Twitter Removed Counts From Share Buttons, Here’s What You Can Do About It

Twitter birds on a utility line

We've been getting lots of questions about the disappearance of the numerical count of tweets on story pages. For sites using the tweet button provided by Twitter, here's what that looked like until November 20th:

old Tweet button with counter

On November 20th, the tweet count disappeared and it's not coming back. Why? Twitter shut down that feature.

In truth, the value of this particular feature was always rather limited. It was an overly simplistic metric that showed how many people clicked the Tweet button, but didn't include a count of retweets, likes, or replies which can be much more important in measuring reach and impact of any given story. As Twitter explained in their announcement of the changes:

The Tweet button counts the number of Tweets that have been Tweeted with the exact URL specified in the button. This count does not reflect the impact on Twitter of conversation about your content — it doesn’t count replies, quote Tweets, variants of your URLs, nor does it reflect the fact that some people Tweeting these URLs might have many more followers than others.

In our own work, we have also been trying to reduce the number of third-party scripts that are loaded on any given page in the interest of improving load time and protecting users' privacy.

That said, we know that understanding the reach and impact of stories on social media is increasingly important to the publishers we work with, so here are some ways of digging into Twitter analytics that will give you a much better picture than a simple count of how many times a story has been tweeted.

Better Ways to Measure Impact on Twitter

Twitter search

Copy and paste the url of a story page into the search box on Twitter, and you can see who tweeted the story, when they tweeted it, and how many likes and retweets each tweet got. Twitter search now also lets you filter results to see "top" tweets or a "live" stream of all tweets for a particular search.

For each account that tweeted the story, you can then dig a bit deeper to discover how many followers the account has, how many of those followers you know and whether this is someone you might want to reach out to as you try to build a more engaged base of readers.

If you find someone consistently tweeting your stories, you might want to follow them back, add them to a Twitter list, invite them to subscribe to your newsletter or attend an event or just take a minute to say thanks.

Here's an example of such a Twitter search for a recent story on Frontline.

Topsy Social Search

Topsy provides similar functionality in several languages (again, just copy and paste the URL for your story into their search box). If you really just want a numerical count of tweets it gives you that up front, but it also lets you dive deeper to get real insight into your story's reach and impact. Here's a search for tweets and retweets about the same story from Frontline.

Google Analytics

A tweet about your story is nice, but it's even nicer when people who see the tweet click through to your story page. Google Analytics gives you this kind of data and much more.

For an easy overview of all incoming traffic to your site from Twitter, click Acquisition in the Google Analytics reporting sidebar, then on Social -> Network Referrals. You'll probably see Facebook on top, followed by Twitter, Reddit, etc. Click on Twitter and you'll see a list of shared urls from your website. You can see the number of sessions and pageviews for each URL, and importantly the average session duration which tells you something about how people actually engaged with your story and site.

You can drill down much further by tinkering with the various secondary dimension options to see the geographical location of your page visitors, how many used mobile or desktop browsers and many other dimensions too numerous to cover here.

If you want to look up social network referrals for a specific story, click on Behavior in the Google Analytics reporting sidebar, then Site Content -> All Pages. In the search box, paste in the story URL but only include the part of the URL after your site domain name.

Google Analytics data

For example, if the full URL to your story is:

http://nerds.inn.org/2015/10/27/inn-member-website-review-october-2015/

Paste this into the search box:

/2015/10/27/inn-member-website-review-october-2015/

Hit enter and you'll see the number of pageviews and other traffic data for that story. Click on secondary dimension, and in the dropdown select Social Network. You'll see how many pageviews etc. came from Facebook, Twitter, and any other social sources.

This is Work but It's Important

The above methods give you tons more useful information than the now-defunct simple numerical count. No question some of this is more work, but it can really pay off.

If you know who is reading and sharing your content, you have a chance to more deeply engage with them. And if you know what kind of traffic is coming to which stories from where, you might be able to discern how to better reach different audiences.

It takes time and good judgement to work effectively with the rich data available through these tools, and it can be difficult to fit all this into your other work.

But at the end of the day, it's a lot more useful than a Tweet button.

What are you using to measure your reach and impact on Twitter? Leave a comment and let us know what's worked well for you.