ThinkUp: The Social Media Insights Engine

Brands and individuals are so eager these days to get insight from their social network interactions. Some of the vital questions, like Does the message get across the table? Are audiences properly engaged? Who among the followers is of value to the brand?, linger in the minds of community managers promoting a brand.

Analytics offered by popular clients like Hootsuite, Cotweet, etc., may not be sufficient to answer all these questions. What we need is an app like ThinkUp. Learn how to set up and analyze data from your social networks using this social media insights engine—read on.

Overview

Overview

Overview

ThinkUp captures your posts, replies, retweets, friends, followers and links on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. ThinkUp stores your social data in a database you control and makes it easy to search, sort, filter, export, and visualize in useful ways. To top it all, ThinkUp is a free, self-hosted and open source app founded by Gina Trapani, of the Lifehacker fame and sponsored by Expert Labs, a non profit organization. At this moment only Twitter and Facebook are supported, but the developers promise to add more networks in the future.

Requirements

ThinkUp runs atop a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack and the following components are required for its smooth operation:

  • PHP 5.x
  • MySQL 5.x
  • PHP’s curl, gd and Smarty support

Because some external applications such as Twitter need to authenticate against ThinkUp, it’s highly recommended that you install ThinkUp on a server with a fully-qualified domain name or IP address that’s reachable on the Internet.

Installation & Set Up

ThinkUp Wiki straight away lets you know that if you have experience installing web apps like WordPress, you should be fine as the installation process of ThinkUp is similar. The installer package is just under 1 MB and it should be a breeze to upload it to your webserver.

System Requirements Check

System Requirements Check

ThinkUp has a super simple three step installation process. Actually it’s just two, since the first step is when the script check if all system requirements are met.

User & Database Details

User & Database Details

The second one is critical as this is where you to create an admin account and submit database connection information. If you know what you are doing, try changing the Advanced Options or else just proceed to the final step.

An activation mail will be sent to the email address you have registered with and this is primarily to check if PHP’s mail function is working correctly on your server.

You may also activate your account manually by setting the is_activated field equal to 1 in ThinkUp’s owners table in the database (Again, only if you know what you are doing).

Registering with Twitter

Configuring Twitter Plugin

Configuring Twitter Plugin

ThinkUp uses Twitter’s developer API to pull advanced analytics of your account. Hence you’ll have to register with Twitter to gain access. Fret not, this is no biggie and is similar to creating an email address. Follow the link from the set up page and fill in all the required details. Don’t forget to add http:// before the web address or else Twitter will throw a fit and shown an error message.

Application Details

Application Details

Set the callback URL to what the app shows you and ensure that you set the application Default Access type to “Read-only”. If all the details are correct, Twitter will give you developer access to their API. Enter the consumer key and consumer secret in the app to kickstart the process.

Now go ahead and allow ThinkUp to access your Twitter account. This happens via OAuth and, once approved, the app will redirect to the plugins page. The app will start crawling and analyzing your Twitter stream and might take some time for it to complete the process.

Analyzing the Data

Dashboard

Updating ThinkUp

Updating ThinkUp

After the first successful crawl, you will begin to see data on your pages. It may take more than one crawl for ThinkUp to collect detailed data on all of your posts and the user responses. Give the app sometime or just click on the sections that are of importance to you and look for a link to update. This update manually triggers a crawl pertaining to this particular section and is actually very quick.

Tweet Info

Tweet Info

Towards the end of the dashboard, you will find the Tweet Info section. Here you will be shown a graphical interpretation of your tweets. As you can see I am a huge link peddler with 44% of my tweets carrying a link! There is also a piechart that displays the breakup of the Twitter clients you have used.

Candid Interpretation of Data

Most Discerning

Most Discerning

Data does not lie. Since ThinkUp analyzes and interprets data, it doesn’t lie either. If you are looking for a list of people of importance or substance to your mission, checkout the Most Discerning section which lists the followers who have the greatest follower to friends ratio.

Deadbeats

Deadbeats

Looking for those bots and inactive accounts following you to get a clear picture of how many people are really interested in your tweets? Point and click your mouse to a section so matter-of-factly titled “Deadbeats”.

Integrating a Facebook Plugin

Activating Facebook Plugin

Activating Facebook Plugin

Head over to the Plugins page in the control panel to activate and configure the Facebook plugin for analyzing your stream. There are a few interesting plugins available other than Twitter and Facebook too.

Facebook Developer Info

Facebook Developer Info

Setting up a developer account turned out to be simpler when compared to Twitter. Enter the API, Application ID and Secret key to initiate the process.

Final Thoughts

ThinkUp offers comprehensive insights into your social streams. Usage of the developer API makes the web app so powerful in comparison to the insights offered by mainstream apps which use your twitter stream for analysis. While the analysis part is downright awesome, the presentation isn’t. A better user interface would go a long way in taking ThinkUp to the less tech savvy crowd. A status bar indicating the progress of the crawl would be awesome too.

ThinkUp is, by far, the best social media analytics app I’ve come across and those considering costly white label solutions might find this open source app a compelling alternative.

Share Your Thoughts!

How much do you like ThinkUp? Which app is a direct competitor in your opinion?