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Who’s winning the war for growth – Twitter or LinkedIn?

Both Twitter and LinkedIn posted Q4 2013 earnings results this week, and both saw sharp declines in their stock price. But what other comparisons can be made from the usage data they made available?

User numbers

Although the two firms use different methods of calculating active users (Twitter has its own Monthly Active Users metric, whilst LinkedIn relies on its own membership data and Comscore measurement), a comparison can easily be made.

Users

Much has been made of Twitter’s slowing growth, but LinkedIn’s growth has slowed even further (a mere 1.6% increase on Q3 2013, which actually showed a sharp decline).

Winner: Twitter

Activity

Again, both companies use different measures of activity. Twitter has its nebulous ‘timeline views’ whereas LinkedIn relies on Comscore’s calculation of page views.

Views

This would account for the marked discrepancy in the absolute numbers seen above, so it is better to look at the growth/decline over the last quarter. Here we see that whilst both platforms have declined, it is actually LinkedIn that has dropped the most:

  • Twitter: Timeline views down 6.9% quarter-on-quarter and up 26.5% year-on-year
  • LinkedIn: Page views down 8.2% quarter-on-quarter and up 9.8% year-on-year

It’s also worth looking at these absolute activity number relative to the user base.

Views per User

Again, a direct comparison between the numbers themselves is not helpful, because of the methods each platform uses to track activity. The trend is interesting though:

  • Twitter saw a 10.5% decline quarter-on-quarter (3.5% down year-on-year) in timeline views per active user
  • LinkedIn saw a 9.6% decline quarter-on-quarter (9.2% down year-on-year) in page views per unique visitor
  • Over the full year, timeline views per active user on Twitter actually increased by 11.8% whereas page views per unique visitor for LinkedIn saw a massive 24.9% drop

Winner: Twitter

Revenue

From the data above, it seems odd that Twitter’s stock price fell by a quarter following its results, whereas LinkedIn’s fell by only (!) 15 per cent. Looking at revenue trends might help.

Revenue

LinkedIn is the clear winner when it comes to net revenue, out-gunning Twitter by a factor of almost two. But Twitter is beginning to close the gap; its net revenues are up 117% year-on-year compared to LinkedIn’s 47.3% growth compared to the same quarter in 2012.

Revenue per user shows the same story.

Revenue by User

In Q4 2013 LinkedIn brought in $2.39 of net revenue per user/visitor compared to Twitter’s $1.01. But yet again, it is Twitter that is seeing the fastest growth in this area, putting on 38.4% quarter-on-quarter (66.5% year-on-year) compared to LinkedIn’s 12% quarter-on-quarter (21.8% year-on-year).

Winner: TBA

So whose stock would you buy?

How to create your own social analytics dashboard

web-social-media-dashboard

There are a lot of social media metrics and measurement tools out there aimed at corporate users. Some of them are quite good. Some less so. But pretty much all of them require us to buy into the way in which they define and calculate success. The problem with this approach is that there is little or no opportunity to fine tune either the KPI (Key Performance Indicator – how success is defined) or the algorithm (how the metric is calculated). This probably isn’t a big deal for organisations with no clear social media strategy but for the increasing number of companies that know what they’re trying to achieve with which platforms it soon becomes a problem.

So what’s the solution?

Well, as far as I am aware there is no off-the-shelf system available (correct me if I’m wrong) that allows these sophisticated users to build their own social media dashboard and track the KPIs that they define on a regular basis. So it’s left to the social analytics geeks like me to build bespoke measurement models (usually in Excel, albeit with some useful, informative charts and graphs) and either keep them updated manually or invest a significant chunk of budget in developing a software-based solution (nice work if you can get it).

Regardless, there is still a process that needs following in order to create such a ‘dashboard’. Here’s mine:

1. Objectives

Everything must start with objectives. What are you trying to achieve? This is the only thing your KPIs should be tracking.

2. Competitors

Who are your competitors? Do you care what they’re doing? Is it important to be beating or challenging them? If so, then make sure you build competitor tracking into your KPIs. It also has a bearing on the metrics you’ll be able to use.

3. Data Sources

Which channels are you (and your competitors) using? If you’re using them, you should be including them in your measurement model. Don’t leave them out because you already know you’re not performing well in those areas.

4. Metrics

The tricky bit. What metrics can you extract from each data source/channel and how easily/inexpensively? There are compromises that might need making here depending on resources and budgets.

5. Behaviours

Armed with all of the above, it’s time to decide what behaviours on social media (both yours and others’) most accurately reflect the objectives you are trying to achieve.

6. Calculations

The clever bit. Now is the time to take the metrics and work out how they should be combined mathematically in order to create KPIs that accurately measure the identified behaviours on each platform.

7. Augmentation

For me, the last stage is the most important – and most frequently omitted. By augmenting the KPIs with other business data that also measures your objectives (such as incoming lead volumes, sales, customer service requests, customer satisfaction data, etc.), you can link social media activity and investment with real, hard numbers that the board will understand.