The Union Metrics Blog

Archive for November, 2010

Did Twitter predict Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales results?

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There’s been lots of talk lately about whether tweets can predict social and market trends. Recent data have demonstrated links between what’s posted on Twitter and the stock market, flu rates, even election results. So, what can Twitter tell us about shopping and holiday spending?

Early reports about this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday are looking good. Sales are up from last year – ShopperTrak says brick-and-mortar retail sales on Black Friday were $10.69 billion, comScore data indicate Black Friday online sales of $648 million and Cyber Monday sales of $1.03 billion. On the other hand, there have been recent discussions about the hype of Cyber Monday and how it’s just that – hype. These discussions focus on the fact that Cyber Monday is not the biggest online shopping day of the year at all, and its status as a shopping “holiday” is overstated.

So, we thought Twitter could help us understand more about the state of holiday shopping in 2010. In the days leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we used our new TweetReach Tracker to monitor and measure tweets about both days. We kept the Trackers pretty simple. For the Black Friday Tracker (BF), we gathered all public tweets that included the terms “Black Friday” or #blackfriday, and for the Cyber Monday Tracker (CM), we monitored the terms “Cyber Monday” and #cybermonday.

So, just how active were these Trackers? Well, they were the most active Trackers we’ve ever run (and that includes tweets about all kinds of celebrities, elections, news events, even TSA). In just four days, more people mentioned Black Friday than during the entire Brazilian presidential election in October. And how many people were talking about and how many saw tweets about these two shopping holidays? What does that tell us about Black Friday and Cyber Monday overall? Read on for answers. (FYI, in the following graphics, Black Friday is represented in blue, Cyber Monday in green.)

Who tweeted?

First, let’s look at how many people tweeted and who those people were.

Nearly 300,000 more people tweeted about BF than CM. As you’ll see throughout, Black Friday was more active in every way than Cyber Monday. It’s particularly pronounced here though, as 7 times more people tweeted about BF than CM. If we just used contributors as a predictor for BF and CM sales, then we’d expect to see about 7 times more sales on BF than CM. But, just glancing through the tweets themselves, we see as many tweets about how stupid Black Friday is (like this one) as tweets about people actually planning to shop.

Who was talking about BF and CM? We sorted the top 10 contributors by number of impressions generated. These are mostly news outlets and celebrities, with only a handful of retailers appearing even in the top 35 (including @amazongames at #11, @WalmartSpecials at #17, and @BestBuy at #31).

And then we sorted the top 10 contributors by the number of retweets they received. Celebrities, humorists and media outlets drove the most retweets (that Justin Bieber sure seems popular). The @amazonmp3 account tweeted about sales frequently in the days leading up to BF and CM, and each tweet received a solid amount of retweets. No other retailers got even close to the number of retweets Amazon did. We’ve seen this for a long time though; people like to get bargains, but they don’t necessarily spend much time reposting those bargains. Also, the number of news accounts represented in the CM chart could lend support to those recent arguments that Cyber Monday is mostly just media-driven hype.

How did they tweet?

Next, on to the tweets themselves. All those contributors posted hundreds of thousands of tweets. Take this graph of tweets per day for both BF and CM.

You can see that in the days before Black Friday, the numbers of tweets per day increased rapidly, culminating in 290,762 tweets on the Thursday before BF. Cyber Monday also saw increases each day leading up the day itself (ending with 68,976 tweets on Sunday before CM). Black Friday saw a great deal more conversation overall, though. In the four days leading up to BF, 641,233 total tweets were posted. In the four days leading up to CM, 120,888 total tweets were posted. That’s a ratio of roughly 5:1.

Most tweets about both BF and CM were standard tweets – around 3/4 of all tweets were regular tweets. Both CM and BF had about 17% retweets and a smaller percentage of replies.

What was the impact of these tweets?

The most impressive numbers are the reach and exposure metrics. Reach is the number of unique Twitter accounts that received tweets about a search term and exposure is the total number of impressions generated. [Note: When we say impressions, we mean the numbers of times a tweet was delivered to a Twitter feed, since there's currently no way to know if someone actually read a given tweet. There's more about how TweetReach calculates those numbers here.]

