Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ellen's Selfie, the RT+FV/FW Metric and Our Lack of Attention

By Steven S. Vrooman

I'm doing more research on Twitter for my TEDx San Antonio talk in a few months. I'm talking about the ways that Twitter is a kind of proxy for our brains. It is an extension of this post, which found that one of Wil Wheaton's more popular nerd-baiting tweets got retweeted/favorited around 2000 times, about 1% of his about 2 million followers at the time. 
Sure, there are the mysterious views measures, but I think if you make a choice to engage with content, that matters more than a passing, algorithm-influenced swipe across a phone screen. Peter Bray would likely agree. Yeah, some of his 2 million didn't see the tweet. Okay. But they could have gone back through his stream if they cared. You can see people retweet clumps of stuff from one user all the time. If your audience is engaged, they will make views happen.

Given that people who don't even follow can retweet and fave, as well, this gets even more depressing to think about. In other words, Wheaton's best content is getting a 1% engagement rate. His best.

I'm doing the research now on how this squares with other research on persuasion (not this stuff!). And I'm also looking more at Twitter. Here's a few interesting things that have come up while I'm working on this:

1. The top ten users with the most Twitter followers each have at least 33 million, according to twitaholic. Looking at all of their tweets over the last week, the biggest RT+FV/FW (retweets plus favorites divided by followers) ratio is one by Justin Bieber complaining about papparazzi:

In this case RT+FV/FW = 0.28%. That's about a quarter of a percent, not 28. There is a decimal.

2. According to the Peter Bray blog post I cite above, there are other users with high social authority. Using his metrics from a year ago, and looking at still-active Twitter accounts, the top RT+FV/FW for a tweet last week on that list is 0.45% for this:

3. The highest ever RT+FV/FW is, of course, Ellen's Oscar selfie, the most retweeted thing ever. It is a 17.6%, orders of magnitude higher than anything else. But that is not an ordinary post. If I had 43.7 million people watching a live TV program and 30 million followers, I bet I could get that much too. The previous "most retweeted" winner, Obama's "four more years" tweet from 2012, has had its numbers change a bit. It is now down to a 2.3% (it has lost some RTs and FVs, likely from cancelled Twitter accounts). At the time it scored a huge 4.9%


What does this all mean? Still figuring it out. But do we really think that we listen (or not) to people and messages in the world from THAT much different a perspective than the way we follow celebs on Twitter? I don't think so.

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