The Strange Relationship Between Impressions and First-Party Data

For the past 7 years, Twitter has averaged 500 million tweets daily.

Since I’m really good at math, (and totally without typing 7 x 365 into the search bar) I immediately knew that 7 years equated to 2,555 days.

Doing more incredibly brilliant, unassisted math, 500M daily tweets across 2,555 days equals 12,775,000,000 tweets. 

12.7B tweets is a lot of information. It’s a whole heckuva lot more impressions.

But does that even matter?

The Influence of Impressions

Marketers are known for trying to discover hidden value in every sandbox in which they play, sifting through tons of nothing in the hopes that something might be there. Thanks to its mostly open API, Twitter is the platform that’s analyzed most often. 

Every time a tweet is seen by a user, the company marks it as an impression. This not only includes the times it appears in someone’s timeline but also the times it has appeared in search or as a result of someone liking the Tweet.

Being the most bountiful source of data on the platform, impressions are often highlighted in every report and analysis as a means of calling attention to just how much opportunity lies in wait.

For 15 years, my colleagues and I, at large, have been parsing through the Social space hoping to find the diamonds in rough, evaluating threads, conversations, and one-off thoughts.

So here’s the question: How much tangible business value can you achieve from this data?

While there certainly are opportunities waiting to be unearthed, more often than not, this information is nothing but a whole bunch of hot air. 

Talk is Cheap

Credit – VectorStock

For what it’s worth, impressions aren’t bad. They simply don’t equate to tangible business results. 

Impressions are a substrate; a potentially fertile ground that could eventually yield a new audience who may have interest in a given topic, solution, product, etc. But on its own, impressions are merely a pile of dirt, equally full of promise and full of nothing. This kind of data is very useful to have when you’re crafting a content strategy; it gives you a sense of how large the market might be and how many future prospects or customers you may have the chance to talk with.

But impressions offer little beyond these soft brushes of interest. How much of the information shared within those tweets mean anything? How many would mean anything of substance to my employer? To our customers? Prospects? And most importantly: how many of these ideas or tweets would be something they might pay for?

With the 12.7B tweets I could have possibly seen since 2014, that’s a lot of sifting, even with the help of Twitter’s Advanced Search or a third-party listening tool. Even then, how many could honestly be relevant? (More on this later.)

Actions Are Priceless

In short, what people do is more reliable than what they say they’ll do. 

Using steady, present, and foreseeable buyer behavior is comforting to businesses for obvious reasons. Just as we shared in our 2021 Content Consumption Report, predictability is not only very attractive to businesses, it’s also essential, quite frankly. In order to anticipate the needs of your customers, you need to understand what they’re doing–and first-party data affords you that luxury.

First-party data is better than much of the information that is shared across the Marketing world. Sure, there is still plenty of information we don’t have visibility into, even with our massive content platform. But even if a third-party, survey-based report is making waves across social media, it still can’t beat having access to direct, first-party behavior data; it simply outperforms everything else. 

Yes, there is 100% a place in the world for subjective survey-based reports. What good would our data be without opinions and analysis layered on top of it? 

As we introduced in February of 2021, Intent Discovery allows Marketers to better understand what a buyer’s true intentions are, helping them identify their challenges, priorities, and purchase timeline. This data is sourced directly from the folks who are voluntarily sharing their information in exchange for content. What separates this data from its survey siblings is that instead of collecting answers from pedestrian participants, you’re digging deeper into why they’re interested. Try getting that from an impression.

For B2B organizations trying to inform your content marketing strategy with the latest and greatest, using data that is composed of concrete, verifiable actions representing the true business interests and trends of the B2B community.

Hard, Actionable Data

NetLine’s fortunate that the pendulum is swinging back this way, but it’s merely a happy accident; we didn’t plan it this way, we’re just lucky.

As we move into a cookieless world, first-party data becomes more and more necessary. While getting fully-permissioned consent is now in vogue, it wasn’t always the burgeoning beauty of the digital realm. 

For years, digital leaders preached about the benefits of using third-party sites like Facebook to bolster your business’s following while also warning about the pitfalls of building on rented land. Now we’re seeing just how true all of this is. 

It may have taken some time for everyone to come to their senses, but the path forward is clear: first-party is the bedrock upon which all great marketing plans are built. 

One Last Thing

But before we close this out, let’s quickly revisit relevancy. Relevancy is subjective; one man’s drivel is another man’s opportunity

All of this is to say that things only matter when they matter to us. As soon as something is contextually relevant to you, it’s going to be on your radar. So, yes, all of the things I wrote about impressions are true…but like all things in life, it’s not an absolute. After all, first-party data only matters if people see the content that gets them to voluntarily share their personal information. 

In writing this blog, I found myself reminded of a scene from No Country for Old Men where the bad guy, Anton Chigurh, played masterfully by Javier Bardem, extols the paradox of a quarter. (Though I love the entire clip, I have it queued up at the beginning of the coin toss.) 

Nonsense and consequence, all in one. Somehow, both truths exist in concert.

The same can be said of digital marketing: You never know when a moment of significance will find you. All we can do is be prepared and be ready to seize the opportunities in front of us.