Just Like Facebook, Twitter’s New Impression Stats Suggest Few Followers See What’s Tweeted

Twitter has new analytics available that let anyone understand exactly how viewed their tweets are. Those stats also clear something else up. Just like Facebook, what you share on Twitter isn’t seen by all your followers. Facebook has been under fire for over a year as brands have noticed that their posts have gotten less […]

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Twitter has new analytics available that let anyone understand exactly how viewed their tweets are. Those stats also clear something else up. Just like Facebook, what you share on Twitter isn’t seen by all your followers.

Facebook has been under fire for over a year as brands have noticed that their posts have gotten less engagement than in the past. A common reaction is that Facebook’s news feed shouldn’t be artificially deciding what to show to a brand’s followers. “Just show everything, like Twitter does it,” is a general refrain.

Twitter even took a shot at Facebook over this, in its blog post today announcing the new impression statistics:

On Twitter, nothing comes between your Tweets and your followers.

The Myth That Twitter Shows Everything

The reality is that Twitter has never shown everything a brand (or anyone on Twitter) tweets to all a brand’s followers. Unlike Facebook, that’s not because Twitter is trying to filter tweets in order to somehow show what it considers the “best” stuff. Rather, it’s a consequence that it’s never the case that all of a brand’s followers will be on Twitter at the same time, all seeing each tweet that goes out.

As I explained last year, Twitter is sort of the “live TV” of social media, which means that if you’re not tuned in to catch a particular tweet live, then you’ve missed it. As I wrote:

Twitter shows you everything posted by those you follow: news, thoughts from friends, pictures and more. You dip in and out as you like. But similar to live TV, when you turn it off — when you’re not actively watching Twitter — then you’re missing everything.

Those 10 or 100 or 1,000 accounts you follow? Even though Twitter shows you everything from them, unlike Facebook, you’ll largely miss whatever they do if you’re not watching Twitter constantly.

Low Single-Digit Impressions?

Those who believe in the “Facebook should show everything” concept want Facebook to do what Twitter does — put their Facebook posts out in front of everyone who follows them. But Twitter’s new impression stats allow me to illustrate with actual numbers that even if this were done, their posts might not be as widely seen as they think.

I have 390,000 people who follow me on Twitter. Potentially, all of them will see what I tweet. How did that work out for this joke I made today about all the tweets happening in relation to LeBron James on Twitter? Here are my stats:

twitter analytics stats

You’ll see three numbers shown there. The first is most important, that 7,195 people were estimated to have seen my tweet. That’s 7,195 people out of 390,000 who follow me, or a 1.85% impression rate. An important note: this only counts tweets through Twitter’s own web site and mobile apps, so there might be some additional viewing. But it’s probably not that much more.

Anyone still think that everyone sees everything on Twitter? Those other numbers, by the way, mean that there were 360 people who engaged in some way with my tweet, such as retweeting, replying or following. That percentage is my engagement rate for the tweet, 5%.

Engagement Rates Below 1%?

That 5% engagement rate sounds pretty good, but it’s based only on the 7,195 people who actually saw my tweet. What’s the engagement rate for my overall audience of 390,000? That’s 0.1%, rounded up from 0.0923%.

Facebook, when it gets slammed for low engagement, is typically suffering because people take the overall potential audience on Facebook and use that to calculate an engagement rate. To compare Twitter engagement to Facebook (something we might do in a follow-up story), you need to use the overall audience.

If you think the example above is somehow unusual, consider these:

Twitter engagement

Those are all tweets that I did during the USA-Germany World Cup match. They reflect something that seems to be true for most of my tweets on any given day for about any particular subject: somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 of my followers will see them, or a 1.3% to 2.6% impression rate.

That screenshot above also shows one of the few exceptions I spotted over the past week, where one tweet particularly resonated with my audience. But with 16,075 impressions, that’s still only a 4.1% visibility rate.

(By the way, dealing with these new stats would be much easier if Twitter allowed you to sort tweets from highest-to-lowest for impressions, engagement and engagement rate).

Is It Different For Others?

Of course, maybe it’s just me! I’m trying to gather some stats from other publishers, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t just something happening to me personally.

