Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Alumni Associations = Twitter FAIL -- Part 3

Yes, I am sticking with the flaming title for this series of posts. I do recognize that it is very unscientific of me to publish the hypothesis prior to the findings or even the research being collected. But this is a study that is remaining open for criticism and some midstream corrections. It also seems like it would increase the readership of the series. (My alternate title is something to do with making millions in fundraising dollars per month from the comfort of your own home!)

I am in the midst of collecting my fourth data set over the course of the last four weeks. There are some trends that are beginning to show themselves. It is interesting to watch the percentage growth of those twitter feeds that started with the most followers. It looks as if it will show that once a twitter profile reaches a certain level, it will continue to have steady growth no matter how the Alumni Association chooses to manage their outbound communication. This will be an interesting point to consider and, if true, can have several recommendations that emerge from it.

I am most interested in influence and engagement. Unless it is simply a branding exercise on the part of the alumni association, there is no reason to have a profile on twitter if you are not going to consider how much clout or influence the communication has. For example, would you rather have 2,000 follower who ignore your information or 150 followers where 50 will always reply back or retweet you?

This is the question the Katie Johnson considered as she began to manage the twitter presence of Cal State, Fresno. Katie is a numbers person, perhaps a statistician at heart. She was asking the ROI question from the very beginning of their feed. She also asked the questions early, of what kind of news and information their alumni might want to hear from them, and employed the answers she received directly to her outbound information.

SIDE NOTE --- I think it's great that she took the time to consider these important questions. I also think alumni associations everywhere should consider whether their twitter profile should be managed as a news distribution channel at all. In some cases, depending on the objectives and strategy, considering twitter use might not result in the question, "what kind of news do you want from us" but rather "how can we show our alumni our loyalty" or "what needs to our alumni have that we can meet." Those kind of questions and answers might result in the revelation that twitter is not the social web application you should be using.

Katie's orientation toward metrics caused her to use and track her tiny urls every time she sent out a news update. She has been tracking every outbound tweet, that has a link with it, for the past several months. There is quite a bit of information that can be reported on from this data. Here are a couple of basics.

Average click through rate when an update has a link - 4.2%
Highest click through rate of any update - 25%
Highest unique number of clicks on any one update - 52 (with 390 followers at the time)
Typical Time of Day for highest open rates - 2:30PM Pacific
Typical content source for highest open rates - YouTube and FresnoStateNews.com

This is one universities feed. I could only dream of being able to access analysis from all of the alumni associations I am observing. (If everyone were like Katie!) But it is an interesting analysis I recommend any mature feed employing. You can get these kind of clickthru rates using HootSuite or thru the new StumbleUpon tool that is in beta. Some of you might have additional tools that can give you similar statistics.

So leave a comment and lets talk about it. What should we compare our clickthru rates to in order to show we are doing well? Should they be better than email open rates or clickthru rates? Should this be a discussion about updates mimicking email subject lines with the tiny url mimicking the clickthru? I prefer this to be a discussion about engagement, but those numbers are not ready to be published yet.

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