More than 43 million unique Twitter accounts received at least one tweet about Black Friday (and more than 20 million received tweets about Cyber Monday). These numbers aren’t as far apart as some of the other metrics, which suggests something about saturation. For example, we know from the Tracker that 93% of all contributors to the BF Tracker tweeted three or fewer times; lots of people tweeted a little bit. And only 2% of people tweeted more than 10 times, which means followers of some accounts got bombarded with BF messages (like anyone who still follows the 239 accounts that tweeted more than 50 times in 4 days about BF).

Cyber Monday had 1/5 as many tweets as Black Friday, but those CM tweets still reached 20 million different Twitter accounts, which is almost 1/2 of BF’s reach.

Black Friday generated far more exposure than Cyber Monday (728MM and 197MM, respectively). Again, that suggests that BF tweets were saturating Twitter – most people probably saw multiple BF tweets from multiple accounts. Both had huge exposure, though. They each generated hundreds of millions of impressions and reached tens of millions of Twitter users in just four days.

So, can tweets predict sales results?

Assuming the above-cited numbers are accurate (BF generated some $10-11 billion in sales, while CM was just over $1 billion), AND if we believe Twitter to be related to these trends in some way, then we’d expect to see significantly higher tweet stats for Black Friday compared to Cyber Monday. We certainly see that – some of these BF numbers are many times bigger than the CM ones. Marketers are going to have to work a lot harder if they want Cyber Monday to be as successful as Black Friday.

While it would be statistically irresponsible to call these data a prediction of sales results, the number of contributors seems like a useful metric to watch for future events, as it gives us an indication of participation. More than 7 times more people tweeted about Black Friday than about Cyber Monday, and that’s meaningful.

Written by Jenn D

November 30th, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Posted in Trends

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Cyber Monday Flash Sale: Save 50% off your first month of TweetReach Pro

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Cyber Monday tweets have already reached 37 million people

For the past week, we’ve been using our new TweetReach Tracker to monitor and measure Twitter activity related to Cyber Monday. So far today, more than 77,000 people have tweeted about Cyber Monday.

We thought we should get in on this action, so we’re having a Cyber Monday flash sale to offer you the chance to try the Tracker for yourself at a big discount. For the next 24 hours, take 50% off the first month of a new TweetReach Pro subscription with code CYBER50. This code expires at 11:00 a.m. PST on Tuesday, November 30.

Use code CYBER50 to save 50% off the first month of a new
TweetReach Pro subscription.

The TweetReach Tracker is our new, real-time Twitter measurement solution, which tracks tweets as they are posted to Twitter and provides in-depth reach metrics. Best of all, the Tracker is not limited to 1,500 tweets or 7 days, making it perfect for larger or longer Twitter analyses.

More about the TweetReach Tracker

The TweetReach Tracker provides ongoing Twitter measurement. Whether you’re tracking a hashtag, username, URL, keyword, brand name or anything else, the TweetReach Tracker will find, save, and analyze those tweets for as long as you want. The Tracker provides detailed metrics about reach, exposure, contributors, tweet types, and much more, all to help you understand your (or your client’s) impact on Twitter.

It’s ideal for measuring tweets about events like conferences, marketing and PR campaigns, product launches and press releases, your brand and competitors, even news events. Use the Tracker to measure trends over time, track how news spreads, and find your influencers and advocates, trolls and spammers. The TweetReach Tracker is available only to TweetReach Pro subscribers.

TweetReach Pro subscriptions don’t have any strings attached – you can cancel anytime and you won’t be billed again. You can also upgrade or downgrade anytime. View plans and pricing here (prices shown are full prices, discount will be applied at checkout). The code CYBER50 expires at 11:00 a.m. PST on November 30, 2010.

Written by Jenn D

November 29th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Posted in News

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New TweetReach Pro Dashboard

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We’ve added a shiny new dashboard to TweetReach Pro accounts! We’ve put our most powerful analysis tool, the Tracker, front and center to help Pro account holders get the most from TweetReach. Next time you log in to your TweetReach Pro account, you’ll see a new home page that displays your recent Trackers and snapshots reports, and makes it easy to run new analyses directly from your home page.