For example, consider these stats from our Search Engine Land Twitter account, which has 259,000 followers:

search engine land twitter stats

Of the three tweets above, the most viewed tweet with 8,942 impressions was only seen by 3.45% of our followers. Our best overall engagement rate in the examples above, based on total followers, was 0.03%.

BuzzFeed Scores 22% Impression Rate?

Here’s another example, using data that Twitter shared in its post for BuzzFeed (there’s a chance this isn’t real data, but it sure looks real rather than a mockup):

buzzfeed tweets

In that example, we can see one of the BuzzFeed tweets stands out for having many more impressions than the others, 225,054. BuzzFeed’s account has 1.02 million Twitter followers, so this means BuzzFeed earned a 22% overall impression rate.

That’s pretty impressive, and even more so if high rates like that are common among publishers. But even if they are, it’s still a case where most of the publisher’s followers are not seeing a particular tweet.

Tweet & Tweet Again To Reach 30% Of Your Audience

Twitter’s own post suggests that high visibility isn’t common. Consider this from it wrote today:

We saw that brands that tweet two to three times per day can typically reach an audience size that’s equal to 30% of their follower base during a given week. This indicates that Tweet consistency is a key factor when it comes to maximizing your organic reach on Twitter.

Twitter’s post began saying there was nothing between Twitter and your audience. But even Twitter acknowledges that you may have to tweet 14-21 times in a week in hopes of reaching only 30% of your total audience.

Twitter did call out that Wheat Thins apparently managed to tweet 14 times in a week, twice per day, to reach nearly its entire audience while Trident Gum tweeted 21 times in a week (3 times per day) and managed to reach five-times its audience.

What’s not clear is whether this is what can be typical for brand accounts or whether these accounts just had tweets that went viral, racking up an unusual number of impressions.

More Than Just Individual Impressions

It’s easy to focus on the performance of a particular post on Facebook, see low numbers and then declare that “organic reach is 100% dead,” as some have done. With Twitter’s new stats, it can now come under the same fire.

But those individual impressions can add up. Exactly as Twitter’s post says, tweeting often means that over the course of a month, you might reach a substantial audience. For example, over the past month, tweets to our Search Engine Land followers have generated over four million impressions:

Tweet_Activity_analytics_for_sengineland 2

Focusing on the performance of a single tweet or post is almost like focusing too much on how you rank for a particular term on Google. It can cause you to lose track of the bigger picture, of how you’re performing overall.

And More Than Just Impressions

When it comes to Facebook, our reach for the same period was about 900,000. So our Facebook posts were seen by about 1/5th the number of people on Twitter, which could make one assume that Twitter is the better social platform.

In reality, the answer is more complicated. Like many publishers, we share far less on Facebook than on Twitter. Increasing our share rate might increase our overall reach.

More important, however, is that one of our key hopes with social sharing is to drive traffic back to our site. According to Twitter’s stats, those 4.4 million impressions generated 7,300 clicks to our content. But Facebook, with far less impressions, generated 10 times that number of clicks to our content, about 70,000 over the past month.

What each publisher or brand hopes to get from each social network will vary. For us, both Facebook and Twitter are valuable — and that’s because we don’t focus on the performance of individual posts or tweets to measure success. We might look at those as ways to see what can be done to improve overall performance, but it is the overall metrics that are our guide.

Some Takeaways

Since I always understood that not everyone saw all my tweets, I’m not upset by these new stats — though the impression are much lower than I would have thought. But the real takeaways for marketers are, I’d say:

  • Stop complaining that Facebook should change, because if it showed everything just like Twitter does, your impressions & engagement might not rise
  • Make sure you do second-chance tweets and more, because most of your Twitter audience didn’t see what you shared the first time
  • Consider more second-chance posts on Facebook, perhaps, because if most of your audience isn’t seeing posts the first time, you might not be losing much trying again

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Danny Sullivan
Danny Sullivan was a journalist and analyst who covered the digital and search marketing space from 1996 through 2017. He was also a cofounder of Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land, MarTech, and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo and MarTech events. He retired from journalism and Third Door Media in June 2017. You can learn more about him on his personal site & blog He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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