The Twitter delusion

Smith admits that the possibility of Twitter thieving traffic from his blog “stresses me out.” The idea that Twitter could be a promotional tool, driving traffic back to his blog and to Politico, doesn’t reassure him. “I now have as many followers—40,000—as the number of unique visits I get on a slowish, average day on the blog,” he says. “At what point do I have more people reading my tweets than reading my blog? I don’t know.” (He actually has almost 50,000 Twitter followers, which may answer the question.)

The Twitter delusion = thinking that all of your followers read every single one of your tweets or even the majority of them. Don’t we all wish!

Politico’s Ben Smith has clearly fallen prey to this wildly erroneous thinking. Unless each of his 50k followers is only following 150-200 accounts (or whatever number is high enough to not be manageable), there is absolutely no way that a Twitter follower is equal to a reader of one of his blog posts, even a reader that doesn’t read a post all the way through.

Is this really that hard to understand?

Twitter shouldn’t be ruining blogging or stealing traffic from your blog. It should be perfectly complimentary to it. Still really concerned about it? I have a simple solution for you: get off Twitter. Post only on your blog. If your work and/or brand is so strong, people will seek it out there. Not eager to try it? Then you must think there’s some value to being on Twitter, even if not every follower pays attention or clicks over to your blog.

So please, let’s be realistic and not whine about Twitter ruining things for you. Use the tools, don’t let them use you.

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous September 6, 2011

    Anna — Your observation about the nonequivalence of blog traffic and Twitter follower numbers is important and dead on.

    But I don’ think the truth of that observation necessarily supports your later, more sweeping contention: “Twitter shouldn’t be ruining blogging or stealing traffic from your blog. It should be perfectly complimentary to it.”

    That makes assumptions about the blog and its purpose, doesn’t it?

    The key takeaway from the Politico discussion for me was their observation that speed *was* the main virtue and value-add of their blogs. If that’s true, then Twitter actually is directly competitive, isn’t it?

    -//

  2. Anna Tarkov September 7, 2011

    Thanks for the comment Howard. I suppose that could be the case if the breaking news is, in every case, short enough to post in a tweet. However, even then there’s nothing to say that Ben or anyone else has to give it away on Twitter. He could tweet something like “BREAKING NEWS: Michelle Bachman makes shocking statement. ” The tweet would then serve the purpose of telling people that he’s broken some news while also not giving away exactly what it is. People who would want to know would then be compelled to click over to his blog. If we worked at it, he might be able to condition people to go to the blog first. Maybe he could explain that he’s not going to tweet out every scoop, but that the blog will always have them. But in the long run, people have certain news consumption habits and they can be hard to break. If someone, even a political junkie, prefers to check Twitter before going to Ben’s blog, then that’s just something he has to adjust to. As I’ve hopefully explained, there are ways around allowing it to become a traffic thief.

    Now, where the case might be made for Twitter being in direct competition with Ben is that other political reporters might get the same story and they might post it on Twitter fully, without asking me to click on a link to see the rest. If that’s what is meant by competition, then I’m afraid it’s an inevitable evolution of media. People have access to more and more sources now and pretty immediately if they want. The best way to guard against that is to try to differentiate oneself, offer something unique. In today’s landscape, being first to the story probably isn’t it. In fact, it might be bad altogether: http://www.knightdigitalmediacenter.org/leadership_blog/20110831_why_the_scoop_mentality_is_bad_for_news/

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