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What’s the Potential of a Potential Impression? Understanding the Twitter Metric

For as long as I can remember, my teachers told me about my potential.  Apparently, I was never reaching or fulfilling my potential. I know this because they would often tell my parents, explaining that this was in spite of the promise I showed to reach that potential.

When community managers come across their potential impressions in their Twitter analytics, they seem to share the same negative attitude towards “potential” as my teachers did.  So much potential…that’s great…but how come it’s not all engagement? What’s the point?

This is pretty harsh criticism of potential. While understanding may be limited, the “potential impressions” metric has a clear context, can be tangibly measured, and even qualified.  When you see Twitter reporting on your tweet’s great potential, take pride the way my parents did all those years – you’re doing something right.

Let’s sit down for a quick parent teacher conference.  Here’s a report card for your son @Jetblue. He has great potential (impressions) – 81.3 million to be exact.

@JetBlue: Do Their Tweets Have Potential?

Screenshot 2014-03-17 10.24.16

So what does that potential tell us about how @Jetblue is doing?  Obviously we’d like to see growth in that number month-over-month, but to truly understand that potential we need to dive down to the post level.

Here’s a quick peak at the individual impressions generated by each of 15 consecutive tweets posted by @Jetblue:

The first Tweet generated one impression; the second generated 128; the third generated one; fourth, 3228, and so on, generating 172, 1, 1, 1, 1, 47, 1, 1, 1, 1,673,173, and 7,900 respectively.

It is an odd assortment of numbers and seems somewhat arbitrary.  The only one that “makes sense” is 1,673,137, which correlates nicely with the number of followers of the Jetblue account at the time of these tweets.  Still, it’s hard to see how these numbers would ever add up to Jetblue’s 81,347,022 Potential Impressions.  So let’s try to understand where each number comes from.

1 impression:

This is a JetBlue @reply directly to a customer:

@replies are only visible to individuals who follow both @Jetblue and the customer they’re responding to.  Since that number is impossible to calculate and a closed conversation is implied by the @reply, Simply Measured attributes 1 impression to each @reply.

3,288 impressions:

This began as another @reply and @Jetblue is doing a great job of customer service.  Such a good job, that this customer rewarded them with a retweet.

Not only is this a boost to @Jetblue’s engagement, but instead of the 1 impression we saw above, the retweet pushes the content out to the 3,228 individuals who follow the customer.  Not only has @Jetblue made this customer happy, they made a positive impression on 3,228 additional people who each had the opportunity to share the positive customer experience and to decide to engage with @Jetblue themselves.

1,673,173 impressions:

This is the potential impact of a normal outbound tweet from @Jetblue.

This tweet reached every single one of their followers and received an impression for each, but no additional impressions are made since no one engages to further the conversation.

On this same report, we see another tweet that goes out from @Jetblue and is heavily retweeted – resulting in 2,247,329 impressions.

That’s more than 500,000 additional impressions on 68 retweets.  Maybe @Jetblue’s followers have an average of 8,000+ followers each, but unlikely.  When a Tweet receives this kind of impression boost it’s a sign that a portion of the engagement came from an influencer, someone with a large Twitter following that @Jetblue will want to make sure they follow up with.  This is why Simply Measured makes sure to call out @Jetblue’s most followed users, so they can track these marquee engagements and act accordingly.

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Take Away: Your Tweets Have Potential

This is where I look @Jetblue’s parents in the eye and tell them, “Your son has great potential.”  He interacts well with his followers and for that they validate his potential by telling their followers about the great things he does.  Furthermore, @Jetblue produces content that resonates with his audience.  Not only has this allowed him to amass a large following including many influencers, but those individuals help spread his message and bring potential customers into the conversation on a scale that @Jetblue could not reach on his own.

As parents, you should be proud.  And as community managers, you should focus on which Tweets drive your potential impressions and what type of engagement grows it.  It’s one more way to report to your supervisors on the strength of your efforts.

In our Complete Guide to Twitter Analytics, we break down exactly what a potential impression is, and the different ways to calculate this metric for the aggregate.

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