All A’Twitter: How Social Media Aids in Science Outreach – Chapter 5
Chapter 5: The Successes of Twitter for the Multipurpose
As much as Twitter seemed to get off to a slow start in terms of approving posts and
gaining followers, it has far surpassed expectations. We currently have 201
followers with an average of 105 hits, or clicks, per link. Our number of website hits
has jumped from around 12,000 per month to over 24,000 per month. The MMC
Twitter account has only been around for six months and we have seen a 100%
increase in web traffic. On average, we get a new follower each day.
We have noticed that more of our partners and established users are on Twitter, in
comparison to Facebook or other social media sites. Number of followers tends to
fluctuate, which is natural, but we have definitely seen a steady climb in followers.
Out of our current 201 followers, 105 are individual people and 96 are organization
accounts. The fact that more of our followers are individuals could mean that our
data are more appealing to individual users; however, many of the individuals are
employees of companies utilizing MMC data. There is no great way to determine
who is using the data in what ways just by looking at the follower composition.
The best, most basic way of tracking success is to use the number of hits, or clicks,
each link receives. By using a URL shortener, and in the case of government
accounts this is a specified shortening service, we can track hits per link and where
that link directed users. Using this information, we can calculate average number of
hits per link based on destination as well as overall average number of hits. It is
important to note that although there was not an equal number of tweets
concerning each destination, we can still break the shortened URLs up into
destination categories to determine which were most popular. The map gallery
destination was the most popular overall, with an average number of hits at 190 per
link. The home page was the next most popular destination with 114 hits per link on
average. The updates page and map viewer were the next most popular with 105
and 102 hits per link on average, respectively. The support, data and tools pages
were all in the range of 70-100 hits per link on average. Table 1 in the Appendix
shows these values in more detail.
There are other aspects of analyzing the number of hits per link that were not taken
into account here. A tweet, or post, needs to be interesting and engaging in order to
grab a follower’s attention and make them want to click the link. Therefore, it is
possible that followers are genuinely more interested in the map gallery, or it is
possible that those tweets were more engaging and the phrasing caused more
people to click the link. Unfortunately, there is no good way to measure engagement
or appeal of a tweet; personal opinions on what is appealing differ far too much.
CSC has tracked monthly webhit totals since October 2011. By comparing these
values as “Before Twitter” with the monthly webhits since the beginning of August
2011 as “After Twitter,” we can determine visual trends for the increase in webhits.
Since October 2011 there has been a steady increase in webhits with the total never
exceeding 14,000. After the implementation of Twitter, there is a period of time with
little to no change in webhits and then it becomes obvious that Twitter makes a
significant difference in amount of website traffic the MMC website receives. When
graphically comparing before and after implementation, the slope of the best-fit line
almost doubles after implementation. If the graphs are redone to include the lag
period after implementation with the “Before Twitter” data, the slope of the best-fit
line for “After Twitter” is almost triple that of “Before Twitter.” It is clear that
Twitter had a positive effect on total webhits and website traffic.
Overall, the MMC project has seen positive results in all aspects of implementing
Twitter. By using Twitter, we are able to reach a more diverse audience – especially
if we extrapolate the reach using retweets and mentions – and receive informal
feedback valuable to the advancement of our overall project goals. With 105 hits per
link posted, we are ensuring that new data, new blog posts and highlighted areas of
the website are seen by more users than previously. This is supported by the overall
increase in webhits to the website. All of this data helps prove the value of the MMC
and demonstrates the variety of benefits to data seekers that the MMC provides.