Track social traffic with new Twitter Web Analytics

Ronny Kerr · September 13, 2011 · Short URL:

Website owners can now see how their content is being shared, who's coming to their site and more

Twitter announced Tuesday the launch of Web Analytics, a tool for website owners to see exactly how much traffic Twitter generates for their Web properties.

Specifically, owners will soon be able to track exactly how their website content is being shared across Twitter. Relatedly, Web Analytics will show how Twitter is helping to send users back to the website (in other words, how many users actually click the content being shared on Twitter). Finally, the new tool will also show how effective Tweet Button integration is serving the third-party site.

Web Analytics will be rolled out to “a small pilot group of partners” this week, with a full release following in the coming weeks.

Representatives at Twitter believe this to be a powerful first step toward drawing more valuable data from its site content and traffic, but it’s hardly the end.

Twitter Web Analytics represents the first fruits of Twitter’s acquisition of BackType, a Twitter analytics platform purchased back in July. At the time, BackType had boasted of analyzing 50 billion tweets, 10 billion links and 200 million accounts. And they had been in the process of building a real-time stream processing tool.

Now, they’re putting those skills to help Twitter directly.

“Twitter is a powerful platform for websites to share their content, and drive traffic and engagement,” writes Christopher Golda, formerly of BackType, on the Twitter Developers Blog. “However, people have struggled to accurately measure the amount of traffic Twitter is sending to their websites, in part because web analytics software hasn’t evolved as quickly as online sharing and social signals.”

The truth of that last statement can be affirmed simply by the fact that Twitter felt it needed to hire the team at a third-party company to help it pin down the value of its information network.

In addition to the launch of Twitter Web Analytics, the company announced today that the “Tweet” button, which launched last year, has been integrated into three million sites. That’s pretty impressive, especially considering that Facebook, a much larger social network, has only seen its social plugins integrated into 2.5 million sites.

It’s good times for Twitter, as the company just surpassed 100 million active users, with at least half of those logging into the site daily.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.