Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Free Tools to Track the Secrets of Social Shares

One of the key features of the modern semantic web is the social sharing of content. This takes various forms such as likes, plus ones, shares, social bookmarking and commenting. Sharing is a form of organic link building and just as links from authoritative sites are more important than others, so some shares are much more significant than others.
In this article I look at how you can use free tools to track who shares content and on what platforms. I also look at how you can identify key infuencers and review their behaviours and networks. Social analytics is a growing area and there are many paid for social tracking tools but there is also a lot you can do with the free tools that track social activity on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. I have covered some of my favourites such as Topsy, Allmyplus and Tweriod in this article.
Social Sharing Is More Complex Than Good Titles And Quality Content
Understanding the nature of social networks and sharing is a key responsibility of those responsible for creating and distributing content. Some argue that if you just focus on producing quality content and a compelling title it will be found and shared. At one level this is true but even the same piece of content with the same title, however good or bad, can perform very differently depending upon how it is shared. Below are three examples of my own posts and how they were shared across different networks.
In the first example the content performed much better on Google+. It might seem obvious that it would get more shares on Google+ than on other platforms given the content. However, that was not the case with the second article on LinkedIn, where the article received twice as many tweets as shares on LinkedIn. You might argue sharing on LinkedIn is always lower but this is not the case as we can see with the third article. In this case there were twice as many LinkedIn shares as Tweets and the article was ignored on Google+.
In the rest of this article I will explore how you can use free tools to track shares and build a picture of influencers and networks on the different platforms. Along the way I will use the three articles above as examples so we can see how they were shared and who the key influencers and networks were.
Tracking The Number Of Shares
On sites such as Social Media Today you can see at the top of the article how many times the post has been shared on the various platforms. Thus you get an initial indication as to how popular the article is and whether it is being shared more on LinkedIn or say Twitter. You can then explore who is sharing and the networks they are in.
However, not all web pages have share counters so you can’t see immediately how content has been shared. For example, you might be interested in a competitor’s content and who shares their content but they may not have visible share counters on their site. The good news is you can easily see how many times a page has been shared on social media platforms by using Shared Count.
You can paste any url into Shared Count and it will show you how the article has been shared across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Delicious, StumbleUpon and Pinterest. Thus you can get the raw data on social shares for any web page.
Tracking Shares, Networks And Influencers On Twitter
Twitter has a nice search feature where you can search for the url of a content article and it will return all the recent tweets that contained the url including shortened links. Thus you can get a quick picture of who shared the article, however, it tends to only return the most recent tweets. As an example a search for my Google+ article url only produced three recent tweets.
You can also undertake an advanced search with Twitter for key words, exact phrases, accounts and even choose positive or negative sentiment tweets.
Taking Things Further With Topsy
You can take your investigations much further using Topsy’s free social search which has a wider range of advanced options. Topsy also produces more comprehensive results, for example, a search for my Google+ article url on Topsy came up with 676 tweets. It also identified 55 tweets by influencers. You can look at all tweets or just the influencer tweets as shown below. Not surprisingly Social Media Today was one of the top influencers for this article.
topsy influencers
On Topsy you can find influencers on a specific topic simply by searching for it. However, you may already have your own ideas on key influencers from your research. Topsy allows you to explore the details of an influencer’s tweets in great detail. You can find every tweet by a person on a specific topic through a Topsy search. You just use “from:@username topic” in your search. You can also filter this for specific date ranges.
You can also track all conversations between a person and others by using “from@username @username”. Thus you can track all conversations between two influencers.
You can also track every tweet a person made which included a link to a specific site such as your own, to see what they are saying about you or another company. In the example below I searched for my own tweets that contained links to the Social Media Today site. You can see there were 11 tweets and they had a positive sentiment.
topsy rayson
I haven’t time to explore all of Topsy’s features here, for more see my article on Topsy and Twitter Social Analytics.
Tracking When People Share Content
The timing of postings is known to be important when it comes to sharing. AddThis published an infographic based on five years of data on sharing from over 1 billion users. They found that most shares happened on a Wednesday and more specifically at 9.30am. Based on this Eloqua recommended posting your best content on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings to achieve maximum sharing.
The difficulty with this advice is that if you have an audience across multiple time zones then 9.30am for one person might be 5.30am for someone else. You need to know when your audience is online and more importantly when your influencers or the people are most likely to share your content. This is important as the AddThis survey found that 75% of all clicks take place on the same day the content is first published and over 50% within two minutes of being published.
With Tweriod you can track not only when your followers are online but when they mention or retweet you. For example, according to Tweriod most of my followers are online between 11am and 10pm on a weekday and the number peaks at 5pm UK. However, the people that mention and retweet me tend to so either at 8-9am UK or 1-2pm UK as can be seen from the following Tweriod analysis:
Thus if I tweet at 5pm when most of my audience is online I will miss the two periods when people are most likely to retweet me.
I think this analysis provides extra backing for the AddThis conclusion that people are most likely to share early in the day as the two peaks represent early morning in the UK and early morning in the US.
Tracking Shares, Networks And Influencers On Google+
Tracking on the Google+ network is much easier than on other platforms.
In a previous SMT post I set out how easy it is to track engagement on Google+ for a specific web page. You just type the url into the Google+ search box and you will get a page showing every post containing that url. Unlike with Twitter, you will need to search separately for shortened urls.
Once you have your list of posts you can quickly see which people had the most influence by seeing which posts received the most plus ones, comments and reshares. In the case of my Google+ article it was a post by Charise Stanberg which received 473 plus ones and over 200 reshares. This one post accounted for nearly 20% of all plus ones on the article.
google+ post

