Twitter Reach Could Be as Low as 2%

Those new to Twitter tend to have unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved on the micro-blogging platform from a marketing perspective. Until they come to fully understand Twitter, some believe that it will result in hundreds or thousands of people hanging on their every 140-character update, with every tweet being read by every single follower. Others feel that no-one will have any interest in anything they have to say and that not a single person will read anything they write. The truth is obviously somewhere in-between. But where?

If you had to guess how many people read a given tweet that you post, what would your estimate be? Five out of every 100 followers? Ten? Well, a study I have carried out reveals that the reach of any single tweet could be as low as just 2%.

Over the course of two weeks, I asked followers across a number of Twitter profiles to @ reply to a tweet simply if they read it*. The average response rate, and therefore reach of any given tweet, was just 2.3%. Or, to put it in another way, for every 100 followers you have, only two will read any individual tweet you post. Although, as expected, the results varied depending on factors such as time of day, day of the week and the profile itself (ie how engaged followers are) the variation was not that wide, with response rates varying from around 0.7% to just over 3%. In fact, figures of between 2.1% and 2.5% were remarkably common. So what can we learn from this?

One of the most common questions I’m asked when recommending that an organisation establishes a Twitter profile is: how many people will read my tweets? It’s also one of the most difficult questions to answer with any degree of authority. Aside from stating follower numbers, estimates are just that: guesses. But what this insight reveals, if anything, is that tweeting regularly is absolutely vital. Tweeting a couple of times a day, or even less in some cases, is a complete waste of time and effort. With Twitter, you get out what you put in. While building follower numbers is without doubt key to long-term success, more important is tweeting regularly and often. Ignoring possible retweet numbers, if this study is accurate, a profile with 1000 followers that tweets twice per day will reach approximately 46 people. A profile with half the number of followers that tweets ten times per day will reach 115.

It would be fantastic to get your input into this statistic. Does it mirror your own thoughts and experiences? And why don’t you conduct your own experiment and let me know the results; let’s gain some real insight…

* I asked people to respond to the following tweet: “Experiment. If you read this tweet please, please reply to let me know. Results revealed in a blog post near you soon…” The tweet was run across five profiles at varying times of day over a two week period. Profiles varied between under 200 and over 1200 followers. The content of any given tweet in this study is irrelevant, as I was looking at a tweet being read, not acted upon (eg retweet/click-thro etc).

tweetmeme_source = ‘ThePaulSutton'; tweetmeme_url = ‘http://tribalboogie.blogspot.com/2010/08/twitter-reach-could-be-as-low-as-2.html’

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16 comments on “Twitter Reach Could Be as Low as 2%

  1. I'm really not sure about this. What proportion of those reading do you think bothered to reply compared to those who thought, "Oh, someone else'll do it"? I reckon the figure's closer to 10 or 20, based entirely on my own laziness, of course.

  2. There may well be an element of "someone else will do it", Sally. That's obviously impossible to gauge and I'm not going to suggest that this study is in any way statistically significant. But as I say, this was based across five varying profiles and the results were very close.I'd love to be proven wrong, actually, but Twitter's very fast moving. It makes sense to me that you're not going to get 10% or 20% of your followers online at any time and that the readership of any single tweet will be low.

  3. I think it varies depending on your level of engagement – if you engage heavily and are well 'liked' on twitter, I think your reach can be up to 10% (from experience). If you don't engage much, just put up statement tweets or don't tweet very often then yes I agree 2% is right – so as you say its all about little but often AND engaging. I did read a stat somewhere that says on average there is between 10% and 20% of twitter users online at any one time – and even if they are online it doesn't mean they are actually reading their feed at the time you tweet – hence quite possible to have a reach of only 2% imho.

  4. I think you're right, Jan. There are times when something is tweeted that gets a big response, and other times nothing. Engagement is undoubtedly important as people will listen/read more if they respect you. But generally, 2.3% seems to be the average. Which is very low when you think about it!

  5. It is but it doesn't surprise me – when you have a substantial number of people you follow your public feed moves so quick tweets really have to stand out to grab my attention. I teach my clients to post 'important' tweets (blog post, announcements, big news, competitions) more than once (say up to 5 times and each time changed slightly) at different times of the day and on different days as twitter users are mainly creatures of habit and are either early morning,morning,afternoon and/or early/late evening users so you need to try to access as many of them as possible – it's only what I call 'super users' who would see the same tweet more than once.

  6. Great conversation Paul. Responses to tweets seem relatively random. It does seem hit or miss and I have not seen much discernible logic behind it.I have found in the four instances where @socialmedia2day has picked up my blog post, the view rate of my posts on their site is between 5 and 10 percent of their followers.I have used Jane's strategy in tweets of my posts and experience closer to a 2 – 3 percent rate. When I RT other's content it can vary considerably but 1 – 3 percent seems normal.Your main point though is important. Manage expectations and work the channel. I believe that the organic approach can and will pay dividends, it just takes time and patience.

