Rank Ranger Blog

Untwisting Twitter Terms: A Metric Trek

If you're a Twitter marketer, then your ever-potent Replies Reach has likely garnered you excessive amounts of Favorites Gained, which has only been outdone by your Retweets Gained I'm sure. Our Twitter Analytics report is a powerful tool for monitoring your progress on the social media giant. But for many, with terms like Replies Reach, Favorites Gained, and even Retweets Gained, trekking through Twitter data can feel more like trudging through mud than skiing down a beautiful slope fancy-free. Not to worry, we're here to help take the mystery out of, and bring meaning to, those metrics that comprise your Twitter life. 

Twitter Analytics Dashboard 

Twitter Analytics Dashboard

Fig 1. The Twitter Analytics Dashboard showing Lifetime Totals, a graph showing Total Posts relative to Mentions, and Engagement data 

What are Lifetime Totals?

When it comes to tackling Twitter's metrics, there is a lot to chew on. Terms such as Mention Replies or Mentions Reach might not exactly be intuitive. On the other hand, Lifetime Totals is a bit more comprehensible off the the cuff and might be a good place to start our journey through Twitter.

Like it sounds Lifetime Totals provide you with aggregate Twitter data, simply showing data that represents the entire life of your Twitter account. In specific, Lifetime Totals show your total Followers (i.e., those who follow your Twitter account and have your Tweets appear within their stream), Following (i.e., the number of Twitter accounts you follow), Favorites (i.e, the total number of those little "hearts" you've clicked), Tweets (yours), and Lists (a List is sort of a secondary Twitter stream of sorts that allows you to see Tweets from the users on that specific list and only from that specific list). Now, if some of the terms here are not 100% clear, don't fret, we're going to see them again shortly within a more detailed explanation. 

Lifetime Totals Twitter Metrics 

Twitter Lifetime Metrics
Fig 2. Data for each of the Lifetime Totals metrics on Twitter 

As general as the information within Lifetime Totals may be, it does give you a nice overall picture of where you stand on Twitter. How many likes (in Twitter terms, Favorites) have you doled out, or in real terms, how interactive are you with the Tweets you encounter on a basic level? Noting how many followers you have is invaluable. Sure you have thousands of lifetime Tweets, but if you have no Followers they become like the tree falling in the forest that no one can hear, do they really make a sound?  So getting a glimpse of your overall, or lifetime data has its advantages. 

Total Twitter Followers 


Twitter Lifetime Metrics Graph
Fig 3. Lifetime Followers data compared to the previous period on the Twitter Analytics report 

Account Performance Metrics

Unlike Lifetime Totals, your Account Performance data is period specific. For arguments sake, say you like seeing your Twitter data over a 30 day period, the metrics within Account Performance will be relegated to that specific time frame. 

Account Performance Metrics 

Account Performance Twitter Metrics

Fig 4. Data for each Account Performance metric 

Very nice, but what exactly is Account Performance data? Noticed I asked, what it is, not what constitutes the data set. It's important to have a general understanding of what the set of data as whole is before going into the specific metrics. With that introduction... Account Performance data basically tells you how people reacted to your Twitter content and in turn how you reacted to the content of others. Did they just love what you had to say? Like good gossip (unfortunately), did people feel like they needed to share it with everyone they know? However, social impact is a two way street, because in reality Twitter is a way to build relationships through conversation. In terms of conversation/relationship building it becomes important to know what others have said and how it impacted you. How many times during the period did you feel the need to share something someone else Tweeted with everyone you know? How often did you engage in a conversion per se by replying to other "Tweeple" (i.e. people on Twitter) directly? 

