Twitter’s Reach

Twitter has 284,000,000 regular users. While you or I might be satisfied with that number, Twitter’s investors are not. It’s only 5% growth over last quarter. Again, 5% may not be a bad level of growth for everyone, but the investors are not happy. “Twitter,” financial correspondents are writing, “is not Facebook.”

Twitter has responded by pointing out that its reach exceeds its grasp.

There may be a mere 284 million regular users who sign in at Twitter and tweet, but that doesn’t mean that’s all Twitter’s users. Consider these additional examples:

  • People who visit Twitter to see what’s up, without signing in
  • People who are not Twitter users, but who visit a company’s or an individual’s Twitter page
  • People who click through to Twitter from the search engine results page
  • People who read tweets which are reported on TV, in blogs, or in news stories
  • People who read tweets which are forwarded to a connected Facebook or LinkedIn account

Newspapers and magazines have always reported their circulation numbers rather than the number of people who read the paper (who knows?). Radio and TV use surveys and sampling — and sometimes they simply use the number of people living in their broadcast area. Billboards assume that everyone who drives down a given road is paying attention. So why shouldn’t Twitter count all the potential impressions rather than just the signed-in users?

We see Tweets reaching far beyond the number of followers a given account may have. Yesterday, a tweet for a new client with just 137 followers reached 15,100 people. Last week the same account had a tweet that reached 47,200 people. Does that mean that tens of thousands of people are actually reading these tweets? No more than every member of a magazine’s readership is actually reading 140 characters of your ad.

Reach, for Twitter, describes the number of Twitter feeds the tweet showed in. Some of those people missed it because they weren’t looking.Some may have seen it but not paid attention because they weren’t interested in it at that moment. We can’t say for sure how many people read a tweet any more than we can say for sure how many people looked at a print ad or watched a commercial.

But we find that Twitter’s reach usually compares positively with Facebook. First, Facebook is generally not showing posts unless they’re paid. Second, even for paid posts the numbers are usually lower than for Twitter. For example, that same new client got a reach of 2,500 on a boosted (paid) post last week.

Another client boosted the same post on both Twitter and Facebook last week, and saw these numbers:

  • Facebook:  7701 reached
  • Twitter: 12,202 reached

Facebook may have more users, but Twitter often has more reach. The investors should probably keep that in mind.

For organizations thinking about which social platform to use, the nature of the business matters more than the absolute number of users at a platform. The fact that Twitter is partnering with IBM to provide robust social listening and analytics tools should also resonate with businesses. And if Twitter is of value to businesses, it might be of value to investors as well.







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