The real value of Twitter OTS

How many people will actually see my Tweet? It’s a question I am asked a lot. And it is a very hard one to answer.

It’s easy with TV. You measure how many people are watching an advert – or at least are  in the room with the TV on playing the relevant channel – and that’s your OTS (opportunity to see).

But measuring OTS  is more difficult with online media, especially with social media. With Twitter for instance, OTS is often equated to the “reach” of a tweet: in other words the number of people who could potentially have seen the tweet when it was posted, which is made up of  the followers of the tweeter together with the followers of anyone who re-tweeted it.

But is that a fair assumption? Does a tweet that delivered  10,000 OTS really deserve to be equated to a TV ad that delivered 10,000 OTS?

It is true I could potentially see any Tweet posted by someone I follow. But I could also switch on the TV in the daytime and watch the Duke on Bargain Hunt. However, TV doesn’t count me as having had an Opportunity To See an advert just because I was in the room with the TV off when it was aired!

Should Twitter be measured by its reach? I don’t think so. It simply isn’t true that having the opportunity to see a tweet when I am off line, or online but elsewhere, is the same as having the opportunity to see it when I am on Twitter.

So what is the real value of a tweet? I can’t find any research here. Presumably Twitter must know how often individual tweets are downloaded to people’s browsers. But without that data there is a need to make some assumptions. So here goes:

Using data I found at and (approximated for convenience of this calculation):

IF the “average” user is on Twitter for 5 minutes a day (170 minutes a month), and

IF the average user tweets around 5 times a day, and

IF it I assume it takes 30 seconds to write a tweet (a total of 2.5 minutes a day for 5 tweets)

THEN the average twitter user has 2.5 minutes (or 150 seconds) a day available to read tweets.

IF the average twitter user follows 100 people,  and

IF the average user tweets around 5 times a day

THEN the average Twitter user will receive 500 tweets a day

IF it takes an average of 3 seconds to read a tweet (no evidence for that at all!)

THEN the average Twitter user is in a position to read 50 tweets a day, out of the 500 they receive

So that indicates the “real” OTS on Twitter is 10% of the reach.

Lots of assumptions in there, so is it rubbish, or a useful rule of thumb? And how similar is it for Facebook, LinkedIn etc? It would be nice to have some real research to prove this one way or another. But in the meantime I think I am going to carry on using my “divide reach by 10” rule. Unless you have a better idea!


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