Knowing what Account Performance is, we need to know how it is measured. Essentially, this data dynamic is measured in five ways: 
  • Tweets
  • Retweets
  • Replies
  • Favorites Gained
  • Retweets Gained 

Tweets: The Source of Life on Twitter 

Tweets are the basic building blocks of all Twitter life, without them the "Twitterverse" would cease to exist. A Tweet is a short snippet of information, often containing a link to a web page, or accompanied by an image or video, that users on Twitter thought so very important that they had to share it with everyone they know (on Twitter that is). So let's just say you saw a sale online that had a good 'ol Yankee swivel plow for 50% off. Being as adverse to technology as you are, you decided to buy one... who needs modern farm equipment you thought! Not only that, but you decided to share your aversion to modern technology by Tweeting information about the sale to all of your buddies on Twitter. By doing so you put content out there into the great expanse known as Twitter.... content that we need to know how others felt about. 

Favorites Gained: Do People Like What They See in Your Content?  


For the sake of our little narrative let's go slightly out of order and deal with Favorites Gained. So you Tweeted all about the sale on awesome plows from the 1890's. Shockingly, people loved what you shared and they "Favorited" your Tweet. Slow down smokey, what's a Favorite? See that image directly below, that's a real Tweet, it's live, so let's play with it a bit. Go ahead, read through the Tweet. Did you like what you just read and/or saw? Hover your mouse over the little heart icon at the bottom of the Tweet, you'll notice it turns red as you do. If you liked what you just read, click on the heart. If you did click on the heart, then you just "Favorited" something. A Favorite is just another way of saying that you liked a Tweet. 

Let's get back to the case at hand, old plows. Say that 15 people liked what you wrote about the sale on plows and clicked the little heart. Well if that is the case, you just gained 15 favorites. Favorites Gained is how many times people "liked" any of your tweets within the reporting period by clicking on the cutesy little heart icon. 

Retweets Gained: How Powerful is Your Content Really? 


Now this one is really important. People can Favorite your Tweets for all sorts of reasons, social pressure, they want you to follow their own feed, etc. I'm not saying that Favorites don't show a genuine affinity to the content they are attached to, I'm just saying that there can be a lot of ulterior motives behind clicking that heart icon. 

Not so with Retweets (or not as much perhaps).

But, what's a Retweet? OK, let's take another of our live Tweets:

Do you see that set of inverse arrows to the left of the heart icon at the Tweet's bottom. Go ahead, hover over it, it should turn green... this is the Retweet button. Clicking it will post what you see here, on your own Twitter feed. 

Retweeting something is a bold statement. It's basically taking the content that someone else posted, and making it your own. So unless you're really sure about the content, unless you really believe in it, unless you really see it as significant and true, you generally won't Retweet it. After all, by Retweeting something, your own reputation is at stake. 

That's why I mentioned that Retweets Gained is a significant metric. In Retweets Gained, you will see how many times your Tweets were Tweeted by others and placed on their own feed within a reporting period. This is an authentic (or more authentic) way to see if people really liked what you had to say in a Tweet. 

So it should come as no surprise that your Tweet about a sale on ancient plows gained 0 Retweets. Sure, people may have Favorited your tweet, old plows are kind of cool and all, but no one is going to stick that on their own feed and make themselves look the fool. Thus, Retweets Gained gives you a real and powerful insight into the hearts and minds of your Followers on Twitter. 

Retweets: Why It Matters

Having tackled Retweets Gained, understanding Retweets themselves becomes much easier. Remember, Twitter is not just about sharing information, it's also about community, interaction, and relationship building. Nothing says "I loved your Tweet" like sharing it on your feed, i.e., Retweeting it. Retweeting other people's content is a valuable way of not only increasing the value of your own feed by including the thoughts of others, but also presents a solid Twitter relationship building technique. Thus, knowing how many times you Retweeted the content of others becomes a significant benchmark of your Twitter health. As a result, the Retweets metric you see on your Twitter Analytics report provides you with something deeper than just the number of times you Retweeted content during the reporting period. 

