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Social Media Roundup: Analytics

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Some folks have been up in arms over the announcement of Google Reader shutting down its services, which it officially did earlier this month. I’m not sure what your personal thoughts on RSS are, but I’m of the mind that RSS is not as necessary as it was before social media came into the mix. I actually abandoned Google Reader a few years ago when I started using Twitter as my PLN. I’m not the only one who isn’t bothered by the death of Google Reader because, unlike RSS feeds, Twitter users read and evaluate articles before posting about them (for the most part). The people I follow help me decide whether the article is worth reading and, if I’m interested in saving it to read later, I will “favorite” the tweet.

Why Favorite Tweets?

I typically favorite tweets for one of two reasons:

1. They are hilarious and I get a good chuckle in the belly every time I look at them:

2. They have info or a link I want to save for future reference of some sort:

The last tweet is relevant to this post about analytics (yes, I’m getting there I promise).

As you may already know, sadly @brianfoote left the community team a few months ago, and with his departure we lost a great many things. While I wouldn’t even dream of trying to reboot Footesnotes,  I’ve been dipping my toes in the Google Analytics water and started taking over weekly analytics reporting earlier this month. Before then, I would just add my social media stats to Brian’s weekly analytics and call it a day. Well, since it’s been about a semester since I even looked at the social media stats and I didn’t know much of anything about Google Analytics, I was happy when @admin suggested I sign up for an upcoming workshop hosted by JustPublics356 and CUNY J School called: Analytics and Metrics: Advanced Social Media. I thought this would be a wonderful professional development opportunity not only for my position as Community Facilitator on the Commons, but also for my position as Academic Operations Assistant at CUNY SPS. As part of my duties at SPS, I manage web content and LivePerson FAQs. Recently, I started working with the Marketing team on refining keywords and adding micro data to our School’s website. I figured this workshop would be a great way to learn more about Google Analytics, search engine optimization, and social media metrics (a win-win for both SPS and the Commons).

Analytics Workshop: Friday, June 21, 2013

Our Instructor, Sandeep Junnarkar, the Director of Interactive Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, started the workshop by providing a link to his handout: http://bit.ly/analytics4academics. It was great to refer to Sandeep’s handout as he showed the different aspects of Google Analytics and WordPress.

One of my biggest WordPress takeaways was on permalinks — the links for each blog post. As you can see in the screenshot below, the default link is a strange string of characters and numbers that really have no meaning or relevance. Sandeep suggested changing the default to include the day and name, explaining that it’s better not only for search engine optimization purposes, but also for readers who want to know when a post was published. Lightbulb. So many times when I was attempting to research a new technology or troubleshoot an issue, I’d get miffed when I couldn’t find the published date because I didn’t know if the post was still relevant. I have since switched my permalink settings to include the date and subject in case viewers can’t find the published date within the post itself (you might want to check your blog’s permalink settings as well).

permalink

While the workshop had a heavy focus on WordPress, I would be able to apply much of what I had learned to the SPS Website project. Another terrific SEO resource on the Commons comes from Robin Camille. In her post, Gentle SEO Reminders, Camille lists some helpful search engine optimization tips for businesses and organizations. She also suggests using the Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin on the Commons, which automatically adds OpenGraph meta tags to blog content based on the keywords and descriptions entered.

Another great aspect of the workshop was the other people who were there. Some had been blogging for years, while others either just started a blog or were thinking about starting a blog. We may not have stayed exactly on track, but the discourse between workshop participants and the instructor made it much more relevant and rewarding.

Twitter Analytics

When Sandeep started talking about how to measure Twitter traffic in Google Analytics my ears perked up — after trying many tools and going through Twitter streams to parse out data I was super excited to learn how to really do it. Since many folks use different Twitter Clients (such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck), their clicks show up differently in Google Analytics. Obviously Google Analytics has some drawbacks, but Sandeep suggested using Advanced Segments to capture all of the different Twitter Clients; providing more accurate metrics.

Advanced Segment: Twitter Traffic

By including twitter.com, t.co, tweetdeck, hootsuite, and bit.ly, you will be able to get a more accurate picture of how Twitter is (or isn’t) driving traffic to your site. Since we use the cuny.is URL shortener I have to include that in my advanced segment.

