Twitter Basics; Part Four

There are lots of tools for using twitter, some for tweeting and scheduling tweets, some add greatly to existing twitter functionality, others help you manage your followers, and some focus on data visualisation based on twitter’s data.

In generally they are using twitter’s API to pull publicly available data from twitter and presenting it to you in more useful ways. There are loads of tools out there that are lots of fun to play with, in researching this I found this list of 93 free (or freemium) tools. and this list of 21 must-have tools for twitter. Be warned though, things change quickly in the twitterverse and some tools may already be dead (RIP Storify).

I’ve tried a lot of tools over the years I’ve been using twitter and these are my favourites. PS They’re all free, or have free versions.

1 Tools for using Twitter

I am a fan of TweetDeck, I can manage multiple accounts from it, across multiple devices, and it provides multiple columns which is handy for specific searches and for any tweetchats that you join.

It will also let me schedule tweets. There are social media experts out there who say you shouldn’t schedule tweets, and there are examples where it has gone wrong. But it’s a practical way of managing your account.

Twitter now allows scheduling from company accounts, and their are other tools out there, Hootsuite is probably the most popular and it has the added advantage of giving you some analytics, although the most interesting data is only available for paid accounts. (See the advantages and disadvantages of Hootsuite).

2 Analysing Twitter

engagement statistic twitterI use twitter’s own analytics tool, just go to https://analytics.twitter.com/ while you’re logged in to twitter and you’ll see basic analytics data for your twitter account.

Twitter’s analytics tool provides decent reports on your follower growth, overall tweet performance, and performance per tweet. The downside is that only 5 months of data are held, if you want to use more you need to download your data regularly. Oh yeah, it’s free.

FollowerWonk works on a freemium model but gives in depth analysis of your followers and who you follow, it has all sorts of neat tricks from suggesting the best time to tweet, to the “Social Authority” of your followers, to their activity.

This graph shows when my followers are most active – it makes sense to tweet more in periods of high activity.

3 Managing Followers

I use Status Brew to track my followers. I’ll generally follow back if the account looks like a real person who is tweeting genuine content, this tool helps me identify fake or inactive accounts. It also shows me who has followed or unfollowed me recently and lets me follow back (or unfollow) from within their application. Manage Filter offers similar options. Both companies work on a freemium model, for individual use the free tools are already pretty helpful.

There’s another tool around that will validate followers for you called truetwit. I haven’t used it but have been asked to validate my account by people who are using it. Most days I only get a few new followers so it’s easy enough to validate them myself, but I can imagine for those on very popular accounts who want to ensure their followers are real, this would be a time saver.

4 Visualising Data From Twitter

MentionMapp, shows you the relationship between hashtags and people. I’ve used this to find relevant hashtags for posts, and to find people who are currently tweeting about a subject, the presentation is dynamic, and you can click on any hashtag or person and the graph rebuilds.

One Million Tweet Map shows you local clusters or a heat map of where subjects are being discussed based on a hashtag search. 

5 Hashtag This

If you want to know the trending hashtags around the world Trends24 lists them all with a national and city breakdown. Just for fun I made a comparison of what LA and NYC are tweeting about. Apparently there’s a thing called The Bachelor that’s the most interesting.

 

6 In App Tools

There are a few things you can do on the twitter app that you can’t do in the web version of Twitter.

Tweet Thread

Twitter was tricky to use for long form conversations in it’s original incarnation. Each tweet was only 140 characters and that included hashtags and URLs, writing tweets was almost an art form. It’s improved the character count to 280 which excludes hashtags and links. But still people needed more and came up with a work around, breaking your long story into a tweetstorm, a series of tweets, and using a numbering convention to help the reader; (1/4) at the end of a tweet indicated that this was the first of a four tweet series.

Last year Twitter introduced threading and you can just add a tweet to thread and they will be presented together. Much easier for the reader. This is only available on the phone apps at this stage and it’s really easy to use.

Bookmarks

The latest feature rolled out from Twitter is a real bookmark option, you are now able to save tweets to read later in a private list. There’s now a share button below each tweet, clicking on it reveals a short menu, click on “Add Tweet to Bookmarks”.

You can find your bookmarks saved under your profile and all bookmarks will be there.  They’re not visible on the desktop version, yet.

I’ve got one more post in this series – around etiquette and things that can go wrong in Twitter. I’ll publish that next Tuesday.

The Law of Cookies

About a year ago the EU directive on the use of cookies online came into effect. The idea was to give consumers a better understanding of what information was being collected about them and how it was being used. Which seems like a noble motivation. Many experts said that the law was unworkable and ineffective – even as they scrambled to implement it on their sites. Others pointed out that it was unenforceable outside the Netherlands.

The Dutch requirements are, it seems the toughest, and implementing them means we now collect more information than we used to, and store it longer. Because the law requires a strict opt-in Dutch sites tend to use splash pages or white boxes before letting you see their content – such as this example from RTL Netherlands. RTL is a pan European company, their other sites do not force this on their visitors – but the cookie law implementation varies across the EU.

The cookies we set on our site serve three functions;

  1. remembers which language you want to use to read the site
  2. remembers your response to a disclaimer (we include some information that is not supposed to be for the US market)
  3. collect (anonymous) data on your visit so we can improve the site

We didn’t want to force people to opt-in so it’s optional. Not surprisingly most people don’t which means that on return visits they may need to re select their language, and they may need answer the disclaimer multiple times – and this applies to visitors outside the EU. We now do not get enough data to analyse the site.

There’s no good solution to this; either we annoy visitors with the forced opt-in, or we don’t collect enough data to analyse our site, or we don’t comply with the law. It’s a frustrating situation to be in. Particularly as we know from other research that 90% of visitors will leave the cookie acceptance on the default setting – even if that is the highest setting.

The ICO, the organisation responsible for the enforcement of the cookie law in the UK, announced a change to their use of cookies earlier this year, effectively moving to an opt-out model. For UK sites the cookie law is a vestigial form; you need to disclose how you use cookies but specific opt in is not required. Here’s a helpful timeline of the developments in the UK.

For Dutch companies the requirement remains unchanged, full opt-in is required and companies must collect proof that visitors have opted-in (that’s the extra data we’re now collecting about you). There’s no indication from OPTA (the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority – the organisation charged with enforcing the law – part of the Authority for Consumers and Markets), that any change is planned. However Dutch site “Marketingfacts” reported that a bill amending the cookie law was presented to parliament on 20 May (Article only in Dutch). The proposed changes would allow analytical cookies and those needed for the operation of the site to be set based on implied consent provided the data collected did not have an impact on privacy.

The bill has been through a consultancy phase and it will now be up to the minister to decide whether to submit the bill to the lower house. Like many of those working in digital industries I am hoping this bill goes through.