets to spend time analysing each one. One thing I do find interesting is the number of people clicking links, even in quite popular tweets that get a lot of RTs - it's relatively low as a percentage.

Something I've been trying to do since restarting this blog after a hiatus for much of 2014 is to include an image in the tweet linking to my post, which tells as much of the story of that post as possible. This means people don't HAVE to click the link to get the (hopefully!) useful piece of information. So my tweet about the BuzzFeed Libraries had the actual BuzzFeed mock-up added as an image to the tweet (not a good example of useful information, admittedly!), and my tweet about revoking access to twitter apps you don't need had the little poster that I'd made used in the same way. (I also then put these in the blogposts themselves, as not everyone finds my blog via Twitter.)

If you use Twitter Cards (more on this another time) they seem to automatically take the image from the blogpost and use it in the tweet, which I've only discovered recently - so in the example above, I've just added a link to my post in the tweet, and the Twitter Card has put in the main image from the post - again, meaning people can get the info there and then without having to leave Twitter and read it on here.

The Followers Tab

This is slightly less important but still useful. It shows you how your followership changes over time, and gives you a bit of info about demographics. Everything on this tab can fit into one screenshot:

I can highly recommend NOT using Internet Explorer to view this page, as it bafflingly uses as sort of 'Ancient Manuscript' font which makes the figures completely unreadable...

I can highly recommend NOT using Internet Explorer to view this page, as it bafflingly uses as sort of 'Ancient Manuscript' font which makes the figures completely unreadable...

What you can you learn: Perhaps the most useful aspect of this would be to see weeks or months where your number of followers changes dramatically. I can't stress enough how I don't think number of followers is a metric you should worry too much about (level of engagement is worth so much more) - but generally when I've run campaigns on our Library Twitter account, concerted efforts to engage the network, word has spread and the number of followers has gone up more than it would normally, and that is a good thing. (My own graph above is pretty regular so doesn't really tell you anything, except I obviously annoyed some people in July 2013 because it went down!) So if there's a drop, a leveling out, or a spike, you can look back at your tweets from the period and try and identity the cause.

If anyone can think of a use for the Interests part of the screen then please let me know in the comments - I'm stuck for how we could meaningfully use this. Gender is potentially interesting - if your Library is attracting an unusually large amount of one gender versus another, you could seek to address that. Your followers also follow is interesting in passing - keep in mind that a larger proportion of your network will view conversations between you and the people who feature highly in this list, for reasons discussed in last week's post.

Location is definitely worth noting, for reasons of time-zone. I have around 1500 followers from North America, so realistically anything I tweet before lunchtime is not going to reach them.

What you might do: The most obvious thing is to identify what went right (or wrong) when your number of followers changed dramatically, and either seek to emulate it or stop doing it accordingly. The other thing you can do is adapt when you tweet to suit a global audience - either by saving key information until, for example, 3pm UK time if you're a UK tweeter, so you get the most audience for it (Tweriod can help with this, it tells you when your followers are online), or by scheduling tweets for late night if that suits your overseas followers.

The Twitter Cards Tab I'm struggling to make much sense of at first glance. I do use Twitter Cards and I'm going to write a post about them at some point, so will revisit it then.

That's a lot of information, has anyone made it to the end..? If so what do you think, is (are) Twitter Analytics potentially useful to you?

Digital Scholarship Training at @UniofYork: Facts and Figures


Andy Priestner has written about the importance of writing reports, even if no one asks you to, to showcase the value of what the Library is doing. is not enough just to collate this data and wait to be asked for it. It is far better to ensure that the people who need to know this stuff are informed, at least once a year, of these top level statistics, before they ask for them: a pre-emptive strike if you like…
— Andy Priestner in Business School Libraries in the 21st Century, edited by Tim Wales

(You can read a larger excerpt from his chapter here.)

With that in mind, a while ago I produced an internal report on the Digital Scholarship Training I've run at York (and various exciting things happened as a result of doing this) - which I've now expanded into an external version, which includes the Google Apps for Education training run by my colleagues.

