Social Analytics for Institutional Twitter Accounts Provided by the 24 Russell Group Universities


In June 2011 a survey was published on Social Analytics for Russell Group University Twitter Accounts. The survey built on a previous survey of Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities published in January 2011. That survey provided a snapshot of institutional use of Twitter across the twenty Russell Group Universities based on the statistics provided on Twitter account profile pages (numbers of followers, numbers of tweets, etc.). The survey was warmly received by those involved in managing institutional Twitter accounts or with an interest in activities in this area, with Mario Creatura expressing the view that the survey provided an “excellent gathering of data in an area that quite honestly is chock full of confusing stats“.

In the week which sees the expansion of the Russell Group Universities from 20 to 24 institutions a series of surveys of use of a variety of social networking services by the Russell Group universities is being carried out in order to provide a benchmark of use of the services across the enlarged group, as well as providing an opportunity for reflection and discussion of the relevance of social media analytics to inform decisions on use of such services.

Use of Social Analytic Services

In May 2011 in a post entitled Analysing influence .. the personal reputational hamsterwheel Lorcan Dempsey highlighted three social media analytic services. The post described how it had been suggested that the “Klout score will become a new way of measuring people and their influence online“. In addition to Klout, (which according to Crunchbase ”allows users to track the impact of their opinions, links and recommendations across your social graph“) Lorcan’s post also referenced PeerIndex (which according to Crunchbaseidentifies and ranks experts in business and finance based on their digital footprints“) and Twitalyser (described in a Mashable article“provid[ing] detailed metrics on things like impact, engagement, clout and velocity for individual Twitter accounts“) .

Lorcan’s blog post addressed the relevance of such service for helping to understand personal reputation on Twitter. However these services can also be used to analyse institutional Twitter accounts. I have therefore used the Klout, Peerindex and Twitalyzer social media analytic tools to analyse the 24 Russell Group University Twitter accounts. The table below summarises the findings of the survey which was carried out on Wednesday 1 August 2012. It should also be noted that the table contains live links to the services which will enable the current findings to be displayed (and also for any errors to be easily detected and reported).

Institution /
Twitter Account
No. of
No. of
Klout Peerindex Twitteralyzer
Score Network
Description Score Impact Percentile Type Full
1 University of Birmingham:
3,814 17,373 57 39 11 6K Specialist 97 17.2% 97 Everyday
2 University of Bristol:
2,504 13,195 53 36 17 3K Specialist 90  5.0% 90 Everyday
3 University of Cambridge:
 2,460 37,195 52 34  9 3K Specialist ? 13.1% 96 Everyday
4 Cardiff University:
 1,832 15,919 49 30  7 2K Specialist 58  9.4% 94 Everyday
5 University of Edinburgh:
 2,135 15,077 51 32 10 3K Specialist 54  6.7% 92 Everyday
6 Durham University:
 678   4,205 44 23  6 959 Networker 11 1.8% 72 Everyday
7 University of Exeter:
3,472 11,224 51 33  8 3K Specialist 43 6.6% 92 Everyday
8 University of Glasgow:
1,754 17,990 49 28  6 3K Specialist 43 6.1% 92 Everyday
9 Imperial College:
1,572 14,216 49 30  9 2K Specialist 47 6.1% 92 Everyday
10 King’s College London:
  954   9,299 47 27  8 2K Specialist 34 6.9% 93 Everyday
11 University of Leeds:
2,151 14,284 50 31  7  2K Specialist  42 4.2% 88 Everyday
12 University of Liverpool:
4,105 10,593 48 28  8 2K Specialist 50 4.2% 88 Everyday
13 LSE:
  389   6,177 41 19  6 622 Networker 27 1.5% 69 Everyday
14 University of Manchester:
   33    537 27 10  5 101 Conversation-
27 0.1%   8 Everyday
15 Newcastle University:
  576  2,625 41  19  7 474  Networker  11 2.4% 78  Everyday
16 University of Nottingham:
5,214 12,269 51 57 30 2K Specialist 56 10.3% 95 Everyday
17 University of Oxford:
 1,001 43,975 58 65 37 8K Specialist 49 12.0% 96 Everyday
18 Queen Mary:
 1,668 8,113 49 31 11 2K Thought
23 3.2% 83 Everyday
19 Queen’s University Belfast:
1,222  5,916 41 48 23 779 Specialist 15 2.4% 78 Everyday
20 University of Sheffield:
2,276 17,289 52 34  8 3K Specialist 50 12.9% 96 Everyday
21 University of Southampton:
1,898  8,746 50 32 9 2K Specialist 52  7.3% 93 Everyday
22 University College London:
3,384 10,113 59 30 10 2K Specialist 56 6.4% 92 Everyday
23 University of Warwick:
2,939 15,883 51 32  9 3K Specialist 57 7.1% 93 Everyday
24 University of York:
  946 10,248 49 30  8 2K Specialist 61  4% 87 Everyday
TOTAL 48,977 322,461    

