Is Anyone Actually Reading Your Tweets? Here’s How to Find Out.

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 27 2014 6:45 PM

Is Anyone Actually Reading Your Tweets? Now You Can Find Out.

Twitter's new analytics dashboard.
Twitter's new analytics dashboard.

Screenshot / Twitter Analytics

You worked so hard on that clever tweet. Did anyone actually read it?

Until now you could only guess based on the number of favorites or retweets it received. That changed on Wednesday, when Twitter announced that it’s opening a feature to all users that allows you to see exactly how many people viewed and engaged with each of your tweets, along with a demographic breakdown of your followers and several other analytic tools.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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You can find your own analytics dashboard by clicking here.

The default tab lists your tweets in reverse-chronological order and shows you the number of impressions and engagements. In case you’re not familiar with the lingo, “impressions” means the total number of people who saw your tweet in their feeds. “Engagements,” in this case, refers to the total number of times people clicked on your tweet. That includes clicks on your username, clicks to expand the tweet, and clicks on any attached links, in addition to retweets, favorites, and follows. You can also track your impressions and engagements over time.

The dashboard also includes a second tab called “followers” that shows you the trajectory of your follower count, as well as the gender, interests, and geographic breakdown of your followers.

So what can you learn from your personal analytics tools? I learned, rather unsurprisingly, that mine tend to be men living in coastal U.S. cities who are interested in politics, business, and technology, and who also follow The New Yorker, Wired, and the Economist. I learned that “sports” is nowhere among my followers’ top interests, which might help explain why a bunch of people unfollow me every time I tweet about them. And I learned, as Alex Howard has also pointed out, that tweets with photos attached tend to do better than text-only tweets. This one, for instance, got about 100 times more impressions than my average tweet:

Twitter how many people read your tweet
Click on an individual tweet to see just what kinds of engagements it received.

Screenshot / Twitter Analytics

This is the sort of data that Twitter and other social networks have historically made available only to their advertising clients. Twitter is among the first to extend its analytics tools to the general public. This feature has been a while in coming: I first reported that Twitter was experimenting with it back in June 2013.

For most people, this probably isn’t particularly actionable information. Still, it’s a nice gesture at a time when Facebook continues to take a PR beating for the unfathomable opacity of its news feed algorithms. And it might help to reassure you that there actually are a few people out there reading, even when it feels like you’re tweeting into the void. It could also give you a better idea of what types of tweets resonate with your followers and which ones fall flat. Then you can stop boring the hell out of everyone with stray thoughts that are probably amusing only to you.

Or keep doing them! After all, Twitter isn’t a contest, and just because you now have the same tools that are available to advertisers doesn’t mean you have to act like one.

Previously in Slate:

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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