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:

macktweetcomment.gif
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.

conversationbw.jpg
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.
blogusers.gif
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.
twitterusers.gif
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.





Comments(16)

I notice that often several of us will be having a discussion on Twitter, and one person will suddenly stop tweeting. Then they'll come back and say 'Guys I had to write a post about this, check it out', and we'll all go read their post, and probably comment. And I can't remember who said it, but the people on Twitter are more conversationally-oriented, in that many are there TO talk to each other. So it makes sense that they would be more active in leaving comments.

Many of my blog's readers/subscribers, are there to do just that, read my posts. But many on Twitter are reading AND responding. So they are more likely to comment, if you link to a post while they are on.

From my experience.

Hi,
You can use Twitter to market your blog and obtain more traffic and more comments on your articles. But I think that there could be a small problem.

If you are starting to use Twitter, no matter what you do, if you are active you'll get followers. The problem that I see is there are many followers that are not active or there are some that don't participate to discussions. If you can't establish a relation with your followers and you don't engage in discussions with them then you are wasting your time. For example every person that follows me, if I decide to follow back, receives a DM from me that I write it manually. I like to add a little something to each DM I sent. Maybe a simple hello or a remark to an article he/she had write. Anything that would give a "humanoid feeling" to that message. I also try to engage in conversations and to be helpful to the community by providing links, offering my help and so forth.

I had a very similar conversation this morning but it was more about the passive social net versus the active one- what determines the difference? In the end it's not the type of social net as much as it is the type of person. twitter is not a passive activity. hell it's almost a verb.

I agree. Twitter is like any other social site, but people are expected to conversate. I'll even have semi-lengthy conversations with people back and forth about a post. Twitter is good stuff.

Another thing is that you can directly ask people to add their voice to your post if you know they have an interest in the subject. Several weeks back someone would occasionally ask me if I had a comment that would add to a post. I appreciated the invitation and so recently have started asking specific Tweeters if they would like to comment on a a specific post.

Good Morning Jennifer,

Most of the comments herein come form marketing or social media folks. I am not a marketing person (although I have a great passion for it), I run a small business, and the ONLY form of marketing a blog post for me has been twitter. Now, that is growing organically, particularly within the business sector we work in, but still through twitter.

As an example, a good friend, Lisa Trosien, who does educational multifamily presentations across the country, did a live tweet-up with the class and several of us within the apartment business participated with her for twenty minutes or so. I picked up a half a dozen new "followers" from that, who now follow the blogs I participate in, and add comments and join the conversation. This is the whole Long Tail Theory on twitter. I never could have reached those folks without this mechanism, now I am conversing with a larger audience than before that conference, and most importantly with like minded followers. (believe it or not we get a charge out of talking about apartments, go figure)

One danger I've noticed with this use of Twitter is some that for some folks, 90% of their twitters are links to their new blog post. Every time they write a post or article somewhere, they Twitter it. When I'm following someone and they never engage in any other Twitter activity other than link drops, I start to ignore them, or get immune/numb to them. If you follow 25 or 30 people, and each of them write a post a week, and if each one drops a link, your basically getting Twitter spammed, IMO. Yes, you can choose to stop following someone, but I sometimes wish people didn't feel they had to use Twitter as a vertical bullhorn. :)

Interesting post Jennifer. However, I have to disagree that Digg and social bookmarking in general drive traffic that's less engaged. The 15 items on Digg's front page an hour ago had an average of 273 diggs and 42 comments. That means roughly every sixth person who Diggs a hot item also leaves a comment. That's a pretty high level of engagement. Other social news sites like Delicious, Reddit and StumbleUpon also generate lots of comments. Incidentally, I have a post on Cision Blog today in which I interview Digg "super-user" Dave Cohn about how Digg generates buzz. Anyway, thanks for discussing this great topic.

This is an incredible post... I find the same comment trending after I Tweet about a post as well. I think it's because my Twitter buds know that this post is important to me and want to chime in - also, they are clearly engaged internet users because they're on Twitter already.

With that said; a question for you...

If I am a business (not an awesome Mack) who posts a Tweet about a post, will it still result in more comments and more engaged visitors?

I think we should add a clause to posts like this - that to get those kind of click throughs and quality visits from a Tweet, you better be linking to quality stuff, time and time again. Otherwise your followers will give up.

Never cry wolf.

I also advise my clients to post links not just to their own site, but to other sites and useful articles as well. Mix it up.

Thanks again - this post is awesome! - @fahlgren

Mack,

I find some of my best article ideas from the conversation on Twitter. As you point out, it's not rare at all to see a really good discussion get going and then find a few folks have expanded their thoughts and ideas into something bigger on their blog.

I love Twitter for the collaborative environment!

Eric B,

Your long tail theory on conversation growth is a great point. Just yesterday I made a comment on Twitter about how interesting it is to me to see the connections get made. I'll see someone I know here in Columbus that isn't even a marketer talking with someone I know from marketing conferences all the way across the country.

It's like getting to watch the six degrees of separation without knowing for sure what each degree is. Did they meet because they both follow me, or was it completely independent? Twitter is fascinating to me in how it connects people.

Eric W,

I see your point, but the nice thing about Twitter is we can dump anyone we get tired of following. This tends to happen to me most during political seasons when I finally reach my end point in listening to someone prattle on about the candidates. ;)

Same goes for those who use Twitter only to promote...it doesn't take long before we see the pattern and decide they're simply not a voice worth following. Twitter seems kind of self policing in that way...