It should be noted that the data provided by PeerIndex has changed since the analysis carried out last year. The values for Activity, Audience and Authority which had been provided previously no longer appear to be available. This information is therefore not available for this survey.

[NOTE: A summary of the meaning of the various rankings was given in the initial survey. Added 3 Aug 2012]

Figure 2: PeerIndex scores for Russell Group universities

Figure 1: Klout scores for new Russell Group universities

The two Klout groups set up last year (Russell Group Universities (1 of 3) and Russell Group Universities (2 of 3) have been renamed and complemented by the Russell Group Universities (3 of 3) group. These groups should enable comparisons to be made across the institutions based on the particular social media analytic service elected. Figure 1 shows the Klout scores for the four new Russell Group universities. Also note that a Russell Group Universities Peerindex group which was set up last year has been updated with details of the institutional Twitter accounts for the four new Russell Group Universities. Figure 2 shows the PeerIndex scores for a selection of the Russell Group universities.


Despite the marketing rhetoric around Twitter analytic tools – with Klout, for example, stating thatKlout is the standard for influence” – as a means of measuring ‘value’ such automated analyses have well-known flaws. As an example, if you prune spam followers from your Twitter account, you apparent influence on Twitter will go down.

In the case of institutional Twitter accounts the numbers of followers, especially for Twitter accounts used to support internal communications, is likely to reflect the size of the institution rather than the influence of the Twitter account.

Despite such caveats Twitter analytic tools can be used if used in conjunction with local knowledge of the aims of the service and the particular approaches taken to using the tool. In addition Twitter analytics may be useful for making comparisons with peer institutions.

It should also be added that since the higher education sector is accustomed to University league tables, with Wikipedia listing the Complete University Guide, the Guardian’s University Guide 2013, and the Sunday Times university league table (accessible by paywall) and the Times Higher Education also providing the World University Rankings, as suggested in a post on Bath is the University of the Year! But What if Online Metrics Were Included? we might expect such university ranking tables in future to include an element related to rankings of a university’s online presence.

The Sunday Times have documented their criteria for their University league tables. Although the details are held behind the Sunday Times Paywall a summary was documented in last year’s blog post and the section categories are given below:

Teaching excellence (250 points); Student satisfaction (+50 to =55 points)Peer assessment (100 points); Research quality (200 points); A-level/Higher points (250 points); Unemployment (200 points); Firsts/2:1s awarded (100) and Dropout rate (+57 to -74 points).

The Klout, PeerIndex and Twitteralyzer services have been developed for analysing personal influence, and the approaches they use may be of interest to those involved in alt.metrics work. As described in a paper on Altmetrics in the Wild: Using Social Media to Explore Scholarly Impact

The online, public nature of [social media tools like blogs, Twitter, and Mendeley] exposes and reifies scholarly processes once hidden and ephemeral. Metrics based on this activities could inform broader, faster measures of impact, complementing traditional citation metrics.

However if the current set of popular Twitter analytics tools are not appropriate for developing a better understanding of use of Twitter for research purposes or in an institutional context, might there be a role for in-house development work?  It was therefore very interesting to read Craig Russell’s post on UK Uni Twitter Data API in which he described how “At the start of the month I began collecting data about UK university twitter accounts” and went on to add that “I’ve made this data available through a simple API“.

Rather than pointing out the limitations of social analytics tools such as Klout, might not the sector benefit from developing its own set of tools to help gain a better understanding of how Twitter is being used? And should we not encourage such work to take place in the open, with the data being made available under an open licence and, as Craig has done, open APIs being provided to encourage reuse by others?

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]


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