Retweet Notification 

Retweet Notification: Twitter

Fig 5. Twitter notification indicating a Tweet was Retweeted by two separate users


Replies: Why It Equals Full Twitter Engagement 

The significance of this metric follows what we discussed in Retweets and takes what we said there one step further. I'll say it again if I have to, Twitter is not just about content, but relationships. Think about it from a branding perspective. Say you offer a service within a nice little niche market, perhaps personal finance consulting. You would most certainly want people to view you as a leading expert in personal finance consulting. By sending out Tweets that highlight your expertise you are certainly on the path of creating a name for yourself. As much as "Tweeting" will help build your brand, nothing compares to actually engaging others. Imagine that potential customers or even other experts in your field are posting their personal finance questions on Twitter, and you are the one who is actually answering them, what would that do for your brand? 

Replying to other people's Tweets is a vital part of the Twitter picture and the above illustration is just one of the impacts doing so can have on your business. Nothing builds connection to others on Twitter more than actually engaging with them in a back and forth conversation. Tracking how many times you have replied to Tweets within a reporting period is an easy way to see just how engaged your Twitter presence really is. Noting how many times you have replied to Tweets, especially in comparison to other reporting periods, can tell you if your Twitter presence is a stale stream of Tweets or an engaged and dynamic presence that is full of life. In this sense Replies qualifies your Account Performance

Mentions Performance: What Does this Data Do for ME?!


Actually, "me" is the right word here. If the metrics within Account Performance measures your interaction with other people's Twitter content and vice versa, then Mentions Performance measures "you," your Twitter "you" that is. Let's get cosmic for a second and define your account on Twitter as a "Twitter entity," a 140 character being of sorts. This being the case, wouldn't you want to know how "you" are doing on Twitter? Do people respect you? Notice you? Consider your voice significant and wish to include you in the conversation? To measure you existentially on Twitter (could you imagine limiting someone like Kierkegaard to 140 characters?), we use the metrics within Mentions Performance

Mentions Performance Metrics 

Twitter Mention Performance Metrics

Fig 6. Data displaying for the metrics within Mention Performance 

To paint this self-portrait of sorts, the following metrics are employed: 
  • Mentions
  • Mention Replies
  • Retweets Gained 
  • Mentions Reach 
  • Replies Reach 
  • Favorites Gained 

Mentions: Why You Should Care If People Talk About You Behind Your Back 

What Tweets are to Account Performance data, Mentions are to Mentions Performance. Forming the very foundation of this group of metrics, Mentions is one of the most important elements of your Twitter existence. A Mention is simply when another Twitter user indicates your @username (i.e., the name you use on Twitter, @johndoe, etc.) within one of their Tweets. So for example, if someone were to create a Tweet that said, "@SuperDuperAntiquePlowPerson Did you see that sale on sulky hay rakes?"... well then @SuperDuperAntiquePlowPerson just notched a Mention 

Sample Twitter Mention 

Fig 7. Rank Ranger's @username is mentioned within a Tweet 

You might be asking yourself... So what? Why do I care if other people recognize me? I'm OK as I am without other people validating me, why do I care about Mentions? I'll tell you why. Contrary to real life, where we all have inherent worth etc., being mentioned on Twitter means you're a somebody! All joking aside, Mentions can indicate that people consider you an important member of your Twitter community, that you, not just your content per se, are a significant Twitter entity, possibly an authoritative one at that. 

So when our Twitter Analytics report indicates how many times you have been mentioned within a Tweet, by another person within your Twitter community, it's important. It's important because it shows you have social standing in some way and simply because it gets your name out there. If you're trying to build your brand up wouldn't you want your name out there as much as possible? Wouldn't you want to know how many times people talked about you, mentioned you? Aren't you itching to go check your Mentions for the current reporting period right now? 

Mention Replies: How It Introduces You to Others


Mention Replies are really an extension of what we discussed in regards to Mentions. As opposed to Mentions per se which would place your @username within a Tweet, Mention Replies places the @username within a reply. For example, say someone Tweeted, "Where can I find a good price on a Yankee swivel plow?" while another Twitter user subsequently replied back, "@SuperDuperAntiquePlowPerson always know where to find the best price," then @SuperDuperAntiquePlowPerson has garnered what I am sure is one of many Mention Replies

The upshot of a Mention Reply is that it very well may introduce you to people within your niche that may not have heard of you before. Within the business setting, this introduction of sorts often comes within a problem-solving dynamic and can present you as an authority and more within your industry. 