My message to you is that if you have any expertise in the area of digital scholarship, scholarly comms, Web 2.0 in HE etc, find a way to offer it to your academic community! As I've mentioned before, we've found they're ready for it, and excited about the opportunities.

Below is a tweaked version of the report to include the message in the paragraph above - the original version (which can be found on our Library slideshare page) is aimed at York staff and asks them to get in touch for information about upcoming events. Putting it on our Slideshare page will hopefully increase the profile of something very positive for the Library and IT - we've both found that there's been some reputational gain from helping people out with things they really value right now, rather than solely focusing on what we've always done. We've also both found that word is starting to spread and we're becoming go-to people within the University when help or advice is required in these areas, which is excellent.

There's more about the nature of the training itself in this blog post on the Networked Researcher suite of workshops, and this later post about how the training is shifting slightly.

Ever wondered why people put a dot at the start of their tweets?


It's for a good reason.

The most common Twitter mistake...

The most common Twitter mistake...

Years ago I wrote a thing on TinyWrite (which sadly doesn't exist anymore) about using a character at the start of a tweet to ensure everyone sees it - when that's appropriate. Later I saw the slide-deck below, on the same subject.

I saw those slides again today, and I feel the same way about the presentation now as I did when it first came out - it is very good (and very popular), but it is also a 44-slide way of making what is quite a simple point! So I made the image above, because it occurred to me that a Venn Diagram could explain it fairly succinctly... I LOVE Venn Diagrams. Any excuse to use one. (Here's my favourite one ever.)

Anyhow here's the deck for a fuller explanation:

You see this problem on Twitter all the time, still. Even experienced Twitter users fluent in everything else on the platform make the error. The reason this matters is that sometimes you want all of your followers to see a tweet with, as I say, sharing content and live-tweeting events being the two main examples. Fairly often people will tweet a link to one of my blog posts with @ned_potter at the start of the tweet - so basically only people following both the tweeter and me will see that tweet, and my followers may already have seen it when I tweeted it anyway...

So it is a basic part of the way Twitter works - Twitter filters conversations so you only see those between people you follow, otherwise it would be completely unusable and overwhelming. (Incidentally, one of the side effects of this system is sometimes you can be tweeting as an organisation, and having a dispute with a user, and it feels like the whole world can see your conversation, which is embarrassing. In actual fact, only people who follow both you and the user will see it, so it's not nearly as problematic as it feels at the time...)

So if you want all your followers to see a tweet, make sure there's a character of some kind before an @username. It's not the end of the world if people get this wrong - but you may as well get it right!

Edit: A brief follow up on over-sharing via the dot

As part of the conversation that followed me tweeting about this post earlier, Matt Shaw pointed this out:

If you click on the date in that tweet you'll see all the tweets which followed in reply - but essentially it comes down to some people overusing the dot to ensure everyone sees their tweets. There are three main reasons people use the dot apart from the live-tweeting and post-sharing described above.

  1. Because someone asks a question to which the answer has value to everyone (this is, in my view, completely acceptable - as long as you're a good judge of what constitutes value to everyone, and I'm not always confident I am a good judge of that...)
  2. Because your tweet is so hilarious / insightful / clever that everyone simply must see it (this is sometimes okay, I am guilty of doing it on occasion, but when people do it all the time it makes me wince)
  3. Because they want everyone to see the praise they're responding to (this one I have the most problem with - you see people responding to thanks for their talk, as in this example from Chuck G in an article raging against the dot. You also see people saying thank you for people nominating them for a #FollowFriday in this fashion. Why do people do this? Or worse still, ReTweet their FollowFriday nominations?! Everyone who sees the tweet already follows them! Desist!)

So, use the dot with caution! Use it to share blog posts and presentations from other Twitter users - or better still, put a word in there to make it a proper sentence. And as Chuck says, if you're tweeting a conference lead with the hashtag (that's a far better solution than my example in the image at the top of this post). But otherwise, think carefully.