Towards the end of the workshop when Sandeep was discussing various tools that can be used to measure Twitter metrics I remembered that tweet from TechCrunch that I favorited only a couple of weeks before (see, I told you the tweet would be relevant :-) ). Turns out that many of the third-party applications that once measured Twitter metrics no longer worked because Twitter changed their API. I informed the group of Twitter’s recent announcement of their new analytics and Sandeep said that he was interested in checking it out. While we’re on the subject of Twitter’s API messing up stuff, it also recently interfered with an awesome new feature set for the Commons 1.5 release (more on that in an upcoming social media roundup)…

Twitter Analytics

Above is the new Twitter Analytics dashboard, which is great because it’s built directly in Twitter. From what I’ve read around the web (mostly in the comments section), it seems that Twitter hasn’t rolled this out to all of their users and some features vary depending on the user. Since the @cunycommons account was on the right list (no, I didn’t have to pay off Jack Dorsey), I started using it last week to measure RT’s, mentions, favorites, replies, followers, and clicks. You have the ability to download the data in a CSV file, but unfortunately it currently only provides metrics for favorites, retweets, and replies so you still have to scroll through the stream to view all of the metrics. While I can access the Timeline Activity dashboard (screenshot above), I still don’t seem to have access to the Followers dashboard. I expect that more users will be able to use Twitter Analytics in the coming months and that they will refine and expand their metrics as time goes on, but I wasn’t overly impressed with what it had to offer.

@cunycommons Analytics

It was a strong week for us on the @cunycommons Twitter account. Our followers list increased by 2% to 1847. This week’s retweet rate was 28% and, out of the original 36 tweets, the 10 retweets resulted in 9 additional retweets. We also received 24 mentions, 11 favorites, 3 replies, and 152 clicks via Twitter.

Since we attach cuny.is links to all Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ posts, the click through metrics cover all of these platforms in addition to clicks from others’ retweets. This week, according to the cuny.is dashboard, URLs were selected an average of 60 times per link and 1,631 times in total. Our top tweet (below), received 24 clicks in our Twitter stream and 156 altogether via http://cuny.is/1bl.

Many thanks to CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and JustPublics@365 for hosting the analytics workshop! If you are interested in signing up for an upcoming workshop, check out JustPublics@365’s upcoming events.

The CUNY Academic Commons Bug-Tracking System

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As Matt Gold highlighted back  in the summer of 2009, the CUNY Academic Commons  rolled out an issues website where the development team could keep track of bugs and issues that are causing problems on the Commons.

The site is an installation of Redmine, a robust open-access project management solution which allows the community and development teams to report and keep track of bugs, feature requests, and support tickets. What I really like about the site is that you only have to log in to report an issue, which means that our work on the Commons is completely transparent. Below is a snapshot of the main page where you can access the CUNY Academic Commons project: Overview, Activity; Roadmap; Issues; News; Documents; and Files.

CUNY Academic Commons Redmine Website

As a quick case in point of how this project management site is used, I wanted to share an experience from an issue that I recently reported…

After reading @brianfoote’s summary of changes for groups associated with the upgrade to version 1.1 on the Commons, I was excited to add the external blog posts feature to one of my groups. I was not as excited to learn that everyone in my group was sent an email notification for every single blog post associated with the external blog. I quickly reported this issue to the development team and Boone @boonebgorges just as quickly disabled the notifications associated with external blogs posts. Now, members will access the external blog posts directly through the group’s activity stream.

external blog posts

Speaking of reporting issues, after the development team  rolled out some recent upgrades to the site I noticed that issues are not only being reported by the community team, but also by members of the Commons. It’s great to see members participating in the back-end process that helps us maintain and enhance the CUNY Academic Commons, especially since we depend on individual feedback to improve the overall experience for all members. Have you come across something  odd while navigating the Commons? Please don’t hesitate to submit an issue associated with your account or the site. It’s quick and painless, just like the homepage states:

“We invite you to submit any bugs that you find as you’re using the site. To submit bugs and track their progress as we fix them, you’ll need to register for an account on the bug-tracking site (it’s quick and painless).”

You will just need to choose a login ID and password, fill out your first and last name, and email address.

register for an account

Whether you report a bug through Redmine or via email, we invite you to help us make the bugs go SPLAT!

