The Gist

  • User engagement. Twitter's free public API tier may improve user retention and engagement by facilitating automated posts for public utilities.
  • Analytics upgrade. To counter ongoing challenges, Twitter needs to enhance its analytics, offering users sophisticated ways to analyze their posts.
  • API controversy. The controversy surrounding Twitter's API paywall has highlighted the need for more affordable and accessible data sharing for better user experience.

With Elon Musk’s Twitter features decisions being closely scrutinized, the platform has possibly the hottest spotlight among social networking sites. However, this also presents a unique opportunity for the platform to reconstruct its image. This could be achieved by carefully managing the relationship with its users, particularly in relation to API access.

So far Twitter has been struggling. However, the recently announced free public tier could be the right strategic move to help it maintain its user base and keep their attention.

Twitter made an announcement on its developer profile stating that governments and publicly funded entities now have free access to its API. This allows them to automate posts related to public utilities, including but not limited to, weather alerts, transportation updates and emergency notifications.

In light of this news, Twitter should shift its focus toward another facet of data — the analytics. It's high time for an upgrade that offers users a more sophisticated way to analyze their posts. Such an initiative would also assist Twitter in moving beyond the tumult that's currently alienating even its staunchest supporters.

The Story on Twitter Analytics

Twitter Analytics has not received any major updates to the user interface since Twitter's earliest days. It still provides a rolling update of data with metrics covering impressions, followers, mentions, top tweets and engagement. 

A rolling update is typically gauged using a moving average, which is an average that's updated based on the specified time period of the data examination. This moving average is calculated by choosing metrics of a certain time period and then dividing this number by the number of the selected time periods.

The concept has gained prominence in the financial industry. Stock analysts use moving averages to examine past stock prices. Moving averages smooth the volatility of the data out, making it easier to visualize and describe the data. In the case of stocks, this gave analysts more information to make investment decisions.

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What's Wrong With Moving Average and Rolling Data? 

Like most metrics, moving averages and rolling data have specific applications. When examining rolling data, you're looking for an increase or decrease in a known quantity, such as registrations, purchases or sales orders. Moving averages serve as trend-following indicators, which is why stock analysts have adopted them — they simplify the process of analyzing past stock price history.

Social media platforms, which often exhibit volatility, have also adopted the moving average model in their analytics. For Twitter, the rolling data reflects fluctuations in tweet performance (tweets, tweet impressions), profile visits, mentions and followers over time. Engagement metric panels also display a rolling daily average.

One drawback of relying on moving average results is that they frequently overlook potentially beneficial, stronger data relationships. This is often due to the limited ability to filter data, as dashboards typically store historical data up to a certain point before a given date. Thus, it may be possible to review data from 30, 60 or 90 days ago, but not a year-over-year comparison within the dashboard. This means that analysts must continually track data history from different time periods, which can introduce complexity into the workflow for each forecasted period. 

Learning Opportunities

Moreover, implementing advanced segmentation techniques such as cohort analysis or attribution becomes impossible. This limitation prevents the identification of more nuanced, long-term data trends.

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When APIs Influence Analysis

The API usage debate that erupted in February exacerbated these metric issues. Musk announced an API paywall, leading to Twitter implementing an access structure with fees ranging from $42,000 to $500,000 per year. Many users balked. A significant portion of the Twitter ecosystem relies on the API data to offer additional services and features, ultimately enhancing the follower experience on Twitter. Among the most affected were researchers, who utilize Twitter data as a proxy for analyzing global trends and reactions to events. The imposed usage fees exceeded most academic budgets and left small businesses and non-profit organizations feeling marginalized as well.

Twitter offers a unique blend of commentary from journalists, politicians and technologists, a mix yet to be replicated on other platforms, whether newer ones like Mastodon or older ones like Facebook. This blend lends valuable weight to Twitter's metrics. Back in 2018, I demonstrated how customer sentiment regarding iHOP's new burger lineup was reflected in tweets, using the API and statistical modeling.

What Does This Mean for Customer Experience?

Twitter isn't the only social media network whose metrics require a rethink. Most platforms provide metrics that relate solely to their own platform, leaving marketers to fend for themselves in creating a dashboard that ties social media activity to their key performance indicators (KPIs).

However, Musk and company have a unique opportunity to enhance a feature through its adjustments that analysts and public servants should be utilizing frequently. The data can highlight opportunities to improve customer experiences, whether for retail consumers or citizen audiences needing updates on public services. Numerous public offices have announced that they will no longer use Twitter to provide real-time advisories. In the race to become a “super app,” it’s in Twitter’s best interest to retain its public service user base.

Time will tell if the analytics will be reimagined, let alone what Twitter will become. But the need to revise the dashboard is a reminder to marketers across all industries to always seek tool enhancements that keep their most vital customers’ needs in mind.