Entertaining Statistics: On Tweeting

“But if someone tweets and nobody reads it, did it even happen?”
From the article on Gothamist

For various reasons I skipped my regular Entertaining Statistics post this month but there is a topic I planned to discuss for a while with some elements of statistics. Let’s see how entertaining it is.

Undina's Hand & Jellyfish When I created my Twitter account almost four years ago I couldn’t understand why people would use that service at all: even with just a handful of accounts I followed it seemed just a cacophony of words, ideas and strange labels. #Jabberwocky

I tried to participate in some chats and movements (#perfumetalk, #FF, klout) but it always felt a little strange, as if while standing in the middle of a general admission floor I was trying to talk to people scattered all over the place: some of them were busy talking to others or themselves, some just couldn’t hear me over the music and some had already left quietly.

Today, four years later, I still do not see too much sense in tweeting but I still do it from time to time. I get some random news from there but mostly I use it as an announcement medium – for my new blog posts, other blogs’ giveaways and the like. The main reason I do it is the idea that I want those who actually read my posts to get a notification about them any way they prefer – by e-mail, through Facebook, Twitter, RSS, Bloglovin or Google+.

I don’t remember why but last year I decided to use one of the free services that do statistics for your account – TwitterConter. It’s a simple application: all it does is a report once a week on how many followers you currently have, how many have you gained since the last report and a prediction of the next week’s followers count.

After looking through reports for the last 63 weeks I should say that I’m officially amazed:

  1. The prediction proved to be correct only 4 (four) times; let’s throw in five more with the discrepancy +/- 1. That gives us 9 correct predictions out of 63 – or 14%.
  2. Only on 4 occasions the prediction was more aspirational then the reality (6.3%) and I gained less than they thought I would. In 53 cases (84%!!!) the prediction was too pessimistic as to my ability to attract new followers.

At the same time these reports constantly try to entice me to read their great recommendations as to how to improve my pitiful progress in obtaining more followers. Even if it had been my goal, I wouldn’t have trusted the source taking into the account the success rate of their forecasts (and I don’t like their defeatist attitude!).

October 2014 Stats

Do you have a Twitter account? Do you use it? How?

Images: my own

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40 thoughts on “Entertaining Statistics: On Tweeting

  1. Hello. My name is poodle and I’m an addict. I love twitter. I was completely against it at one time and didn’t see the sense of it but my niece made me get an account so she could tweet me. Now I’m on many times a day and she’s never on it. Funny how that happened. Twitter is quick and easy and I’m able to make contact with people I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I get breaking news, sports updates, all kinds of stuff on there.

    • (imitating chorus) Hi poodle! ;)

      You are, actually, one of a very few in my feed who I see having dialogues. Most of the rest is “breaking news, sports updates, all kinds of stuff.”

  2. I use it the same way as you, to announce new entries on the blog and sometimes also posting a few words about SOTD. Generally too timeconsuming and pointless to participate in and follow treads and chats.

  3. Oh Twitter, how thee confuses me. I have a Twitter account and probably don’t utilize it as much as I should. We’re not allowed to have our cell phones in the building that I work so that cuts out 8 hours of the day and then when I get home, I forget that I have a phone. I sometimes read something interesting or funny on it and I have received followers who I would have not known existed (perfumers, etc.) and that’s helpful. But for the most part, I find Twitter to be “noise.” Am I showing my age?

    • Dear Steve, you’re showing your age by commenting on this blog: all the cool kids are out there on YouTube and Instagram ;)

      You’re not allowed phones? How interesting… If you don’t mind me asking, is it for the productivity or security reasons?

      • Don’t get me started on YouTube which I have problems watching reviews for 5 minutes or longer. Maybe I have ADD. As for the phone, it’s for security purposes…all that secret government stuff, we can’t have anything that could record in our space. Bottom line, it’s a hassle.