  7. I've seen the same thing regarding Social Media Today, Roy. But then you have the RSS side of things to take into account, which is where I read SMT from. I've had articles published that have been read 1500 times, and others that have been read 12,000 times & been tweeted 1000 times! Depends what captures people's imagination.But when it comes down to it, the standard READ rate of any single tweet would seem to be around 2% to 3%. Organic growth and using the platform for what it's supposed to be used for are therefore really important. Sounds obvious, but many people don't…

  8. Really interesting experiment. I think all the comments suggest good talking points too. It's so dependent on other factors, including how liked you are on Twitter and how interesting your content is. I have two twitter profiles. My personal one @itsamummyslife and my work-y sort of one (although the lines are blurred) @hollyward37. The personal one gets lots more interaction. Which is good because if it was the other way around that'd mean I was fundamentally an incredibly dull person. I do agree though that your twitter 'career' lives or dies on your engagement with it. You can't just sit back and wait for the masses to listen to you, You have to engage. Anyway rambling now, but am going to blog this post (and will link of course) and talk about it on my pr blog. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Thanks for the comment, Holly. Bring on the engagement! (And I'm sure you'rte not fundamentally a dull person!) Thanks for blogging and tweeting! :o)

  10. Interesting experiment, though I think it would be of use to consider the number of people those who responded followed, rather than the number of followers the profiles issuing the request had.It would also be interesting to see if those who had responded had previously interacted or retweeted content from those 5 profiles, which might indicate a level of influence for that particular profile.That all said, Twitter reach is pretty low and interaction depends on the person tweeting and how the follower feels about them.

  11. Hi Paul, 2% does sound a bit low for some of the reasons that have already been said. These figures from Australian blogger Julian Cole sound about right though – last year Julian worked out a 10% reach and 1.3% CTR (http://bit.ly/19D5H2)

  12. PaulThis is a good figure. I'm not very surprised.At eCairn, our belief is that you can leverage social media for marketing purposes in 2 different ways:- Marketing in Social Media: Broadcast/one way/quantity driven/me me me – Social Media Marketing: Conversation/two ways/quality (relationship/us us us Most people (first and foremost brands) use twitter as a broadcast mechanism. Thus, the results should be similar to those seen with email campaigns/advertising/print etc which we know range in the 2-3% of people seeing it vs people exposed to it. Others use it with the proper social mindset and should experience a higher read rate.Ton's of studies exists showing that twitter isn't a very good social network and is merely used as another broadcast mechanism.To change this, people need to focus on 'relationship building' vs 'marketing myself/my brand'Laurent

  13. It's a really interesting and valid point. I think (like Holly says) that the reach can depend on many things – who you are, time of day, power of your 140 characters, influence etc etc. I've had many conversations where people have said to me " Oh yeah, I saw that tweet", or "that article about xxx was cool wasn't it" without me knowing. I like some of Lauren's points and think that it can be over used as just a broadcast tool. I like to think of it as the first date, moving on from there to form a strong working and personal relationship.

  14. Kerry/Dirk/Laurent/Chris, thanks for your input, guys.You all make valid points about engagement, influence etc. However, what I'd say is that this experiment is not so much about readership in a general sense; it's about the visibility of a SINGLE tweet. For example, if I go onto Twitter right now and tweet something, how many people will see/read that specific tweet. Influence does come into it, as if I'm liked and/or respected I'm more likely to be added to user lists and/or bespoke columns in Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or Seesmic. And that WILL raise the likelihood of any given follower seeing my tweet.However, in more general terms, an average figure of around 2.5% feels about right to me having carried out this experiment. I was expecting around 4%-5%, so it's less than I thought. The figure you quoted, Dirk (10%) just doesn't seem achievable to me – 1 in 10 of all my followers are online AND reading their stream within a minute or two of my tweet? I can believe 10% to 20% in more general terms (over the course of a day, say), but not for a single tweet. And that comes back to needing to tweet regularly.Laurent makes an excellent point above about the figures for other forms of marketing haven been proven at around 2%-3% year after year. Twitter is obviously very different, but why shouldn't it be the case that this statistic follows through AS AN AVERAGE into social media marketing?

  15. Every possibility that I'm going to come across as overly negative here but here we go…!There is a fundamental difference between reading a tweet and acting on it. Your 'study' description (in italics at the bottom) includes the text:"The content of any given tweet in this study is irrelevant, as I was looking at a tweet being read, not acted upon (eg retweet/click-thro etc)."This is clearly wrong on two levels. The content of a tweet is *always* relevant. Post something dull and I'll not read or engage with it – post something interesting and I'll get a response.Also, you say "I was looking at a tweet being read, not acted upon" – you really weren't! You were looking for someone to read and react – to tweet you back. I read many hundreds of tweets every day, I react to maybe a few dozen. Whether the potential reader is online or not is an irrelevance, I read things that are hours hold and sometimes react to them. 'Read reach' is not what you have measured. You've measured a very specific 'reaction reach' and one that only applies to the very particular tweet that you sent out.If you take a look at – http://www.socialholic.co.uk/?p=77 – the Charity SM experiment from when I had approximately 500 followers, you'll find what can be acheived by a different tweet – the list on there turned out not to be everyone but was just a particular branch of the experiment. The actual reaction reach was between 10-20% and the tweet reach was massive. I know that the read reach was also huge as I had a lot of feedback from people who did not RT the tweet.Based on my experience of real content, I would estimate that read reach is actually quite high – possibly in excess of half of your follower number (depending on what your pet topic de jour is). Reaction reach is much less high – although still much higher than traditional forms of marketing.

  16. Thanks James. Not negative at all – it's an open conversation! But I disagree. :o)Point taken that content is always relevant. However, for the purposes PURELY of trying to measure readership, I think this is a valid statement. I don't believe for one second that half of a follow list reads a single tweet. That seems insanely optimistic. I even feel, as I've stated in the comments above, that 10% to 20% FOR ANY GIVEN SINGLE TWEET is unachievable.10% to 20% over a longer time period/more tweets, absolutely. The more tweets and the longer the time period, the higher that figure will be. But for one single tweet? 2.5% feels about right to me…

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