By now I'm hoping you've either signed up for Twitter and started playing around to see what you can learn or are at least giving it some thought. Of course if you already have enough friends or never attend conferences, I probably haven't convinced you to give it a go yet. I'll aim to change that today by convincing you of the power of Twitter in terms of driving traffic and launching viral buzz.
If you're just joining the series, make sure to go back and read part one where I gave step by step directions on getting your Twitter account up and running, part two where I explain how to send messages and take advantage of the Twitter follow/followers system and part three where I explained how Twitter can help you meet new people.
What's with all the Tiny URLs?
Back in part two I mentioned how often you'll see @username included in people's Twitter messages. The other thing you'll probably notice early on in your Twitter usage is how often TinyUrls show up in people's posts. Take a look at a few posts that came through my account this morning.
When I first joined Twitter, I quickly learned people rely on TinyUrl to send links because of the 140 character limit on tweets. After all, if you are taking up half of your character limit with a URL, you can't add much description to let people know what the link is about.
To see a quick example, consider these two URLs:
URL through TinyURls:
See the difference?
Of course when I joined Twitter, I assumed you had to go and use the Tiny URL web site to manually convert the URLs and then cut and paste them into your post. In fact, I spent two full days doing this before I read somewhere that Twitter would do the conversion automatically. (Yes, I felt like a dolt which is why I'm admitting this to my readers and saving them the same *headdesk* moment.)
What all this means is that you don't have to do anything special to post a link to Twitter. You simply have to cut and paste the URL and Twitter will handle the rest.
Does Twitter Actually Send Traffic?
So now that you know how to post a link to Twitter, you might be wondering if there's any point in posting a link to Twitter. After all, something as new and small as Twitter couldn't possibly send any traffic to your web site, right?
Another thing that surprised me during my first month of Twitter usage was the instant message from Robert that said we'd already had several hundred referrals to our site from Twitter. Yep, actual traffic that found a link to our site on Twitter and clicked through. Some of that traffic came via links I'd posted while other traffic came from links posted by other Twitter users.
I'm not the only person to see traffic from Twitter either. Considering how many people I've heard say they rely on Twitter to find the best blog posts moreso than they rely on their RSS readers these days, it's understandable why more people are using their Twitter accounts to broadcast their latest posts.
Popular marketing blogs like Seth Godin, TechCrunch and Search Engine Land send out the title and link of every new article they post. Quite a few other sites do the same. In fact, we're setting up Search Engine Guide's feed to publish to Twitter as well.
(Interested in setting up your own blog to auto-publish to a Twitter account? You could pay for a premium Feedblitz account since they can automatically integrate your feed with Twitter, but their system has been having some problems lately and can be a tad bit confusing. A better option is Twitterfeed, though this site has been down a lot lately as well.)
My friend Mack Collier of The Viral Garden tells me he also sees traffic come through whenever he tweets a link to one of his new blog posts. He says he sees an even bigger boost of traffic when someone like Chris Brogan, who has a lot of Twitter followers links to one of his posts.
In other words, getting a link on Twitter works much like getting a link on someone's blog. The more followers/readers they have, the more traffic you're likely to get.
Which brings me to the idea and power of "retweets."
The Value of Retweets
I covered some basic Twitter lingo back in part two of this series. One word I didn't include on that list was "retweet." In the simplest of terms, a retweet occurs when one Twitter user reposts a link shared by another Twitter user. Retweets are one of the single most powerful marketing tools you'll encounter on Twitter.
So, let's look at the idea of retweets in action.
Let's say I make a post to Twitter today and include a link to an interesting article. My post goes from my account to Twitter and then gets distributed to my followers. That looks a little something like this:
Now, let's say the link I included was to some really fantastic information. It not only attracted readers to my web site, but it gave them a good enough read they wanted to pass it on to their own followers. Suddenly, I might find myself with five new people willing to send my link out as a "retweet."
If you consider that each of these Twitter users has a network of followers of their own and that many of their followers may not already be following me, you'll really start to see the value of retweets.
Whereas my original tweet might have reached the 337 followers I had while writing this article, the combined retweets of those five users would reach more than 2500 followers. (And that's without having it retweeted by a Twitter power user like Chris Brogan who has thousands of followers all on his own.)
Boil it all down nice and simple and you'll realize retweets are the "viral marketing" of Twitter. These tweets can send you direct traffic and can give you a boost by increasing your own subscriber base.
So now we've shown the value of Twitter in terms of networking, meeting new people and gaining traffic; but what about the rest of it's uses? In the next installment of the series I'll take a look at how Twitter can be leveraged as a news source, to help fight crime and even to make your commute a little easier in the morning.
This Twitter series continues with:
Part Five: From Twits to Tweeple, Why I Embraced Twitter and You Should Too
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.
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