If you don’t already have a TweetReach Pro account, there’s more information about pricing and features here. Only TweetReach Pro subscribers have access to the TweetReach Tracker, our real-time analytics tool. And if you want to know more about the difference between an individual snapshot report and the Tracker, we’ve broken it down here.

Written by admin

November 23rd, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Features,News

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Find the tweets you want: How to search Twitter like a pro

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If you weren’t able to make our How to Search Twitter Like a Pro webinar today, the slides are below. We covered the basics of Twitter search, advanced search operators, messy or unreliable search operators, Twitter search limitations, and our tips for how to get the best results from your Twitter search.

Let us know if you have any questions or would like more information about the content.

Written by admin

November 11th, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Posted in Guides,Help

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How to search Twitter like a Pro webinar

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Getting relevant, useful and actionable data from Twitter can be difficult. There are nearly 100 million tweets posted to Twitter every single day, and most of those are spam or simply irrelevant. Culling the mass of tweets down to the ones that matter to you –  tweets about your brand, promotion, competitor or client – is something we work on every day at TweetReach. The first step in getting quality data is getting better at search. Crafting a good search query will save you a great deal of time and frustration later.

Join us for a free interactive webinar on November 11, at 11:00 a.m. PST, where our chief social scientist, Jenn Deering Davis, Ph.D., will share tips, tricks and best practices for creating effective Twitter search queries. We’ll discuss the following issues:

  • Important Twitter search considerations, including key search operators and how they work
  • Twitter search limitations and how to get around them
  • Disambiguation and other data quality issues

“Search Twitter Like a Pro” Webinar
Thursday, November 11, 2010
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM PST
Sign up here

Written by admin

November 9th, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Posted in News

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Should #SFRiot have been “real” news?

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All fun and games until the riot police show up

If you don’t live in San Francisco you probably wouldn’t know that things got pretty out of control in parts of the city after the Giants won the World Series. I was at 22nd and Mission standing beside a smoldering mattress when the riot police showed up, so I got to see some of this first hand.

Why wouldn’t you know this? Well, mostly because it wasn’t reported anywhere – even in the local “traditional media”. The Chronicle’s (very minimal) coverage calls the scene on Mission an “old fashioned street party”. However, if you follow any San Francisco users on Twitter, you would have quickly seen all sorts of first hand accounts and pictures of the mayhem. As usual on Twitter, these started to converge around the #SFRiot hashtag.

And, as is also usual on Twitter, this rapidly became a conversation about how social tools and citizen journalism have eclipsed traditional media as a means of reporting what’s really happening since these old media dinosaurs can’t or won’t do the job. But is that really true? Was the #SFRiot an overblown bit of real-time naval gazing by nervous San Francisco tech kids or was it legitimate news that should have been covered by more mainstream media?

Let’s take a look at the conversation that happened around #SFRiot by the numbers. Using the TweetReach Tracker, we started tracking the hashtag around 11pm PDT last night – not long after it appeared. After tracking through this morning, here’s what we found:

  • Peak activity was from 11pm to 1am with about 5,900 tweets (out of 7,920 total) during those hours
  • 45% of those tweets were retweets
  • 3,949 users generated those 7,920 tweets
  • The most exposure was generated by none other than Vinod Khosla who retweeted some of the more amusing tweets followed by Twitter developer John Kalucki
  • There are essentially no tweets from any news organizations

Tracker for #SFRiot

You can download the Tracker report (pdf) to see this for yourself.

As you can see from the numbers it appears there was a pretty significant echo effect. To a Twitter user following other Twitter users in San Francisco it might have seemed like the apocalypse but most of the traffic was generated by a relatively small number of people. A quick review of the tweets also shows that much of the chatter was snarky jokes, commentary and notes about what was happening on the police scanner. There were relatively few actual eyewitness accounts.

So what does this all mean? My interpretation is that while Twitter is a powerful way to keep up with real-time developments, especially those of local interest, we need to be aware that it doesn’t provide any context. In that environment it’s very easy for relatively minor things to get blown way out of proportion. That said, it was pretty scary watching people throw bottles at a line of riot police marching down Mission Street.

What do you think? Should the mainstream media have covered this? Or did Twitter just provide a platform to blow things out of proportion?

Written by Hayes D

November 2nd, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Trends

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