This morning I found myself in the middle of an interesting chat with Mack Collier
on Twitter. It started when I joined in a conversation Mack was having about the metrics he measures when estimating the value of blogs. We kicked around the common ones like traffic, subscribers, links and number of comments. Then Mack made mention of how high his comments jump when he Tweets one of his own posts.
That got me thinking about a concept that's fairly obvious, but still gets overlooked by a lot of people. The power of social media links in terms of conversation instead of traffic. I still see far too much focus on the need to get your links out via social media because of the link and traffic potential.
In fact, in the past I've ranted and raged against the "Digg marketing mindset" for exactly that reason. There's far too much focus on the quick traffic boost than on the engagement rate and long term value of traffic.
Instead, I like to think about the social media sources that send engaged traffic. After all, I'll take smaller amounts of interested visitors than large amounts of "in and out" visitors any day. Why? Take a look at one of Mack's tweets from our conversation:
I talked about the traffic bump that comes with tweets and retweets
when I wrote my Twitter starter series
. At the time, the focus was on the value of getting links to your best posts out there to the Twitterverse because Twitter traffic tends to be a mix of your loyal followers and your followers' followers.
When I originally wrote about the Twitter boost, I was talking about a boost in traffic. But in talking to Mack, I was reminded I'd overlooked the obvious. Twitter traffic is valuable because of how engaged it is.
The Make Up of Blog Readers
See, when you write a blog post and it gets linked from someone else's blog, you're going to get a mix of people types who see the link.
Since a portion of blog readers are simply that...readers...a good portion of the people who click through on the link to read your post are going to simply be...readers. They're passive participants...lurkers if you will. They read and absorb, but the process ends there. For the sake of my images, we'll dub them "passive readers."
The next most common subset of blog readers are the "quiet linkers." These are the folks who may pass on a link via email, add it to a social bookmarking service or even include it in a round up of posts... but that doesn't add much in the way of their own commentary.
The smallest set of blog readers are the "active voices." These are the folks who not only read and consider passing things along, but who add to the conversation. They may leave comments on the original post, add their two cents while linking from their own blog, or simply promote it with added commentary on the social media networks they frequent. While "active voices" tend to be the smallest portion of blog readers, they are often the ones who add the most value.
The Make Up of Twitter (Social Media) Users
The interesting thing about social conversation outlets like Twitter is how the makeup of users tends to flip flop. (I'd love to see an actual study on this... seems like a viable theory, but only some good third party user analysis could tell us for certain.)
The people on Twitter are there because they want to actively participate in a conversation. Sure, Twitter has it's share of lurkers, but the overall user base is far more conversational. That means a makeup of someone's Twitter users probably runs as a perfect flip flop of the average set of blog users.
That means you'll likely see a big difference in your response rates when you get picked up by another blog verses when you get picked up on Twitter. I've heard tons of people talk about Twitter and how many more comments they receive on a post once it's been Tweeted.
Finding the True Value of Traffic
It's been said a million times and a million ways by myself and others, but it is worth repeating. The true value in your blog traffic is in the visitors who add to the conversation and who engage with you to share their own thoughts, ideas and feedback. This concept is at the very heart of social media.
Social media gives you and your company a chance to find those voices... the people who are happy to share their insight so you can improve your business. It's these voices that will help you grow and change your company into the type of business that will make better decisions. Those better decisions will be the key to your company's success.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.