A new study has looked at how six news sites’ Twitter followers engage and react to tweets. Twitter content publishing platform SocialFlow has assessed the Twitter audiences of Al-Jazeera English, BBC News, CNN, the Economist, Fox News and the New York Times.
The study is based on bit.ly and Twitter data from more than 20 million tweets posted by the seven million users who follow these accounts on Twitter.
It has revealed some interesting facts:
- Engagement can be read in clicks. The Economist has a highly active and engaged audience in terms of both clicks per tweet and retweets per tweet, suggesting a high level of alignment between content posted and attention users are willing to provide.
- Audiences differ in their willingness to consume and share information on Twitter. Al-Jazeera’s audience is the most active in terms of publishing and retweeting content on Twitter, while the Fox News audience generates substantially more clicks from its audience.
- A large number of followers doesn’t necessarily translate into action. Despite being the largest account, the New York Times garners the fewest clicks per tweet when audience size is normalised and earns many fewer retweets when compared to accounts that are much smaller.
- Timing and topical interest matter when seeking attention. By arranging audience tweets into topic maps, we were able to visualise the flow of attention between topics of interest, across the different audiences.
It is worth being aware that this is what SocialFlow does: it offers solutions to businesses wanting to maximise the effectiveness of their tweets by timing them to get the most reaction.
One of the points the study draws out is that where the Economist’s highly engaged Twitter audience clicks on links to the associated news article, Al Jazeera’s audience behaves differently. The study finds Al Jazeera English has the most retweets per tweet but followers are not necessarily clicking links – an all important goal for web publishers.
The takeaway for publishers is one of topics, network and timing, as the report states.
Knowing when an addressable audience is available and what topics they’d like to engage in is key to earning their attention.
The study also points out that a Twitter audience is measurable and this should be analysed and used “to inform content development strategies and marketing planning”.
While clicks bring immediate returns, retweets and other forms of audience participation raise trust and brand awareness, both imperatives for maintaining sustained growth. A high number of followers is not indicative of an engaged audience; a high click-through rate doesn’t necessarily yield other engagement metrics such as retweets and new followers.
By paying attention to long established demographics, collective audience behavior and the mercurial and fickle moment-to-moment signals, we step away from conjectures, generalisations, and assumptions, and leverage the audience itself in determining how best to interact.
SocialFlow has also created a Twitter visualisation looking at engagement with @AJEnglish. Topics have been mapped using over the period of an hour. The larger the topic node, the more it was discussed on Twitter during that hour. Click on the visualisation to download SocialFlow’s diagram as a PDF and explore it.