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How do we to get the biggest bang for our social media buck? In other words, understanding the metrics of Twitter is on everyone's mind these days. As marketers attempt to determine the efficacy of their overall social media marketing strategy and how "the new kid on the block" fits into it, the challenge becomes, how do we optimize and monetize our efforts? In other words, how do we quantify Twitter? social media panel

As noted in the first two articles in this series, Twitter has taken the world by storm. Or to use a corny pun, Twitter has the Internet a-flutter! The fact is, the growth rate of Twitter is nothing short of phenomenal. The mini-blogging phenomenon has taken the social media world by storm, 140 characters at a time. On Thursday, June 25, 2009, Alexa ranked Twitter #17 in the world, up 66 in 3 months, with an average rank of 36. The growth has been steady, with quite a few peaks and very few valleys. In fact, the valleys seem to be reflective of daily usage patterns rather than any sort of a dip in popularity. The only two areas of decline are in Pageviews/User and Time on Site, down 14.2% and 5%, respectively. The popularity of Twitter in the United States is immediately apparent, with 43.5% of all traffic coming from the States. However, the social media phenomenon is also ranked high in South Africa at #10, #13 in Australia with 2.6% of all traffic to the site originating Downunder, #14 in the US and UK, with 6.2% of all Twitter traffic originating in the British Isles. Significantly, Germany is ranked #20, contributing 8.7% of all traffic to the site, second only to the US. Finally, Japan #137, Russia #153, France #161, and China #169 are at the bottom of the list, in terms traffic rank for those countries listed by Alexa.

One of the most remarkable things about Twitter is that it is entirely free, at least in terms of dollars and cents. Interestingly, the real cost, and one difficult if not impossible to quantify, is the cost in terms of time. As Marc Warnke notes in "ONO: Options Not Obligations," his masterpiece on "Family First Entrepreneurship," "money is time." Marc Warnke discusses, at length, the link between family and business, the book is an awesome template for business and life. "Money is time," not the other way around! An interesting point, crucial to understanding the real value of time, one that takes some time to get your thinking wrapped around. The book is an awesome template for business and life, one that places emphasis where it belongs and creates a new awareness of the value of time and family.

Money is time!

With Marc's words in mind, it is easily recognized that Twitter can be addictive. Beyond that, the real benefits of having a presence on the social media platform may be difficult to track in terms of traditional "metrics." Yes, I know I just used a gobbledygook term! "Metrics!" The real and lasting value of an online presence on Twitter, an Internet image if you will, may rest with the fact that the social media platform offers the "newbie," just beginning to emerge as an Internet marketer, to establish himself or herself with a foothold, a place to test the waters and hone their message and skills. The advantage to such a presence should be immediately apparent, particularly if the entrepreneur has chosen the Internet marketing niche, a niche that may appear incredibly incestuous at times. A social media presence may allow the new marketer an opportunity to assert himself or herself in what some have referred to as an "old boy network," and others have referred to as a "high school clique," of sorts. Whether a valid point or not, the difficulty for the "newbie" to break into the Internet marketing niche is eased somewhat by the ability to connect, build relationships, and indeed bond with perspective clients and fellow entrepreneurs, alike.

So, how do you track the effectiveness of your social media marketing campaign on Twitter or on any other social networking site for that matter? Remember, I called that phrase, "social media marketing," an oxymoron in a previous article! Beyond that, what is the return on investment (ROI) in this case; and, the chief investment being...time? Before we get into the various tools available to track message and impact, the balancing act between message and selling must be addressed. In other words, when does your message become spam and when is it posting useful information? Because of the nature of this very unique social media platform, it is recognized, even by Twitter, that because you consent to follow someone, either by following or following back, that the dynamics of the relationship come with an implied permission to message. If you don't like the message, you may simply unfollow the messenger!

During an unscientific study conducted over the course of an hour on one of the slower days for Twitter, Saturday, June 27, 2009, I counted links. Peak days are actually Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. The next highest "tweeting" day of the week is Friday, probably as a result of #FollowFriday, then Monday, Thursday, Saturday, and finally, Sunday. I counted tweets during the peak period for tweets on any day, from 12:22pmEST to I:22pmEST. And, I counted the number of links per page at 5 minute intervals, for 10 minutes at a time. The number of links was actually pretty surprising! Of 800 tweets, 20 per page, 200 every 10 minutes, there were 636 links provided by 612 Tweeple. Interestingly, 2 Twitterers or Tweeple linking up more than once on the same tweet, 1 with 3 on the same tweet. That's 79.5% of all tweets having links, provided in 76.5%of all tweets provided on the individual Twitter result pages or TWRPs!

Spam or not to spam, that is the question?

Whether 'tis nobler to tweet for tweets' sake, as opposed to "for Pete's sake," little pun there, or is it OK to link away? The evidence seems to suggest that the group-think allows it, if not by rule, certainly by action. However, I cannot help hearing the admonition of Mark Twain, written in his 1904 Notebook, that..."

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