Highlighting the News!

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With so much content available online 24/7 it can sometimes be overwhelming to get a good sense of what’s new in the world. At the Commons, we’ve tried to make it a little easier for members to get their news (without the fluff). Next time you log into the Commons please take some time to check out the News or “activity” tab, which allows you to see what’s new with your friends, your groups or across the entire community. If you are searching for something specific simply use the drop-down filter where you can narrow your search to:

  • updates;
  • blog posts;
  • blog comments;
  • new forum topics;
  • forum replies;
  • new groups;
  • new group memberships;
  • friendship connections;
  • new members or
  • wiki edits

…whew!

If you find yourself without an abundance of free time just scroll through the activity stream and select the “Favorite” tab under the items you want to bookmark for future reference. You can access these bookmarked items by selecting the “My Favorites” tab.

Don’t want to search through the activity stream, but want to find out what’s new? We’ve got you covered! On the right side of the News page you can view recent posts from the Academic Commons News blog, Academic Commons Development blog and Twitter feed.

How To: Shorten a URL

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If you’re on Twitter you have probably selected a link similar to http://tiny.cc/xphnk which redirects you to the much longer URL https://apicciano.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2010/07/20/e-books-outselling-hardcover-books-at-amazon-com/. You may ask yourself — how is this done? Well look no further!

There are many free web services that will take your lengthy URLs and shorten them for you. This not only allows frees up more characters for your Twitter post, but generally makes it easier to cut and paste URLs into emails, text messages, chats, etc…

Some of these services out there are:

To use Tiny URL as an example, you would simply paste the URL that you wish to be shortened into the big box then select ‘tiny!’. Once the shortened URL is generated you can use it however you’d  like and also monitor stats.

Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’ keep them Blogrolls Rollin’

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After taking a look at Scott Voth’s (@scottvoth) new layout for his Wiki Wrangler blog I had an idea to revamp my own. I changed my theme from Fervens A 1.1 by Design Disease to Magatheme 1.0.4 by Bryan Helmig. While the new theme wasn’t as flashy as the Fervens Theme, I was tired of the old color scheme and wanted something with more of a newspaper type of feel.

I also reworked the widgets on my sidebar. I wanted a blog that felt a little less cluttered so I deleted the RSS feeds from the Community Team blogs and opted for a simple list of blogs that were associated with the Academic Commons Community Team. My process for this was simple… I selected ‘Add New’ under ‘Links’ on the left navigation bar of my Dashboard. From this point I added the name of the blog’s author under ‘Name’, cut & pasted the appropriate URL in the ‘Web Address’ bar and added the name/tagline of the blog under ‘Description’. Then I added the category ‘Community Team Blogroll’ to better organize the links. I decided to have the links open in a new window by selecting ‘_blank – new window or tab’ under ‘Target’. Lastly, I selected the ‘Add Link’ button on the top right side of the page.

I didn’t stop there because I got thinking about the many blogs that belong to members of the CUNY community that are housed outside of the Commons. I wanted to provide a comprehensive list of blogs for members to browse, get ideas, access information, etc… To facilitate this new idea I searched through blogs linked to a given member’s profile and followed the same process as listed above. The only difference is that I created a new category ‘CUNY Blogroll’ to organize all these blogs.

In order to make the Community Team Blogroll and CUNY Blogroll links appear on my blog, I added the ‘Links’ widget to my sidebar then selected ‘All Links’, ‘Show Link Name and ‘Show Link Description’. Lastly, I chose what position I wanted to links to appear in relation to my other active widgets and selected ‘Save Widget’.

While I have gone through many members’ profiles in order to add blogs to the CUNY Blogroll, (and get to know a little more about everyone) I’m sure there are many missing from the blogroll. If you would like to add your blog please feel free to message me the blog URL and I will gladly add it to the CUNY Blogroll.

PS– The other active widgets on the sidebar of my blog are ‘Subscriptions Options’ and ‘Tag Cloud (Simple Tags)’, which can be found under the ‘Plugins‘ on the left navigation bar of your dashboard (picture above). Interestingly enough I was able to sync my podcast feed URL with the green email icon under ‘Subscriptions Options’. Metablogging is fun.

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