Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

Twitter: How I attracted more traffic and more followers by doing less

As a marketing guy, I am always testing ways to make things more effective.  What follows is my experience, after a simple 5 day Twitter experiment, which was just a bit of fun, yet led to some interesting results and totally changed the way I use Twitter!

Here’s what I did and what the results were:

I elected not to tweet any links to this blog and then see what impact it had on my traffic.

Here is what happened.  By the way, you can join me on Twitter here.

Traffic from Twitter

Before I started, I expected to see a slight drop in traffic from Twitter.  Surely, if I am not Tweeting links here, fewer people would know about my posts – right?

Wrong!

Instead, traffic from Twitter increased by close to 300% over those 5 days.  This is reflected in the diagram later in the post.  Now, on the first few days, I sent a tweet out, which alerted people that I was not tweeting links to new posts here.  Obviously, those tweets had no links in them and didn’t generate additional traffic, as I monitored real-time traffic from Twitter and there was no measurable increase.  The reason was simply to let people know that nothing was wrong .

So, why the increase in traffic?

It seems this blogs readers and my Twitter “followers” picked up the slack!  Knowing I wasn’t tweeting links to my posts here, they did it for me.  Now, I am not sure how this would pan out if I carried the experiment out over 6 months, but certainly over the 5 days, my online network were a lot more active in promoting my posts.  I also saw lots of new faces showing up in my Twitter stream; people sharing my posts, who I had never heard of or seen previously.

Tuesday saw the highest traffic day to this blog in its history.  This was the result of several factors, ranging from some well connected Facebook and Twitter users sharing that days post, (which ironically was how to get more traffic using Twitter) and that post being featured on a number of popular sites, including webpronews. I have looked to see if these events could be traced to the experiment and it’s impossible to say yes or no with 100% certainty.

I am not a big believer in coincidences and I believe it’s entirely possible that with so many new people sharing my posts this week, it brought my blog to the attention of those publishers, Twitter users and Facebook users.

Here’s what happened to traffic as a result, compared to the past 6 months:

Blog subscriber numbers

One of the challenges with using Twitter to inform people of your latest posts, is that you eliminate the need for your followers, to subscribe to your blog.  In essence, you are training them not to subscribe to your primary social hub! If they decide to stop using Twitter or you decide to drop it for the next big thing, you can lose a lot of readers, very quickly.

For me, this alone is a good reason NOT to train people to use Twitter as the way to subscribe to your blog.

Some caveats

This was just a fun experiment, carried out over a very short time-scale; rather than the kind of marketing research I would carry out to get the heavy detail required for a fully-fledged project.  You should NOT use these conclusions as the basis of a change in your own Twitter use!

It is also extremely important to mention that the results would have looked VERY different, if I did not already have lots of great people, who regularly share this blog with their followers.  In addition, Twitter accounts for a tiny amount of my daily visitors here, behind; Google, RSS, Facebook, back links and Stumbleupon.  Once my largest source of traffic, Twitter has grown slower than all my other marketing channels.  In other words, I wasn’t risking much.

As I hope I have made very clear, this brief experiment was intended to see what the short-term results would be, by not using Twitter to share my new posts each day.  I had no idea that the results over such a short period, would be so interesting; which is why I intend to change my Twitter use over the longer term now, as I explain in a moment.

I find it interesting that the past 5 days coincided with my best traffic day ever and a sharp increase in follower numbers, see below.  Note, the numbers were increasing fastest from the 13th, not the 12th, which was the heavy traffic day.

Conclusions

For now, I have decided to only share posts on Twitter, which are related to Twitter (like this one) or posts that I believe have particular relevance to the people I connect with there.  Previously, I shared every post on Twitter twice: Once in the morning and again in the afternoon or evening.

I’m really curious how the numbers will look, over a longer period.  Any marketing professional worth their salt will tell you that you need good data to reach accurate conclusions.  On something like this, you need to be working with a larger set of data.  I will, of course, share my findings with you.

So, for the foreseeable future, I will be using my Twitter time primarily to share YOUR great posts and connect more with you.

IMPORTANT:  If you usually catch up with my latest posts via Twitter and don’t want to miss anything, subscribe to the blog or get new posts delivered direct to your inbox, using the “Free Updates” box at the top right of this page.

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Jim Connolly

I help small business owners make massively more sales and boost their profits. To see how I can help you and your business, read this.
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9 Comments

  1. Very interesting.

    I would say you engaged more with the community this week and therefore exposing yourself to more people, especially if people were thanking you openly infront of their followers for tweeting their work (rather than just hitting reply).

  2. You’re spot on, I found out about you from several RTs from another follower. What I love most about this article is your last line ‘…I will be using my Twitter time primarily to share YOUR great posts and connect more with you.’ Great lesson.

    • That’s extremely useful feedback and in line what what I assumed was happening, from all those great new people who showed up in my Twitter stream. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Testing is so important. I ran a test last month on my Twitter stream and the results were so contrary to my expectations (and conventional wisdom) that I’m almost afraid to share the results. Fortunately, I’m not fool enough to ignore the data.

    Your caution about applying data from other people’s tests is important too. Every stream/following is unique. My followers will tolerate things that send some of yours running (and vice versa).

    I laugh at those people who want to let me know how wrong I am when they decide I am not right for them. Please unfollow, move on, and trust that I am getting the results I deserve. (You wrote about this recently when someone made a blog change.) Some people are so self-focused they don’t realize that their preferences are not everyone else’s preferences.

    There are few absolutes in social media. Test, test, test.

    What works for YOUR ideal customer?

    Thanks for sharing your test results, Jim.

  4. Interesting post,Jim! Amazing stats so far. Personally, I’ve learned that following someone on Twitter alone is not the best way to stay current with their blog postings as the Twitter stream is so fast paced. I now subscribe via email to those bloggers and companies that I want to keep up to date with, such as yours. I’m also curious as to what your long term stats show.

  5. This is an interesting experiment you have going on here Jim.

    I’m sure having a loyal following of awesome people has had a big on impact on these results you’ve gotten thus far, as you pointed out.

    It would more-in-likely be a much different scenario for someone who’s in the process of establishing their voice.

    I love the new direction you’re taking with Twitter as well. I’m sure this will provide a much different experience. It will be interesting to hear about that as well in your upcoming posts.

    Cheers Jim, have a great weekend sir :)

  6. Love seeing the results of this experiment, Jim! I have been trying somewhat of my own experiment as I watched yours. I think in the end, you need to understand your stats fairly well so that you know where traffic is coming from. With you, you had already identified that twitter sent traffic was low for you and you have a large base of subscribers. It is valuable to see you do these types of experiments to help the rest of us better understand what works and what doesn’t.

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