Retweets Gained: The Significance of Spreading Your Good @username


Though you have seen this metric within the context of Account Performance, here, within Mentions Performance, Retweets Gained takes on a slightly different meaning. In this metric set, Retweets Gained refers to the number of times a Tweet that mentioned your @username was Retweeted within a reporting period. In other words, earlier we saw that you can track how many times your content was Retweeted. Here you can see how many times your "name," so to speak, was Retweeted. It's really a way of seeing how many times you, as a Twitter "entity" were introduced to various Twitter feeds outside of any connection to your content. 

Retweet of a Mention 


Retweet of a Mention on Twitter

Fig 8. A user Retweets a Tweet containing the account holder's @username

Say we only tracked how many times your content was Retweeted. Sure you would know that your content has spread its wings, but vis a vis brand recognition do you really care about content per se, inherently? Couldn't your name being spread about Twitter in the context of you being an industry authority, as a person with industry know-how, who is able to solve complex problems be just as impactful for your business? 

Mentions Reach: How to See the True Value of a Mention


OK, so via the Mentions metric you know exactly how many times your @username was mentioned in a Tweet within a reporting period. But is there really inherent value in this? I mean let's say you were mentioned twice, and by two separate people at that. However, let's also say that both of these folks each have one follower apiece, and that each of these followers have no followers themselves whatsoever. Well then, the maximum reach of your being mentioned in this Tweet is not very large if only two other people are going to see it, theoretically! 

This is what makes Mentions Reach so important, it shows you the true value of your Mentions. The Mentions Reach metric tells you the number of users who could potentially see the Tweets that mentioned your @username. 

Replies Reach: Maximum Reply Mention Potency  

Fantastic, your @username has been mentioned within a reply to a Tweet, but just like a Mention itself, we still don't know the actual power behind your @username being indicated here. How many people really have access to your @username as a result of it being mentioned within this conversation?

The Replies Reach metric, like its Mentions Reach counterpart, will tell you just how many potential users were in the audience when your @username was mentioned in replies within a reporting period. In more pragmatic terms, the Mentions Reach metric will tell you just how many people could have actually seen your @username as a result of it being within a given number of replies among the specific group of people. Or in other words, just how many people could have potentially learned who you, and your business are, as a result of your @username being indicated within replies!

Favorites Gained: Why You Should Feel Validated 


Favorites Gained is another metric we saw earlier within Account Performance, and one that yet again takes on new meaning here within Mentions Performance. Whereas the metric within Account Performance indicates how favorable your content was in the eye's of others, Favorites Gained here is more like being "Favorited" by association. 

Favorite Gained Example

Favorite of a Mention on Twitter

Fig 9. A user Favorites a Tweet containing the account holder's @username 

Whenever someone clicks the Favorite (heart) icon on a Tweet that mentions your @username, you are considered to have received a Favorites Gained. Now obviously, the "Favorite" that was applied to the Tweet reflects that user's opinion of the Tweet's content. Except in this case, your @username was a part of that content and often enough in a vital way. In other words, all things being equal, your @username wasn't mentioned willy-nilly, it was there because it played a role within the content. When someone "Favorites" that content they are in a real way validating your presence within that content, an act which for obvious reasons you might want to know about!

My Best Twitter Blessings and Wishes to You


I hope you have found this journey through the Twitter metrics of our Twitter Analytics report helpful. These Twitter terms can be a mental tongue twister! At least now you know that they don't have to be. Though, what I really hope is that by understanding these metrics your Twitter content will be that much more impactful and your @username will be brought to new existential heights! 

About The Author
Mordy is the official liaison to the SEO community for Wix. Despite his numerous and far-reaching duties, Mordy still considers himself an SEO educator first and foremost. That's why you’ll find him regularly releasing all sorts of original SEO research and analysis!

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