ALL THAT SAID, as I've mentioned before, my number 1 piece of advice to tweeters is to ignore advice to tweeters - unless you're tweeting as an organisation, just do it how you want to...


Creating quick and easy videos with Adobe Voice


I saw this tweet earlier in the week, and had a look at the list. It's a good list, and the thing which really caught my eye was Adobe Voice. It allows you to create an animated video which sits somewhere between a normal video or screen-capture, and a slidedeck on autoplay. I decided to sign up and have a go, and it took only about half an hour to create this video with it.

It's a very new product, coming out in May of this year. Hopefully the video above shows you how it works and what it can do - the reason I feel like it could be so useful for libraries is that it allows you to explain fairly dry and complex information in a visual and engaging way. Some types of video, particularly stuff about databases and online things, really don't lend themselves to the 'person talking either to or off camera' school of video-creation - and screen capture can sometimes be a little dull too. I feel like this is a nice hybrid - the 'animation' element keeps things moving, and you can use screengrabs if you like too. You need neither a micrphone nor a video camera to create an effective video. You don't have to master complicated software (and even Camtasia, which I think is ace and very easy to use, feels complex compared to Voice).

Like a lot of new tools coming out these days, it makes things look very smart without the user having to know about anything except providing useful content. There are lots of different templates - here's the same video as above, using a different theme. Notice how it recolours the icons to fit the new theme.


You can also choose different layouts - I chose a side-by-side theme but there are four other options.

So have a look and see if it could be useful to your library. In summary:

(The Cons list looks really big when they're side-by-side but that's only because the cons take more explanation!)


  1. Solves an existing problem! I love tools which do this
  2. Free
  3. It's an all-in-one solution. When I create slides I have to go to iconfinder for icons, flickr for images and PPT to actually make it - Voice does all these things from one place
  4. Looks great
  5. Extremely quick to create something useful
  6. Conveys information well - it's not just pretty, it's effective in what we need it for


  1. iOS only
  2. You can't, at the time of writing, have more than one layout (or theme) per video, which would be nice
  3. In fact there's very little flexibility in how you layout each slide, once your theme and layout are selected - but this is also its strength. It's idiot proof. You'd have to go out of your way to make something bad with this tool
  4. At the moment there's no option to upload to YouTube - they have to be hosted on Adobe's own site and embedded elsewhere. That's fine, but having a video which isn't on YouTube always seems like a massive waste of an opportunity...

10 Tiny Tips for Trainers & Teachers


I do a whole load of training these days, both as part of my day-job and my freelance work, so have picked up a few small tricks along the way. There's nothing earth-shattering here - but if you run training or teach infolit classes, you may find some of these useful.  

Here's the short, visual version - then I go into each one in a bit more detail below.

Session structure

1. Start with something practical. Sometimes there is, unavoidably, a bunch of theory or conceptual stuff you have to get through. But if that's the case, if at all possible make this second on your itinerary for the day / hour - and start off with something practical. Diving in with something for people to DO wakes everyone up, and grounds the whole workshop in something tangible rather than abstract. It also makes everyone into active participants early on.

2. Allow time to recharge. A full-day workshop should have coffee-breaks etc built-in, but even a 1hr workshop can be quite overwhelming. Just building in a 3 minute gap for participants to switch-off, chat to each other, relax, will help them focus for the second half of the session and raise the energy level all round. A break 10 minutes in to a 1hr session works brilliantly - surprisingly better then, than half-way through the session or later.

3. Sum up via a Random Slide Challenge (also known as Battle Decks). I love a random slide challenge. Here's how it works:

  1. You create a short simple slide-deck which summarises the session you've just run (I normally create two decks of 5 slides each)
  2. You get participants to deliver the presentation (so in my case, two volunteers)
  3. The volunteers have never seen the slides before, which is part of the fun - so they see each slide for the first time at the same moment the audience does, and have to improvise their presentation based on that
  4. You move the slides along after 15 seconds per slide, so the whole thing takes only just over a minute per presentation

You have to give them the best possible chance of knowing which part of the session each slide is getting at! If you look at slide 41 onwards of the deck embedded here, you'll see an example of a random-slide challenge set of slides.