  4. What an apt way of describing Twitter. There are a lot of people talking to themselves!

    I don’t mind though. I read it on my tea-break and find it diverting. I really only tweet my posts once a week and then the occasional retweet of something I think people will be interested in – like a giveaway or great article/post, or to spread the word about a campagin I think is worthwhile. I don’t blame anyone who is baffled or overwhelmed by it. I have to say though, I’ve enjoyed it a lot more since I learnt how to turn off people’s retweets or mute them completely :)

  5. If there is a Twitterdum and Twitterdee out there, I’m the former (actually I’m both of them … to underscore how truly behind the times, technology wise, I am … on purpose, because I never could see the charm of Twitter or Facebook). I sort of kick myself some days, though, for not getting on board with social media, simply because I see that it’s how the world communicates these days and does business, and not knowing it sort of makes one a dinosaur.

    And since you wondered, I did indeed find your statistics entertaining, Undina. I got a kick out of the way you took the TwitterCounter analytics to task for their pessimistic outlook. :D

    • That was the most annoying part: they overestimated the growth of my audience only four times! But week after week after week they were trying to discourage me! :)

      I do not see much usefulness for myself from the most of social media platforms but I’m trying to get to know them at least a little – just enough to know why I dislike them, I think.

      • Hi Undina and Suzanne,
        I am old, old fashioned and probably anti-social, at least anti social media. While not totally “off the grid” (I still stream K dramas, use regional electricity and city water and leave comments on blogs), the TV cable is gone, the radio is off and there is no smart phone. It feels good! I have more time to do what I really like to do – take care of my garden, walk the dog and keep up with my job (piano and related musical endeavors). The hive mentality does not appeal. In fact, I find it a little scary.
        Azar

        • Hi Azar!
          I understand everything but radio: it was present in my life from the early childhood and I probably do not think of it as of something modern but rather a part of the regular life. I don’t listen to it too much but usually 7-10 minutes on my way to/from work.

  6. Dear Undina,

    Interesting post. I’m absolutely with you in that I seldom use Twitter for much except for announcing when I’ve posted on my blog. For me it’s all about making it easier for readers to know when I’ve blogged (which is pretty much almost never these days), and different readers use different social media platforms to different extents.

    I was almost about to say that the correlation between the prediction made by TwitterCounter and your actual number of followers was almost 1 (i.e. there is almost perfect correlation), but then I re-read and realized that their predictions were made on a weekly basis after they have had updated information about the number of followers you currently had and how many you had gained since the last report. So no, I’m not impressed by TwitterCounter.

    Now, if only they had data from the first few weeks, and then managed to make predictions far into the future… now, that would be impressive.

    • Had they predicted it even with the current observational error in advance, I wouldn’t have complained. But their algorithm just doesn’t use any corrections based on the past performance. Over the period of my observations my “following” grew at the rate 6.5 followers/week (average) and over the same period their prediction was, on average, 5.5 followers/week short the actual growth. 95 vs 100 would have been an impressive forecast. 1 vs 6 – not really.

  7. I love twitter, but I’ve never tracked any kind of statistics for my account. How odd that the one you used was actually projecting lower stats for you! You’d think it would be better for their business to be optimistic about it. Plus it’s just weird that they’re so off, since you obviously are attracting followers! Anyway, I appreciate when people announce new posts and updates to their blogs on twitter. It’s an easy click if i’m already on my computer, or it reminds me to check later when i have the chance.

    • I think their business model is to project a slower growth and attract users to buy their more detailed statistics to study it and improve the results. Since I don’t want/need that improvement, I never followed through any of their offers but probably it works for them… Well, at least I want to hope that this is a part of the smart marketing plan and not just a poorly thought through logic.

  8. I truly applaud your reasons for being on twitter as well as everything else “I want those who actually read my posts to get a notification about them any way they prefer”. I tried Twitter for all about two hours or so, but obviously didn’t really feel like it. Perhaps I just felt it would be too much to keep up with.

