C'mon, People, Be Social: A Personal Twitter Experiment

Posted on May 7th 2014

C'mon, People, Be Social: A Personal Twitter Experiment

Like many, over the years I've fallen for the interconnectivity of Twitter. The glorious randomness of discovery possible through my feed; the ebb and flow of tweets from those I follow; the conversations and immediate feedback it can generate; the new people and things I find to engage with.

However, a lot of broadcasting still happens by brands and people. You know the kind — those with interesting content but who don’t make an effort to engage. Honestly, I don’t get why not. 

Of course, this is not in relation to Ads - Twitter has to make money. At least Ads are conspicuously flagged as a spam-fest and we can choose to engage or ignore or — if so inclined — dismiss altogether. Incidentally I bought something via an Ad for the first time recently (it was relevant, well targeted and offered value).

I know, I know it’s almost impossible for it not to be the case that normal tweets are used to spread promotional messages. Still, isn’t it the antithesis of the thing if you’re not actually even trying to be sociable?

So, I thought I’d do an unscientific, unrepresentative, random test to see if there were any patterns across different types of users. A personal microcosm of our Social experience. Just because, really.

Comments & disclaimers: 

  • This certainly isn’t meant to call anyone out — just explore some thoughts about how we can all use Social better (me included). 
  • It’s not from a macro data download or from an all singing all dancing analytics engine. This is purposely low-tech — tweet ‘em and count ‘em — as I also wanted to get a personal feel about what was happening by reading the threads in sequence and not be distracted by additional or collated information. 
  • It’s not perfect. However, it is a representation of a personal experience replying to other users tweets over a three month period. My thanks to everyone that unwittingly participated in this experiment; I hope you don’t hold it against me — I’ll be continuing to engage in future.

Here are the unscientific results from tweeting with this idea in the back of my mind…

 

In all cases this measures when I responded to another users tweet and whether the person manning that account responded or not. A positive response was generated in various ways.


 

twitter research

Total respondents: N=82

Not a traditional split of industries, but it fairly accurately reflects the sectors I’ve interacted with over the timeframe of the experiment.

 
twitter responses

Oh dear, 41% didn’t try to engage me. 

Whilst fairly happy with almost a 60-40 split weighted positively towards being responded to, there’s a lot of room for improvement.

The tweets I replied back with were comprised of: 

 
social media bar graph

I seem to have a bias towards a thought-out comment and trying to be funny…who’d a thunk it.


Positive Response Analysis

 
social media experiment results

Something I said? Decent result on the replies but lacking RTs.

It was pleasing to see that the reply rate to my responses to their tweets was the outright winner and also that over half of those that responded were happy to engage in a relevant dialogue about their tweet or article. This created the multiple responses — only one point for multiples per tweet was up for grabs.

There was also a considerable ratio of Favourites — people like to Twitter flirt but not necessarily respond in kind. It could be argued that a “Favourite” is not a response in itself (although it can be in certain situations).

However, as I only ever replied having read what they had tweeted (plus any article linked to it) it was somewhat disappointing to have such a low RT rate, particularly when a reply was favourited and not actually replied to. 

Granted, it seems intuitive that you’ll be more likely to RT original content, however an appropriate and thought out comment is perhaps still worth an RT and creates visible engagement — a positive interaction. 

Maybe it has something to do with the number of followers I have or something to do with the type of tweets I replied with?


twitter data

Comments on their tweets or linked articles created the highest response rate, in front of humorous (it’s how I tell ‘em). 

In terms of the low score for direct question or informational replies I think this is because I’m more inclined towards commenting or making a joke, rightly or wrongly. So it is a bias I brought to the experiment that these came out lower. As a reminder, my tweets were made up of 15% Question, 44% Comment, 34% Humour and 6% Informational. Knowing this, it looks to correlate as fairly equal with what received a response.


engagement on twitter

Just one observation drawn from this…

Thinking about this data, the increases in comparison to the sample size may be improved for all industries because I failed to illicit a single response from a wide range of media organisations. They struck out. You’d expect the biggest broadcasters to be, well, the biggest broadcasters; but that doesn’t make it okay on Social.

Sectors that increase their percentage here, in comparison to their sample size, could be considered to be doing the best job at responding to tweets.

What we can conclude from this is that sectors that increased, are making some effort, anyone that decreased aren’t so much. For clarity, individuals, the start-up ecosystem and “other” sectors performed above their sample size, although whether this was to a point of significance it could be argued either way.

 


Non-Response Analysis

Perhaps it’s also interesting is to look at what didn’t illicit a response and by what sector.