By clicking on the bottom right of the post (where the pictures are) it will show you who gave the plus ones and who reshared. Thus you start to get a feel for the social networks at work.
Google+ makes it even easier to map these networks through Google Ripples. By clicking the top right of the post I can view Ripples which is a visual representation of engagement activity on the post over time. This can provide a useful overview of the nature of specific social networks, see the image below for the network that shared the post by Charise.
charise network ripples 
Tracking Google+ Influencers
If you want to find out more about a particular influencer on Google+ you can use This is a great tool which allows you to search for a specific subject, post or an individual. There is so much you can do with Allmyplus but for the sake of brevity I am just going to focus on influencer tracking here.
If you are interested in specific influencers you can search by their Google+ id number or name, the id number or name is in the top of the url on their profile page. With Allmyplus you can see a huge amount of data about them.
You can see how many plus ones, comments and reshares their original posts and reshares receive. See an example of the type of data for an influencer below, I have left their name out for the purposes of this article.
allmyplus stats
You can also download this data as a CSV file including the list of people that reshared content. 
You can also see when they share and reshare by day of the week and hours of the day. You even get a graph showing this (blue is original posts, red is reshares) for your own time zone. Below is a graph for a US influencer showing that they don’t come online until 10am my time and they are most likely to reshare content at 1pm my time.
g+ influencer
You can combine the tools for example you can identify their most popular post using Allmyplus and then use Ripples on this post to analyse their networks in more depth.
Tracking Shares, Networks and Influencers On LinkedIn
I have found this to be the most difficult network to track the sharing of content with free tools.
LinkedIn has recently provided a nice feature that will allow you to see who many people viewed your own posts, who liked the post and who has commented. It also groups these into conversations such as a community discussion. You can click to see the discussion and you can also click on the orange and green dots to see the people that liked or commented. 
linkedin shares

This is a very nice feature for tracking your own posts but I haven’t yet found a way to find all such LinkedIn data in relation to a specific piece of content.
You can look at the groups where a content article is most likely to be shared and search specific groups for key words. See an example below.
linkedin search
Whilst I have had some success with searching groups it is not an easy process.
There is an advanced search with the paid edition of LinkedIn but I am not sure it provides much more advanced functionality in terms of tracking interaction with content. However, it does provide a lot more advanced people searching features.
So this is where you come in. Have you found good ways of tracking content shares and influencers on LinkedIn? Also what tools are you using that I have missed here?


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