This article was published on July 22, 2011

The secret to success on Twitter: Link sharing.

The secret to success on Twitter: Link sharing.
Lauren Fisher
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Lauren Fisher

Co-founder at Simply Zesty. I love everything social and I think I have the best job in the world! I'm particularly passionate about bloggin Co-founder at Simply Zesty. I love everything social and I think I have the best job in the world! I'm particularly passionate about blogging and seeing innovative uses of social platforms by organisations. Feel free to drop me an email if you've got any questions, comments or you just want to say hi - [email protected]

Brands’ approach to Twitter is in many ways more of an unknown than Facebook. With the way that Facebook Pages have developed, there is a very clear structure to how you run your business presence on Facebook. There is a place for your photos, video, wall updates, then tabs on the side to do pretty much whatever you want with and a clear distinction between friends and Likes. With Twitter, it’s not so straightforward.

Sure, everyone has the same basic tool to use: 140 character messages, but there’s little direction for brands. Do you post news, facilitate customer service, are you meant to @reply people who don’t follow you, how do you grow followers, when should DM and not @reply? It causes many problems for brands, who open up a Twitter account, only to leave it to die a slow death as they realise they’re not really sure how to use it for their brand or what value it can drive. A few interesting studies have been published lately that all seem to point to the same conclusion – the secret to Twitter success is driving links.

If Charlie Sheen can do it….

Perhaps one of the most unlikely sources for analysing Twitter success for brands comes via Charlie Sheen. Last week he sent a tweet that contained a link to a tool (developed by TNW!) called Twittercounter. Through its analytics, we tracked that the tweet brought in 23,754 page views over a 24 hour period. That equates to a 0.5% click through rate. While to some that may seem like a low figure, I’d consider that to actually be very impressive. When you consider the way in which Twitter works and how easy it is to miss people’s updates if you don’t see them straight away, 0.5% is a good click through rate, especially for a free bit of marketing.

What this shows, is that people are actually clicking on links within Twitter, which is a good starting place to look at how a Twitter strategy can work for brands, and the importance of sharing links. In the case of Charlie Sheen’s tweet, the tweet itself wasn’t necessarily particularly engaging – how many people are really interested in the ins and outs of his own Twitter stats? So what this showed is that without even working hard on making the tweet engaging and enticing people to click through, they’re still clicking. This of course works well in the case of celebrities, who can then put a pretty nice sum on the value of their tweets and product placement through links (though not in this particular case).

Twitter drives 4 times more traffic than you think

What brands need to consider of course, is how much of this link sharing is occurring purely within Twitter, versus how much traffic it’s actually driving to your site. The tracking platform has just released some findings that show just how much referral traffic Twitter can deliver. The answer is that Twitter is driving four times more traffic than you might think it is. The study is particularly interesting as it calls into question other findings, that look to Twitter as a poor traffic driver, and look beyond the basic referral traffic approach. They can more effectively follow the journey of links throughout the Internet, attributing the original traffic source no matter what other platforms a link has been shared through. What they found was that just 24.4% of links shared on Twitter, actually had Twitter listed as the traffic referrer, meaning that 75% of Twitter referral traffic is largely going unaccounted for.

Further to this, they found that just over 62% of links that were clicked on Twitter, weren’t showing up in analytics as having a referrer at all – therefore they were just showing up as direct traffic. This can be largely attributed to the fact that so much Twitter activity occurs via mobile, which many analytics packages mark as direct traffic as it didn’t occur directly within a browser. These findings from actually lift the lid on Twitter analytics and just how well links function within tweets. Taking this approach, if we increase Charlie Sheen’s to 2%, assuming that 75% is largely unaccounted for, it becomes wholly more impressive.

Twitter as a news platform

Twitter is increasingly becoming a space to share content and receive information, as opposed to a more direct platform such as Facebook, where you might just converse with friends. When we go into our Twitter stream, what we want is information and news, and we get that by streamlining the people we follow to get relevant information, mostly contained within links. Twitter is developing much more as its own news platform, competing with traditional publishers in this respect. Herein lies the biggest opportunity for brands. Instead of looking at Twitter as the place where you just try and converse with people and make friends, consider what you can give them that is going to allow them to get more out of their Twitter experience. Tweeting links to relevant articles and other content will allow people to attribute a value to you – as an important news or information source.

In 2010, when 90 million tweets were being sent per day, Evan Williams revealed that 25% of these tweets contained links. This is an incredibly high proportion of tweets being sent that contain links to external sites and it shows the importance of links to the Twitter ecosystem. Links are what we want to share on Twitter and they’re what we want to discover as well. Brands should be taking advantage of this and include it as a vital part in their Twitter marketing strategy. Of course behind this lies a complete content strategy that needs to be considered. Sharing links to interesting things online is one thing, but you’re only going to start seeing real value if this interesting content is actually on your own website and is being produced by you. Original content is what people want most of all.

Content is the third most important on Twitter

To confirm the idea that what people want is interesting content on Twitter, an infographic released by Get Satisfaction provides an interesting perspective. Looking at why people follow brands on Twitter, compared to Facebook/Myspace, the results may surprise yo :

Looking at the figures above shows us two things. Firstly, interesting and entertaining content is the 3rd most important factor when following a brand, coming after special offers or deals and being a current customer, at a very high 22.7%. Secondly, it also shows that interesting content is more important to people on Twitter than Facebook, as on Facebook, this comes in at 18.2%. This shows the importance for brands of developing a separate strategy on Twitter that is weighted more towards providing interesting content through links, as opposed to purely offering discounts or promotions, which would be more of a standard practice on Facebook.

When developing your Twitter strategy the important thing is to keep trying new approaches to see what works best for you. Maybe you get a better click through rate when sending through one link each day that summarises your content, video links might not work as well, pure news links might engage people more etc.. The value you get out of your Twitter account will largely depend on the analysis behind it. One thing is certain – links is what people want and what brands can provide.

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