This works well for two reasons - firstly it is often hilarious. People in the audience shout-out if they pick up on what the slide is about before the presenters, and basically it leaves everyone on a high at the end of the session. Feedback forms at both the British Library, where I've done this on training courses, and for my infolit classes at York, often point towards this as being one of the delegates' favourite parts. The other reason it works is it's often a surpisingly great summary of the session. People say the exact kinds of things I would have said if I was summarising myself, but it has more impact because it's another voice (and, with students, it's one of their peers). Try it! The only thing is, you need a plan B for if you get no volunteers, which once happened to me. Prizes help ensure this doesn't happen...

4. Close after the questions. It's good to end any training or teaching session with a call to action - a clear message as to where participants can go from here. This can be somewhat muddied by a Q&A session (which can of course throw up anything), so build in time for questions just before the end, and leave yourself the last 5 minutes to close the session with something direct and meaningful.


Tablet as teaching assistant

5. Use Padlet on your tablet to remember who's who. Padlet is a great tool that can be used in all sorts of ways. You create an online wall, onto which you and anyone else who has the URL can post notes. Anyone can double-click anywhere to add a sort of virtual post-it. Then they can put in their name as the title, and a note, or a URL - links to pics or videos become embedded objects on the wall. I use it to crowd-source people's ideas in training sessions - like you'd use a flipchart, except everyone can go back and look at the URL after the session, and it becomes a sort of archive for everyone to learn from oneanother.

Anyway, depending on the session I'll go round at the start and ask people to introduce themselves, and say what they want to get out of the day / hour. This is very useful in and of itself, as you can tailor things accordingly. I'll type it into Padlet on the big presenting screen as I go, so we can all refer back to it later in the day and see if we did what we said we'd do! But the really useful thing is, you can choose exactly where your notes go on the screen - so I put the notes in a way which corresponds to the physical layout in the room and where people are sitting, like in the example below. Then when I take it off the big-screen to put my slides up, I put the Padlet wall on my ipad screen - this means I've got everyone's names in the right place for easy reference so I can remember who's who!

(I feel like I didn't explain that very well. Does that make sense? The example below should clear it up.)

A Padlet wall example

A Padlet wall example


6. Skip ahead in the presentation, on your tablet. I like to have my slides or prezi open on my ipad so I can see what's coming. This is particularly handy if you're joint-teaching with somone - while they're speaking, you can recap what you're supposed to be saying next. A massive part of successful teaching and presenting, for me, is feeling in control - and this helps.



7. Hand out the handouts. It's tempting to feel more organised by distributing the handouts, if you use them, before people arrive. Placing one by each PC or on every table. But if the group is of 20 or less, hand them round yourself; it's a great opportunity to meet each person individually and make eye-contact which, however brief, makes the communication easier and fuller for the session proper.

8. Use screengrabs to make exercises easy to find. It's amazing how often people lose their place in a handout. When you get to an excercise in the handout, put a screengrab of the slide that's on the big-screen at the time you're introducing the excercise - it makes it quick and easy for people to know exactly where they should be.



9. Use a free PBworks wiki to store materials for delegates. For all sorts of reasons, it's good to have materials online. Particularly if your session is link-heavy, store a digital copy of the hand-out on a free wiki (PBworks for example) so delegates can access them that way and just click on URLs rather than typing them in. Put the PowerPoint on there too - this means you’ll have a copy of your presentation and hand-outs even if your USB stick falls out of your pocket and your printer breaks…

10. Send the presentation round afterwards with an email. A follow-up email is useful for reinforcing key messages, and making sure people have access to the presentation materials. Don’t rely on people (students especially) tracking it down for themselves; follow up directly, ensuring they have a copy of the presentation AND your contact details. If there are issues around attachment filesizes, upload your slides to Slideshare and your hand-out to Scribd, and include links instead.

As always, I'd welcome comments - add your own tips below and help make this post more useful!