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Research Impact Challenge

Track Your Scholarly Social Media and Website Impact

Learn four techniques for measuring the success of your Impact Challenge efforts, starting with basic social media and website analytics.

Throughout the Impact Challenge, we’ve explored many ways for you to get your work to other researchers, the public, and other audiences via the internet; by making connections at conferences, and by other means.

This week, we’ll share two techniques for measuring the success of your ongoing efforts – basic social media and website analytics.

Social media and website analytics like those provided by Twitter and Google Analytics can tell you a lot about who’s following your work, the potential exposure your work has received, and some limited bits about the diverse uses of your work, beyond simple page views and download counts.

Let’s dig into some easy ways to explore the metrics behind your website and social media accounts.

Twitter Analytics

Twitter has an Analytics feature, which can tell you how many followers you have, their demographics, and how others are using your tweets. Are your tweets being retweeted or favorited very often? If so, what are the characteristics of those tweets with high engagement rates?

The wealth of data that Twitter provides can help you learn more about the audiences with whom you’re having an impact (e.g. is your work resonating in the countries whose populations you’re studying? What subjects do your followers care most about?). Here’s how to get started with Twitter Analytics:

  • Login to Twitter. If you do not have a Twitter account, you’ll want to review the Impact Challenge chapter, Find Your Community on Twitter.
  • Click on your profile picture in the upper right corner of the screen, and then select “Analytics” from the drop-down menu.  Note: To access your tweet activity details you may need to first make sure you’ve logged in to and turned on analytics for your account.

In addition to Home, you’ll see four menu items at the top of your screen:

  • Tweets: includes the exposure your tweets has received, the general rates that others have engaged with your tweets, and allows you to explore the activity that individual tweets have received.
  • Audiences: breaks down the demographics of your followers and shows a growth chart of your followers over the last 28 days.
  • Events: features events being tweeted about around the world. While this is interesting, it is not particularly useful when understanding your own impact.
  • More: has two additional options – conversion tracking and video. 

So let’s dig into the Tweets and Audience pages.


The first thing you’ll see on this page is a bar chart of the number of Twitter impressions your tweets have received over the past 28 days. Twitter impressions are the number of times your tweets have appeared in someone else’s timeline. You can think about this metric as being akin to the circulation statistics of a journal you’re published in – it’s not the same as readership, but it gives a sense of your overall exposure.

You’ll also see summaries of your average “engagements” on the right side of the screen. How often have others clicked on your links, retweeted and favorited your tweets, and replied to you over the past 28 days? And how many of each of these actions have you received per day, on average?

In the middle of the screen, you’ll see a list of your tweets in reverse chronological order, along with their individual number of impressions, engagements, and engagement rate. You can click on “View Tweet activity” for any individual tweet to get a drill down view of the metrics. You’ll be able to see the types of actions others took to engage with or share your tweet with others. Over time, you can use this information about your overall tweet activity to learn what tweets get the most impressions and engagement.

Consider scheduling an informal analysis of your most popular tweets on a monthly basis. Doing so will allow you to see what types of tweets are the most popular with your followers, and you can use that insight to share future links in a similar way.

An easy way to do this informal analysis is to export your tweet data as a CSV file using the “Export Data” button on the upper right. Open it up in Excel and use the Sort function to see which of your tweets have the most impressions, retweets, and other types of engagement.

You can also change the date range of your analysis by selecting the “Last 28 Days” button on the upper right. From drop down menu, you can select different months or use the calendar to select a custom date range.

Beyond tweets, knowing some generalities about your followers is a great way to learn the demographics of your audience and what unexpected demographics you’re reaching via Twitter.


Much of your Audiences page is self-explanatory: How many followers do you have overall, and when did you experience a spike in follower growth? What are your followers most interested in? Where are they located? Who else do they follow? And what’s their gender?

You can compare information about your follower rate to information on your Tweet Activity page to see if any particular tweets or mentions can account for a dip or rise in follower growth.

And demographic information can be useful in other ways. For example, if you’re a public health researcher studying drug use among teens in northern Europe, one way to prove that you’re successful at reaching out to that group would be to dig into your Audiences data and see where your followers live, who else they’re following, and their interests. This information could give you insight as to their age and other demographic information.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a powerful platform that can tell you a lot about the traffic your professional website and blog are receiving.

To get started, you need to sign up for a free Google Analytics account, then insert a small file onto your website that helps track your website’s traffic: how many people are visiting your site, where are they coming from, how long are they staying, what’s the most popular content on your website, and so on.

Hooking Google Analytics up to your blog is very easy if you’re running a WordPress blog: here’s a tutorial on how to do it in under 60 seconds.

Google Analytics provides a number of out-of-the-box reports that can be useful for learning about your site’s visitors and the content that’s most popular, as summarized by the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center:

  • Audience overview report provides an at-a-glance overview of all the key visitor metrics for your site.
  • Acquisition overview report provides an at-a-glance overview of visitor-source metrics for your site.
  • Behavior overview report provides an at-a-glance overview of the key page view metrics for your site.

Let’s take a closer look at each report.

Audience Overview Report

How many visitors have you received, and where do they hail from? Do visitors from certain countries stay longer on your website? How about visitors who are using a mobile browser versus a desktop browser? Knowing more about your visitors’ demographics can tell you how good a job you’re doing at engaging certain communities, and they can also provide clues like “Are visitors to my website who are using mobile browsers leaving because they’re having a hard time reading on their mobile phones?”

Acquisition Overview Report

Are more people searching for your site than are being referred to your site from Twitter and Facebook? What social networks are sending the most traffic your way? Digging into this report, as well as drill-down views beneath the “Acquisition” section of the left-hand toolbar, can give you insight into how you might better promote your website or blog using social media.

Behavior Overview Report

What are the most popular pages on your website or blog? Above, we’ve screencapped traffic for a sample website over the past week. On your own report you’ll be able to see on the bottom right the most popular pages, as well as a summary of traffic just below the overall traffic chart. This can not only tell you the content on your website or blog that’s most eligible for resharing on social media as “evergreen content,” but also can tell you whether blog posts aimed at engaging the public are working.

What these platforms can’t tell you

None of these platforms expose much of the underlying, qualitative data like, “In what context was I ‘mentioned’ on Twitter?” So be sure to use the data you’re gathering carefully!

It’s beyond the scope of the Impact Challenge to give a full tutorial on the many ways you can use Google Analytics. As you can probably tell, we’ve barely scratched the surface! The Google Analytic Help Pages and this post from Paul Koks may be able to fill in the gaps.


Explore your Twitter Analytics data and sign up for Google Analytics. After a few weeks’ worth of metrics have accumulated, dig into the data with these questions in mind:

  • Have there been spikes in engagement or traffic after I shared certain types of content?
  • What do these services tell me about the demographics of my readers, visitors, and followers?
  • How do those demographics differ from what I expected? How are they similar?
  • How might I use the data these sites provide to document my engagement efforts for professional purposes?

Next week we’ll dig deeper into impact using more traditional, scholarly metrics as we help you discover when your work is discussed. You may find it helpful to peruse AU Libraries Research Impact Metrics guide before the next challenge.  

This guide is based on the "30-Day Impact Challenge" by Stacy Konkiel and used here under a CC BY 4.0 International License and the OU Impact Challenge which is also licensed CC BY 4.0.  Many thanks to those authors for creating and sharing these materials.