Here at immediate future we think that the best way of measuring how well you’re doing on Twitter is by looking at the number of times you get retweeted. As we’ve previously written, retweets are the means by which messages spread virally across Twitter, so the more interesting your conversations are, the more you can expect to see your posts retweeted by your followers and their followers.

While many brands tend to think the number of followers they’ve got as the best measure of success, we think that’s a flawed approach simply because it’s so easy to pump up your follower numbers that the figure is largely irrelevant. OK, you’ve managed to persuade 5,000 people to follow you on Twitter, but how many of them are really paying attention to what you’re saying?

Retweet volume is a much better indicator of how well you’re getting your message across on Twitter, if you’re saying interesting things and people are paying attention, they will retweet your posts. Obviously, having a higher number of followers helps, but only if you’re engaging with them.

It’s better to engage with 100 followers than to be ignored by 5,000.

We looked at the sample group of 140 brands in our recent report ‘The Truth about Twitter’ and ran them all through www.retweetrank.com to see how they compared. The site assigns each Twitter account a percentile – so for example, if you’re in the top 1% of retweeted users, that’s very good; if you’re in the top 5%, that’s not as good but still ok, but if you were in the top 95%, you suck.

Bear in mind that a huge amount of Twitter accounts have few followers and are infrequently updated, so it’s safe to assume that around 80% of all Twitter users never get retweeted.

Next, think about those top 20% of Twitter users who do get retweeted, at least occasionally. Most of those are going to be private individuals, brands are only going to make up a tiny percentage of those users. However, when you consider that a business is investing resources into using Twitter specifically for the purpose of reaching out to its audience, you would expect any brand that was doing a half decent job of it to be in at least the top 5% of retweeted users.

Guess what we found? Out of 140 brands, 40 were in that bottom 80% of Twitter users who never get retweeted. This means that 40 large, well known brands, are completely failing at Twitter because they are not provoking conversations with their followers.

Another 40 of those brands made it into the top 20% of retweeted users, but that’s not really difficult since you typically only need to get a handful of retweets a month to get there. Considering these guys are, presumably, employing communications professionals to manage their Twitter feeds, that’s a pretty poor result.

In the top 10% there are 23 companies, which is a relatively respectable place to be in the rankings. Ideally, you want to be in the top 1% of retweeted users, who can expect their tweets to be copied and republished hundreds of times a week, if not more – 37 of the 140 brands we looked at were occupying this top 1%.

To cut a long story short, what this really means is that approximately two thirds of brands on Twitter aren’t engaging with their followers particularly well.

If you want to find out more, download one of our reports: The Truth about Twitter, or Twitter for PR and Marketing Professionals.

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