Tagged: The Atlantic

Regarding "The Unbearable Lightness of Twitter"

- by Alyson Shane

Yesterday I read a post on The Atlantic by Derek Thompson titled "The Unbearable Lightness of Twitter" in which he argues that one of the most prominent and popular social networks is nothing but a "hollow sharing economy."

It's an interesting piece, and as a result of Thompson's analyses I decided to take a look at my own analytics to see how I was doing. 

By Thompson's own measure, I'm not doing so hot. In February I've clocked in 208,000 tweet impressions, and none of my top tweets have anything to do with my own website. In fact, this is my top tweet from this month:

To be fair, my workload has ramped up and I haven't spent as much time on Twitter as I usually do, but still, in terms of gauging Twitter as a useful tool for driving traffic, clearly it's not doing what I need it to do.

Or is it? I guess that's a matter of perspective.

Thompson's frustration with Twitter is that 99 percent of his work stays on Twitter - that is, the engagement which happens with Tweeted content rarely gets sent back out into the web. He also states that Twitter is effective only as a self-contained portal for images and observations, and calls it "worthless" for the singular purpose of driving traffic back to your own website.

Here is where he, and many others make their mistake: Twitter is a tool that is effective at creating conversations and sharing content, not driving targeted clicks.

I tend to think about Twitter as being at a big party: you've got tons of people present, all having small conversations that you can participate in. If you go to a party and stand in the middle of the room and just shout out statements (the analog equivalent of Tweeting out nothing but links to your site) people won't care. Just like a real-life conversation, you have to engage with people on Twitter provide ongoing proof there is a reciprocal interest. 

A quick glance at my Google Analytics for this site shows me that, on average, 30-40% of my traffic comes from Twitter. I haven't drilled down into what that looks like in per-tweet-clicks, but the fact that a large percentage of my traffic (which does pretty well, if I may say so myself) comes from a social network that is apparently terrible at driving traffic interests me.

Here's what I think: the difference is that I'm not on Twitter solely to drive traffic to my website. Sure, I want people to visit my site, but that's not the only focus of interactions on Twitter, and because I spend a lot of time showing an interest in other people, when I post a link to my site and say "here, read this" people click through because I've already proven to them that what I have to say has value. That's where Twitter really shines as a sharing tool.

So when Thompson says that he doesn't think that businesses should focus on Twitter as a means to drive traffic to their website, I agree, but that's because that's not really what Twitter is about, anyway. It's about participating in engaging conversations that make people care about you and what you have to say.

While 99 percent of your work might stay on Twitter, getting that 1 percent to jump over to your site requires that you provide them with good, ongoing reasons to do so. We do this by making connections and by developing relationships with the people who follow us, which generates interest not only in our Twitter profiles, but where we invest our time on other sites as well. 


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