Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Does More Twitter Followers Equal More Traffic?

Until recently, I've believed that, for the sake of Twitter etiquette, I should follow back pretty much everyone who follows me on Twitter (as long as they used a real name, real photo, and weren't peddling an "Internet dating site"). I thought it would be rude not to do so.

But two items recently got me re-thinking that rule. The first was this post from Soshable, Following on Twitter: Quality vs Quantity. JD writes about "QualTweeps" who use Twitter to form relationships with a relatively small number of people regardless of how many follow, as opposed to "QuanTweeps" who attract an enormous number of followers and follow nearly all of them back (Guy Kawasaki, the poster child for QuanTweeps, "is exceptionally active with tens of thousands of updates and over a hundred thousand followers"). Both strategies are equally valid, they just produce different results and have their own benefits and drawbacks.

The second was the increasing amount of twitspam I was seeing, nearly all of it misleading, much of it downright dishonest. I don't tweet false or spammy information, I don't want to read it, and I don't want to be associated with those who produce it.

So maybe I need to rethink my policy on following, I thought. More quality, less quantity.

And that got me thinking about the relationship between the number of Twitter followers one has and the amount of blog or site traffic Twitter drives. Does more followers mean more traffic?

To find out, I compared my average number of Twitter followers (by the way, it would be really nice if Twitter provided a way to track these types of analytics) over the past eight months with the number of Twitter-referred visits to this blog:

Clearly, the relationship between followers and traffic is anything but linear. This is also apparent from looking at the ratio of followers to visitors on a monthly basis—the number of Twitter-driven visits over the the average number of Twitter followers for that month.

On average, the Twitter ratio was about 10%, e.g., having 1,000 followers would produce 100 blog visits. (Keep in mind this is as measured by Google Analytics, so the figures here likely understate reality to some degree.) But the range was considerable, from less than 5% to more than 20%.

Conclusion: while, in general, more followers will mean more traffic, the relationship is weak and non-linear, as there are many other factors at play. Elements such as blog post topics (not surprisingly, posts about Twitter tend to draw well on Twitter), post quality, people mentioned in your posts, who you ask to retweet you, who actually does tweet or retweet your links, how many followers those people have, and time of day you tweet all have an impact on the amount of traffic Twitter will refer. Collectively, the effect of these other elements is at least as important as raw number of followers.

In short, either a "QualTweeps" or "QuanTweeps" strategy can generate reasonable amounts of Twitter traffic. But it's not rude to follow selectively, and a somewhat balanced quality-vs.-quantity strategy is likely to produce better results than a blinkered focus on simply attracting more and more followers.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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