The biggest point of consternation and surprise about the non-response rate was that I had a significant volume of direct questions unanswered — out of the total questions asked during the experiment 47% didn’t receive a response even though they were in context of the original tweet. 

Arguably it is less important to be responded to on the other types of tweet. With this in mind, it’s interesting that the Question non-response rate compares unfavourably to Comments with 38%, Humour with 44% and 25% for Informational. Therefore, Informational replies illicited responses 75% of the time and Comments 62% of the time.

It’s interesting to consider whether this says something about the person manning the accounts inclination or ability to engage on their own subject matter.

As highlighted before, I may have unintentially created bias in this unscientific experiment by leaning towards commenting or making a quip, although this does not affect the observations above.

Twitter non responses

The biggest percentage decreases, relative to the sector sample, were by individuals with a 9% reduction, start-up land with 8% and 2% for both services and corporates. 

Please note: this result is skewed by the fact I was unable to illict a response of any kind from the media sector…not a tweety bird. 

A special point needs to be made here that all tweets to the other sector received a response. These were a random mix of organisations and only a small sample.

 

The Final Round

It’s interesting to look at how individuals compared in their response rate relative to organisations.

Twitter individual response rate

An even split. This is honestly what the numbers churned out at.

Twitter organizations' response rate

I seem to have had marginally better luck in illiciting a reply when responding to an organisation's tweets rather than an individual's. This makes sense as individuals’ default position on Twitter may not be trying to convert or sell something, so the obvious mutual value may need to be higher to gain a response, particularly if they’re not a follower. Although this does raise thoughts around socialbility. 


Despite this being a vanity metric it does suggest that if you consider Twitter as an engagement tool, and use it as such, it will increase the reach of your messages and thoughts. Seems obvious that it would be the case.

The above result is perhaps worse than it would have been due to a number of the respondents being very large organisations. I didn’t expect that they’d follow me based upon an attempt to engage. If you remove these persistent broadcasters it would improve the difference of follow to non-follow by about 27%. So, engaging works.

I was a little surprised to have follows and then unfollows. I don’t tweet enough to be annoying (in my opinion…). It might be interesting to ask to see if there’s something I can learn from this.


What does this all mean? 

I did warn you at the beginning that this was somewhat unscientific. Social, Twitter more than others, is all about the random interconnectedness of people and organisations in cyberspace; connected, at best, by overlapping interests. It’s rarely a rational, scientific and organised place. So, this personal account of my experience seems fitting. The rough edges seem appropriate in this context. 

Whatever the data says it’s how we feel about our Social experience that matters. I enjoyed engaging in the conversations, so I feel good about them. Although, I am very much a Social and a Twitter advocate and don’t currently envisage that changing. What this experiment has made me think closer about is who and what I choose to advocate, as well as what my expectations and motives are for engaging. 

It’s also drawn some further attention for me (if any were needed) that it’s a fact of life that marketers, individual or part of an organisation, will squeeze every channel. However, Social means that they don’t necessarily have to shout at us; not all the time at least. It’s a choice. It could be argued that if you only broadcast on Twitter you will miss conversions — or fail at a potential touchpoint — because it’s not aligned to why people enjoy using it. 

This, of course, is not news.

The users that did respond were interested in mutual value generation, sharing and open to a conversation. We both got something from the experience; I received an answer to a thought or question and they gained someone who would more likely read their next tweet, click on their next piece of content, or go for a coffee sometime. I expect to have an increased propensity to talk about them both online or offline. Hell, maybe I’ll even buy something from some of them.

The users who just broadcast seemed to want to use Social as a roadside billboard. We’re not there anymore and Twitter is not the place for broadcasts. Great content, yes, but at least attempt to respond if someone takes the time to engage in a sane and relevant tweet back to you. It’s within reach to give and get so much more from Social than has previously been possible. There’s 40% of my unanswered responses to start work on!

Just a simple closing message from me to fellow tweeters — c’mon people, be social.

What do you think? Do you feel this reflects your experience?

Is the continued use of a broadcast approach a necessary element for us to play in the Twitterverse? Are individuals or social media teams not delivering on the promise of Twitter for themselves or their employers? Or something else? 

PS — My Twitter profile has interesting stuff that I discover. Drop by to say hello!

Adam Charles

Adam Charles

A sometimes writer squeezing out words. Now thinking about Growth, Data, Product start-up-y things. Background in technology, product, marketing, consulting & research. Helping out here & there. Other stuff usually happens too. Lives in London.

More articles posted on Medium here.

See Full Profile >

Comments

Great post and analytical work. Thank you. 

Thanks, Albert. I appreciate the feedback. It was an interesting one to explore, put together and draw conclusions on. Cheers!