Jay,

Actually, your observation doesn't at all conflict with what I see. When I spoke about Digg, I was talking about the TRAFFIC that comes from it. A post that has 273 Diggs may literally send thousands of visitors. Obviously the folks who take the time to vote and comment are engaged, but they represent only a small portion of the people who use Digg as a news and link source.

To me, Twitter is like gathering up ONLY the active Digg users who are there to vote and discuss. You lose the "lurkers" that simply want to click through a handful of stories each day without participating in the community aspect of the site.

Alaina,

(Hi!) You hit the nail on the head. Much like Eric pointed out higher up in the comment stream...it does no good to simply link to any old post.

My original conversation with Mack had us speculating on whether it was really the impact of the Twitter traffic, or whether it was that he was selective enough to ONLY promote the best (and thus, most engaging) blog posts to his Twitter stream.

I still think there is something to that. It's fine and dandy to setup auto posters that will link to each and every post your make, many of us are now using Twitter as a form of selective RSS stream...but still.

If you're going to take the time to tweet about a new post you've made, chances are high it's the type of post you really want to get active feedback from the community on, which IMO, makes it more "commentable" anyway.

I guess this really goes to prove the fact that all links are valuable. Yes, even those nofollow links that every webmaster seems to hate. In social media these links aren't there to gain you rankings (massive bonus if they do) but actually engage other readers and drive visitors to the website.

Be it through the SERPS or by the links themselves actual visitors to a website is the real goal. :)

Someone already mentioned this but I think it bares repeating: the folks on Twitter that follow me are much more willing to "do what I ask" them to do.
If I have a post that I really want to get out there, they will help me market it when I Tweet out and ask them to.
Pretty cool!
Now I don't have that man followers either, but the ones I do have are folks who truly are my online contacts and not spammers.
AL

Lots of interesting perspectives within the post and it's responses. I do agree with the person who defends Digg a bit here. I understand that it should be a goal to create 2 way conversation online, but some peoples personalities just do not lend themselves to share. Not everyone is extroverted enough, or confident enough in what they have to say or there ability to communicate it in a way they would be happy with to create a post.

This does not mean you're message is less important. It only means to me that the measuring stick may not be as accurate as you'd hoped.

I'm in the technical field, so you would think I am also a straight numbers guy. And I am guilty of posting my links on Twitter when I write. However, I can tell you I just want people to hear what I have to say and think of the responses as either an affirmation, correction or opposing view of my thoughts. I hope to learn from them as much as they may learn from me.

I think Alaina and Eric Ward both make good points about linking to quality stuff, consistently. And I link to almost all of my blog posts (I usually don't like to the Top 25 posts). But I also link to many other posts and articles I come across during the day. So for every post of my own that I link to, I am linking to another 5-10 from other people.

But I think the Twitter community is self-correcting, in that if I am only on Twitter just to pimp my own posts, odds are most people will unfollow me. So I won't be getting any significant traffic from my links, and will probably stop using Twitter.

In the end, Twitter is like most other social sites, the more value you contribute to the larger community, the more value you get back. I think your mentality going in needs to be 'What value can I create/share', instead of 'what value can I extract'?

But I think if you consistently link to quality content, then you will likely see more engaged traffic sent to your blog when you link to one of your tweets. And what I also see is that when I link to one of my posts, often some of my followers will retweet my link to their followers.

And often, the people that I frequently link to on Twitter, will link to my posts as well.

Jennifer,

Perhaps a bit of a different perspective on blogs and measurement. I view myself as a teacher and my blog is one vehicle to do that for my community. Conversation is always sought and welcomed of course. But sometimes the post can be very valuable to someone in that they think differently, go out in the world, and implement something. Unfortunately, not all of these people comment back.

I can think of many times when in an in-person situation I learned something and was so wrapped up in it that I didn't think to or need to discuss it with the teacher. I think many blog readers do that too. Sometimes I'll receive a comment via phone call or email. Not everyone is blog savvy. Particularly in the non-tech or non-marketing world. Many of my blog readers come from links in an old-fashioned email newsletter.

So, to me, the value of a blog or a writer, or a particular post is still very difficult to measure.

Also, how much does it matter to the reader how the blog post appeared on their screen?

Apparently, it's judged less valuable if the writer of the post helped put it there by telling you about it via twitter (remember, the reader is following the writer on twitter).

There are boundaries of course (don't be that guy) but I personally just want good content and don't mind at all when a person I follow who creates content tells me about that content. If I don't like the content, I'll quit following that content provider.

It's what you make of it, personally I think it's a great idea to add to your blog using twitter. Listen it's a choice you can follow or not. Twitter is about as unconventional as it gets. Getting to Digg and Yahoo Buzz-listen many stories get digged that should'nt be digged at all. This is not the problem, let Digg employees make the decision of what should be eligible to read. Twitter will be making changes due to spamming I'm sure of it-but let's get down to the nuts and bolts here-it's a social network no matter how you cut the mustard. Micro Blogging is new to everyone-in a sense of the word what it comes down to is advertising. If you have something to say in 140 symbols or less and you get a reader that's a plus. Twitter is not for everyone if your unintrigued with twitter just leave.

Comments closed after 30 days to combat spam.


Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > All Links Are Not Equal: Why Twitter Links Grow Conversation