The Firehouse Effect: Using Twitter’s Metadata to Learn More About Your Followers | TALKERS magazine : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

The Firehouse Effect: Using Twitter’s Metadata to Learn More About Your Followers

| September 30, 2013

By Chris Pendl
Bonneville Seattle
Creative Director


SEATTLE — Behind the 144 characters of a tweet is useful metadata about your station or show’s followers. Twitter recently allowed access to their full data stream – known in developer circles as a “firehouse” — allowing users to gain demographic information about their followers (location, name, occupation) as well as glean insight on who the key influencers are (based on the amount of a user’s followers) within your audience.

Yes, you can search mentions about your brand or look at a list of your followers, but without knowing how to write code or paying for enterprise-level social monitoring tools, it can be difficult to easily know anything about your Twitter following.

Using a free tool from the website, let’s look how to tap into the metadata behind your Twitter following and go over some possible uses of this data – all without knowing a line of code.

You’ll first want to create a free Community account at  (If you’re a large syndicated show or are very active in social media, you might have to ante up $9 a month for the Explorer plan.)

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Once you’ve created your account, you’ll want to create a new dataset.

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Then click “Get Twitter followers” where you’ll be prompted to enter your brand’s Twitter username and password.  After a few seconds (mostly dependent on the size of your Twitter following), ScraperWiki will pull this metadata for you.

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You’ll then see a screen like the one below letting you know the status of your dataset.

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You can then click on the dataset you’ve just created to see to information about your Twitter following.

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From here, you can export this list into Excel or use one of the free data visualization tools online to dig deeper into this info.  Depending how sophisticated you want to get, you can also overlay location-specific census data about your user’s location to show things like per-capita income or blue/white collar employment percentages.

Now that you know how to do this, you might be asking yourself why this matters.  Let’s take a quick look at some possible uses for this data.

  • Garner goodwill with your influencers.  Knowing the people who have the largest followings within your following should be part of your social media strategy.  These are the users with the most reach within your audience.  Knowing who they are and developing relationships with them will only help you reach more people.
  • Weigh the feedback.  If you’re getting feedback from users either positive or negative, knowing where they are and how much influence they have can help with knowing the value of that feedback.  For example, if a user sends feedback and is out of market with a small following, you might react differently than if someone is in the Arbitron with a significant social media following.
  • Sales and marketing.  If you’ve ever explored the idea of sponsored tweets, the first step should be collecting basic information on your Twitter following.  Building an audience profile based on location, occupation, and influence is a great first step.


Chris Pendl is the creative director at Bonneville Seattle and can be reached at  Check out his blog at Meet Chris Pendl at Talkers Los Angeles 2013 on Thursday, October 10.

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Category: Digital