    • I can’t be a Twitter proponent since, as I admitted, it still puzzles me. But clearly some people find it convenient so I don’t mind using it just a little.
      Several years ago I felt a little jealous because it seemed the European part of my Twitter feed was much more active (while I was sleeping!) and by the time I would get there everything was over. Nowadays nobody talks much, so I read it as a newspaper’s TOC.

  9. Hee, I just replied to a tweet. I have a Twitter account but don’t use it much. In fact, I don’t recall ever starting a tweet chain or whatever you call those messages with lots of @ this @ that. In addition, I don’t know what those #hashtags are supposed to do. Can one just make one up on the fly?

    • You can (and many people do) make them up as you go. It kind of defeats the purpose of using them – unless it’s an intended pun. #idonotgetthosehashtags Theoretically, they should help other users to find your tweet on the topic. The more people use the same hashtag, the higher chances that it will be trending and more people will be looking for tweets about it – and read your tweets as a result (and maybe decide to follow you). If you’re curious, you can search for “hashtag campaigns gone wrong” and you’ll find many entertaining stories.

      Since I feel kind of the opposite – I don’t want too many strangers to read me – I do not really need an “external” advertising. And those who follow me are capable of reading regular words, not smashed into a single grapheme.

  10. Like you, I find Twitter disjointed, busy and cacophonous. I feel out of the loop of all the conversations there, most of which seem to be going on between people who are not following me, therefore if I tweeted anything they would not see it. So it does rather feel as though you have your nose pressed up to the glass, peering in at a party in someone’s house. ;)

    I get some kind of statistics round up every week of how many views my one tweet has had (I also use Twitter more or less only to announce a new blog post), and compared to my total number of followers, the views are a very small number as a rule. So no, I continue to be unimpressed by Twitter, a lot of it because of the annoying hashtags!

    • I wonder what German-speaking people do for hashtags?.. ;-)

      As to talking to people who do not follow you, if you were to “answer” to their tweet using their @names, they would be able to see your tweet in Notifications tab. But they still might choose not to invite you in. Though, I must admit, on more than one occasion I felt that way even with people who formally follow me: the conversation would die without starting – either they didn’t want to talk to me, or left by the time I came or didn’t notice my tweet… Oh well. For more meaningful conversations we have blogs, right?

  11. I do use twitter for my own blog, but mostly for local news and announcements. Lots and found cats, new restaurants opening, vernisages, volunteers needed, that sort of thing. I am also following some international news accounts, businesses, galleries and of course, other perfume people. My friends don’t really use it much, but sometimes I don;t know where to put things: Facebook or twitter. Ach, the woes of modern life…

  12. Nice statistics my dear Undina and yes, they were entertaining as well.

    Answering your question – Yes, I do have a Twitter account but it’s not a “private” Twitter but for the blog. I use it to let people know that I posted something new on the blog, I also use it so I can tag the perfume brands so that they can see that I’m talking about them. I rarely use Twitter to chat with someone (in)directly.

    • Hi Lucas! Long time no see :)

      I read several brands’ feeds but I almost never engage with them – only if I know people personally. I tried asking specific questions a couple of times but either didn’t get an answer at all or wasn’t satisfied with communications.

      • The time flies quicker than usual lately but I hope to be able to catch up and see more of your posts. You didn’t write much lately too ;)

        But we are always in touch by email

  13. I joined Twitter at a time when most of my real life friends and coworkers here were joining. At that time it was a great tool for staying connected, share articles and just hang out with people that lived far away. Since then, as more people joined, the white noice upped and I’ve lost touch with what I loved in the beginning. Now I rarely use my account, except for telling when I have a new blog update. Also, when there are current events I want to know more about I type in that specific hashtag. Otherwise I don’t use it much anymore.

    • It’s interesting how many of us use Twitter exactly the same way. Most of my RL friends don’t use it at all so I’m not even tempted to get a personal account.

  14. Pingback: Entertaining Statistics: 2014 Year Round-up | Undina's Looking Glass

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