Twitter LogoTwitter has started rolling out Analytics for Cards to media sites that use its card functionality and to advertisers.

Publishers, developers and brands can use Twitter Cards to make Tweets more engaging with pictures, videos, content previews, deep links into their apps, and other rich media experiences. In India, media sites such as @NDTV and  @ESPNcricinfo have been using Twitter cards for a while and now they will be able to see how their links performed on the service.

Like with Google Analytics, you can set a date range and it’ll show you the number of clicks received from Twitter, number of links posted to your site on the service, which client people used to post those updates, number of retweets, most tweeted story, which Twitter user posted links that drove more traffic to your site, how the visitor count and clickthroughs fared over time, which card type fared well, how your card performed against similar cards used worldover, among others.

It also provides demographic breakdown in terms of gender, interests and location, apart from which client people used to end up on your website.

This has been a tool that’s been under development for a while and it was available for only select advertisers and select media houses till now. With this roll out, any website that implements cards feature will be able to understand and improve on how it uses Twitter.

To implement card feature for your website, you need to go to this developer page, select the card of your choice and embed the meta tags on your page. Once the tags are verified, links to your website will be displayed as cards on Twitter. (If you use WordPress, there are plugins for that) Twitter says that all card users and advertisers will get access to analytics over the next few days.

How it helps brands

As of now, brands run contests on Twitter asking users to post tweets about them with a specific hashtag and this generally ends up in spammy tweets that suck up to the brand. These people might not be genuine fans of a brand and just might be gaming the system, by tweeting non-stop about a topic. While this might help the brand get presence, it does not help it truly identify the real influencers. With analytics though, the company will be able to see which Twitter user is the biggest influencer and reward them without having to run such campaigns.

However, the fact that these analytics are restricted to cards will limit the use cases. In case of companies like Airtel for example, which use Twitter for customer service, they could theoretically use analytics to see the influence of a person who has a complaint and work on resolving their issue with higher priority. These companies could use a tool like Klout for the same, but why use an third-party service when a first-party solution can show more accurate results? They could also see which city they are getting more complaints from and try to improve service in that area.

How it helps publishers

Till now publishers had to depend on social tab in Google Analytics to measure the number of visitors they got from Twitter. However, it’s not clear if this tab measure the visits it got from people who were using Twitter from an app. With this approach, publishers will have a better idea of not just clickthroughs, but also about how engaging their content was on the site.

The demographic information will also help publishers better understand the people who are following their brand and may be tweak the stories to cater to them.

Bad news for bit.ly?

A few publishers still use services such as bit.ly which not only shorten links, but also offers some basic analytics on clickthroughs and retweets. However, if more publishers start using Twitter cards, it might be bad news for such companies as they will not be relevant anymore. Link shortners became irrelevant once Twitter starting considering all links by default as 20 characters and now with this move, they might not have much left to offer. Even normal users who post links to stories they like might stop using such services if more publishers implement card feature. A tweet will look richer with cards, increasing the likelihood of them being clicked and bit.ly links do not generally show any extra details and might be shunned altogether.

Will it affect your Twitter experience?

Analytics is interesting enough for more publishers to implement card feature. Once more publishers start using big pictures in their story that will be posted with the link on Twitter, your timeline will end up becoming more picture heavy that it ever was. This can be a problem for people who use Twitter on mobile as they will need to scroll more to see as many tweets as they did on screen earlier.

Wake up call for Zuckerberg

Facebook has been so caught up trying to play catch up in the messaging market that they have ignored their analytics tool for long. It launched analytics for pages a few years back, but the information was limited in comparison to what Twitter is offering. While Facebook could help page managers measure engagement, it could never tell how many clickthroughs a page was getting from Facebook as a whole. Of course, one could check Google Analytics, but why not roll out a better analytics tool to help out advertisers and publishers?