Why Twitter Matters to Online Publishers

Twitter is now the second largest source of Mequoda’s incoming website traffic, and a major audience development driver

Using social media marketing to drive targeted website traffic and build your online publishing community

Can a social networking and micro-blogging service promote your digital publication and be a significant source of new email subscribers?

You might be surprised. I certainly was.

I’ve been reading about, watching and talking to other online publishers about social media marketing for close to two years now. Until recently, I really didn’t know where it fit in the Mequoda System strategy.

What I saw was that when online publishers built their topic forums, or their own social media websites, the results were often disappointing.

Ad-driven online publishers told us they had trouble selling sponsorships on user generated content pages. Few advertisers wanted to sponsor user-generated content, because few forum users clicked on the ads.

User-driven websites didn’t seem to know what to do with public forums either. The need for users to register in order to post to the forum was a plus. But most of the forum software programs were crude and not tied into an email subscription program or database. So a user could be a forum user without becoming an email newsletter subscriber.

For a long time, forum signups and so-called social networking didn’t amount to much in terms of website visitors who could be monetized.

Eventually a few publishers learned to integrate the two signup processes, and social forums became significant builders of email circulation. But social media was slow to get traction as a proven online publishing revenue generator.

Now imagine my surprise when looking at the Google Analytics results for January, I discovered that Twitter had become the seventh largest contributor of inbound traffic for Mequoda Daily. By February, Twitter had become the second largest source of Mequoda’s incoming traffic.

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Over the past 30 days, Twitter generated 480 arrivals, with an average of 2.2 page views per visit. Sixty-eight of those visitors were new to Mequoda Daily, and 29 percent stuck around to read something (meaning there was a 71 percent bounce rate).

But that’s not the end of it. Many Twitter members use Twitter applications (like TweetDeck and Twhirl) to interact on the social network. Inbound traffic that comes from any links clicked on in a Twitter app is categorized as “direct traffic” in Google Analytics. According to bit.ly, (the tool we use to track our links on Twitter) we’ve had 903 additional hits from Twitter apps alone. That’s a total of 1,383 hits in the last 30 days from content we post on Twitter.

Overall, Mequoda Daily has a 68 percent bounce rate, which is about average for a Mequoda System website. (While at first blush, a 68 percent bounce rate may seem high, the more search traffic a site receives, the higher its bounce rate. Mequoda.com receives at least half of its incoming traffic from organic search — nearly 40 percent from Google.)

Websites with low bounce rates have a high percentage of repeat visitors; nearly everyone who shows up already knows them.

The Mequoda traffic from Twitter bounces at a slightly higher rate — 70 percent. So does traffic from Google (71.6 percent bounces). Both send visitors to Mequoda who don’t necessarily know who we are. Mequoda’s overall bounce rate across all sources is 68 percent.

Mequoda Daily’s editor saw the potential of social networks long before I did

So I was not convinced that Twitter is worthwhile as a social media strategy.

But what Amanda MacArthur, Mequoda Daily’s Editor & Publisher, has demonstrated to me is that the troika of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook should be part of Mequoda’s social media strategy.

Mequoda has 923 followers who subscribe to the Mequoda Twitter feed. If you’re not familiar with Twitter and want to see how Amanda is using it to integrate with the Mequoda Daily blog, check out http://twitter.com/mequoda.

Who else is following Mequoda on Twitter?

A cursory examination reveals that most of our followers, regardless of age, are other journalists and publishers. Many are other authorities who blog about online publishing. Some are experts that are revered as minor celebrities. And as such, they are opinion group leaders.

So, even if not a single one of the Mequoda Twitter followers ever buys one of our paid products, we are delighted to have them as subscribers because they influence and help shape the opinions of other Mequoda Daily subscribers.

Such is the value of social networking.

For more Twitter pointers, read Amanda’s recent article, The Secret Sauce of Twitter – 8 Lessons Learned from Being a Publisher on Twitter.

Comments
    Chris L.

    YouTube just added Twitter links and GFC widgets just added 30 social bookmarking sites to our GFC enabled blogs. Gonna be huge!

    Great video shows both in use: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fS3DQfVR2sw

    Early adopters will be the big winners. When you educate your visitors on how to use this where will they try it out first? On your blog!

    Hope this helps you make some money.

    Chris Lang

    Reply

    Playing devil’s advocate: isn’t this market-specific? Hypothesis: You have a lot of followers on twitter and get a lot of traffic from twitter because you write about twitter. A large portion of the people on twitter are marketers trying to figure out how to market their websites or services through social media, online marketing etc. You write about these things, so this is where your market is. If you wrote about tax law or butterfly biology or drill bits or just about any other topic, it wouldn’t be the same. In many (most?) cases Mequoda’s publishing tactics apply to publishers in other markets. But in this case, can your experience really be extrapolated to others?

    Reply
    Matthew

    You say, “According to bit.ly, (the tool we use to track our links on Twitter) we’ve had 903 additional hits from Twitter apps alone.” Did you determine this by going to each tweet using a bit.ly url directed to Mequoda and counted the hits or is there a tool that can determine the number of inbound traffic from bit.ly without manually having to count them? If you counted them manually, how do you know they were unique hits? In other words, if you had 3 bit.ly urls directed to Mequoda, and you had 333 hits from each, you might say you had 999 hits. But what percent are unique? I don’t believe you could ever know. And since Google refers to them as direct, I’m not sure you can ever know. Or maybe I’m missing something.

    Reply
    Amanda M.

    @Matt – We actually didn’t start writing about Twitter until we saw how much traffic it was bringing in. Rather than jump on the bandwagon, we tested it and watched other publishers become successful on it before promoting it to our readers (but yes, its very easy to get traffic from Twitter by writing about Twitter!).

    While there are a lot of marketers on Twitter, there are even more consumers, and people in hundreds of different industries. I’m sure not every market will get 100,000 followers in their Twitter lifetime, but even a small following can produce a big boost in traffic and brand awareness if you’re giving your followers what they want.

    Here are some examples I found from your questions, though I couldn’t find anyone’s who primary focus was “butterfly biology” 😉

    http://twitter.com/hrm_today
    http://twitter.com/HomeCreations
    http://twitter.com/powertoolguide

    If you’re still curious, try out http://Search.Twitter.com and see if there are any other publishers in your niche covering your topics, and see how well they’re doing.

    @ Matthew, Yes, it was a manual process to go in and find out how many clicks we got from Twitter apps alone (though I wish it were easier). With that said, we can only track how many clicks we got, not unique visitors.

    I’m guessing since Twitter is getting so big so quickly, that better analytics will become available soon, possibly for Google Analytics even. HootSuite is a popular Twitter Analytics package also but only useful for Twitter and not for links you post elsewhere on the web.

    Reply

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