jonathan lackman

MCSE, MCSA, Project Management, SEO, Web Design

Ok.  Twitter.
est. reading time; 45 minutes

We all have heard all the reasons Twitter is going to take over the world. There are accounts out there now with over a MILLION followers. It can be useful. I am certain there are marketing aspects that are interesting.

For now, I don't want to focus on all the reasons it's great, you can go Google it if you want that story. I thought I'd offer a different view.

Recently, for one of the sites I support, we decided to experiment with Twitter as a marketing tool. The goals were simple;
Use some paid Twitter activity (that's a different topic) to see if we could accomplish three things;

    1) Drive traffic to a specific landing page on the target site.
    2) Generate conversions on that site.
    3) Generate additional Twitter followers for the targeted site.

Simple, meaningful goals that we can track. We can track them, right?  Goals without a method of tracking and reporting leads to ambiguity, which is failure. Well maybe not failure, but you can't prove it's success either. So, we have good tracking in place for page hits, conversions, and twitter signups.

To get to the story, using fake numbers for this discussion, we Tweeted our target message to about 5k users in a very targeted niche. The twitter account used for this was very targeted to our niche, implying that the users would be interested in our site. We did 5k at the peak time for twitter responses (early afternoon, roughly) on a Friday, and again on a Monday.

Then, we looked at our stats. It was very disappointing. With a 5k tweet blast, we could only attribute about 20 page hits from twitter. We tried a different message on Monday to see if our message was the determining factor, but results were similar. We could not prove a single conversion to the tweet blast. We saw a few new followers attributed to the tweet blast, but it was less than 10 per blast. So, when we look back at our goals, it was a waste of time and money.

*** one caveat; it wasn't a total waste, because now we have 10k or more links out there on the internet pointing back to our site. That's pretty effective link building, but it's not really indexed. There is some residual value from the links.

I started doing some reading on this, and there is a lot of information to support our conclusions. Read the links in order, it makes more sense that way.

Supporting discussion ONE; This article discusses the limited impact of very large tweet blasts. This guy had his blog tweeted by three very large birds. @techcrunch (1,000,000+ followers), @tonyrobbins (1,323,000+ followers), and @timoreilly (1,087,000+ followers). He did the same analysis, and found that less than 1/2 of one percent of recipients actually clicked on the tweet. Basically he got his story tweeted to a million users, and got less than 5k hits on his site.

There are some generally accepted reasons for this. Folks generally read tweets as they go by, like a stream, but don't actually click on them. The second, more interesting reason is that many of the twitter accounts out there are actually robots!  They're SPAM! I'll help you combat that later, but on to the robots.

Like many things evil, this starts off not so bad. Let's say you just want to automate some of your tweeting. You want your blog to auto tweet when you submit a new post. When you update your resume, you want to tweet your followers, etc. Here is a legit discussion of how to use Yahoo PIPES to feed an automated twitter account. The writer even advises that you create a new twitter account because; "Consider how your followers will react to receiving automated tweets - many will feel like they're being spammed". Well it started off good and now it sounds a little more evil. You can do the same thing with Tumblr.

Lets step up the evil a notch. Let's now say you want to create an automated twitter account (robot) that will tweet on in perpetuity long after you're not around, or twitter breaks it. (They should control nefarious activity, per the Broken Windows theory (Wilson and Kelling), or the usefulness of the system will be degraded to the point where it's no longer useful. There are ways to automate the entire process; finding relevant users to follow, automate following any who follow you, automatically unfollowing those who unfollow you, finding content to tweet. These are called TTM, or Twitter Traffic Machines. or as this writer likes to call them; TDM (Twitter Death Machine) because they go on tweeting after you are gone. This article outlines how to create a TTM, but the author concludes there wasn't any real value for him and the site he runs. So now, that's pretty evil; create a robot that automatically goes out finds targets, generates content and runs forever. So that's the TDM.

What's the point of 5k, 50k, 100k followers?  Can anyone READ that much twit?  No.  Sign up to follow 100 twitters, you'll have a hard time following 100, let alone thousands.

Finally a really interesting article on why this needs to be addressed by Twitter or in the end it could jeopardize anything useful the system offers. Just read it.

Now as usual, I'm here to help. I cannot tell you how to make your 10,000 followers useful (I don't think they are), but I can tell you how you can protect yourself from robots following you. Use a CAPCHA tool like we do for web forms and anti-spam email. My favorite is TrueTwit.


Share |

Website Hosting

Reseller Hosting↓

Domain Names↓