After the Tweet: Exploring Twitter Click Through Rate Benchmarking to Measure Engagement

One of the things that struck me when I broke down three months of Zappos tweets is that while it was interesting to see how they used Twitter to engage users, by some measures less than 1% of followers seemed to interact.

Here’s the data point I was talking about – Zappos tweeting about an Ellen video on April 24th: “Fun video that a few employees put together to try to get on the Ellen show –”. On that day, Zappos had 487,448 followers (based on Twitter Counter – see chart below) and the video has only 4,132 views to date. That would imply a 0.84% click thru or interaction rate.

But we know that denominator is probably high for two reasons:

  1. Followers typically don’t unfollow (unless you are tweeting bad content or too often), thus what percentage of the followers are really actively following? And
  2. how many followers are actually still on Twitter – the churn rate is reportedly high (churn is as much as 60% for Twitter, which is far greater than Facebook and MySpace).

So Twitter Count also shows that follower growth has been fairly consistent over the last three months, averaging 4,068 per day (no real hockey stick), which makes it reasonable to assume that the after churn, only about 40% of the Zappos Twitter users are retained, giving Zappos just under 195,000 “active” followers on April 24th. That takes us to about 2.11% of active followers engaging with a tweet.

Some more data points on company posted items via Twitter and the implied engagement:

Tweeter Date Tweet ”Active” Followers Views Interaction Rate
@Zappos 5/3/09 Employees made a rap video about the Zappos golf cart. You know, just another day at Zappos offices – cart 215,600 2,607 1.21%
@Zappos 5/20/09 – Headshaving day at Zappos! Employees shaving each others’ heads. I will be completely bald later! 249,108 4,805 1.93%
@Jet Blue 5/21/09 Boarding our inaugural flt to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Everyone’s excited to get to the white sand beaches! 217,597 30 0.01%
@SouthwestAir 6/2/09 Picking shirt designs for LGA launch! 12,426 386 3.11%
@SouthwestAir 5/29/09 Yet another video shoot! This time no puppies or kitties!×74 12,008 314 2.61%
@ZyngaPoker 5/27/09 Why do we love Zynga Poker!? Check out what some of us on the team have to say about it!
13,000* 2,190 16.85%

For the most part it looks like 1-3% of the “active” followers actually click-through to view the content (pictures or videos), but of course there are a lot of caveats (e.g. there may be other channels where the items are promoted, content of the 140 character Tweet may be more enticing than others, we are looking at videos and photos, not offers or deep links into things on the company’s website, we’ve applied an across-the-board churn rate but it is likely that it is different across different brands). That said, a couple things that standout though are the big 0% for Jet Blue and the near 17% for ZyngaPoker.

Zappos, SouthwestAir and JetBlue all have had their accounts for about two years but the posting frequency is a bit different: Since the accounts’ inception, Southwest posts about 100 times per month, Zappos 70 and JetBlue a scant 34 per month. Additionally, JetBlue’s tweets focus a lot on travel tips, some alerts, and occasional product mentions whereas the SouthwestAir has a bit more personality and peppy attitude coming through – they’re the ones you have more of a connection to and more likely to want to click through to see what they are doing.

On the other end of the spectrum is ZyngaPoker, which is the Twitter account for users addicted to Zynga’s Texas Holdem Application on Facebook, MySpace, iphone and other platforms. This account is brand-spanking new (there’s no history on either twittercounter or twitterholic) and has only had 15 tweets since coming online May 20th. So in this case I did NOT reduce the number of active users by the 60% churn (I consider them all active) and I also verified that there wasn’t co-promotion on the Zynga application Fan Page on Facebook (there wasn’t).

Interestingly, the quick jump to over 14,000 followers in a couple weeks might be a good proxy for understanding the Facebook and Twitter intersection. According to Developer Analytics, there are 2.46 million DAILY active users of the Zynga application and 1.46 million fans of the fan page. Determining the number of users who saw the promotion on Facebook requires a similar exercise: understand churn of those 1.46 million users (40% according to Nielsen) and determine what percentage opted in to receive fan page alerts within their news feed (let’s assume 90%) which brings us to a potential 788,400 people who might have seen the promotion of the Twitter account. With 14,516 followers, that suggests 1.84% of the fans who saw the message on Facebook had/established a Twitter account and began following Zynga. Again, lots of caveats here, but the range of engagement is similar to that coming from Tweets.

I realize this is a very small sampling and there are a lot of variables here, but I believe this provides a good starting point for benchmarking on-going active engagement metrics from social media campaigns. With these sort of benchmarks in place (ideally automated by social media campaign tools), marketers will be able to dive beyond gathering a number of followers or fans and start assessing, prioritizing and optimizing social media tactics to drive lifetime customer value.

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