Thursday, July 23, 2009

Case Study: Twitter's Impact on WAYLA

In 2009, What Are You Looking At? experienced a dramatic increase in readership between the months of May and June. Overall, traffic on WAYLA doubled in June relative to the traffic in May.

How did this increase happen?

There are several variables that went into the growth of visits to WAYLA - including more content to find with a Google search and a greater presence in social bookmarking - but one of the most noticeable reasons for this improvement was Twitter.

In fact, we found that there was at least a 20% increase in traffic that was directly attributable to Twitter. As our base of followers grew steadily at, our referrals from Twitter to the blog grew exponentially.

Why Twitter Can Help a Blog

Today WAYLA has about 350 followers on Twitter - a number that is increasing on a daily basis. By tweeting approximately three times a day we have kept the blog relevant to those followers. They can now be consistently reminded to check out the newest blog post.

By including a few words on the content of our new posts, “What We’re Looking At” or headlines we have provided for the day, we can not only catch the eye of our followers, but spark enough of an interest to bring them back to the blog and read it. Not only is it helpful for us because it increases our traffic, but it gives our readers the opportunity to know what’s new at WAYLA and remind them to visit again.

According to Shannon Vallor - a professor at Santa Clara University who studies social networking - “the first place people go are these social-networking tools [such as Twitter] rather than the conventional media…more people are using the major media outlets as places to go after they've heard the basic story to get more information.”

Twitter can also be accessed easily with modern cell phones. This has a serious advantage for bloggers who analyze the news. One study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project finds that Twitter users are more than twice as likely to read the news on their mobiles as other internet users. Additionally, checking the news via phones is becoming increasingly common with smart phones as professionals become more and more “on-the-go.”

Using Twitter for increasing hits and the number of visitors a blog receives has other very practical reasoning behind it. Research shows that over 90% of the users of social networking websites (including Myspace, Facebook, and now Twitter) also read blogs.

WAYLA’s New Media Strategy

WAYLA has maintained a page at Facebook since February. While this provided some initial growth in traffic, continuing to increase hits was somewhat difficult. The reason is simple enough: WAYLA’s niche reader is not in his or her twenties - the prime age of a Facebook user.

According to the Pew study mentioned before, the median age for a Facebook user is 26 - not long out of college and not as likely to be involved professionally in political campaign strategy. The median age for Twitter users, however, is 31 - an age at which a person is much more likely to be interested in the sort of content we typically publish.

So in late May and throughout June, WALYA did a big Twitter push. We sent out an email blast, Facebook update, and even did a blog post letting our readers know that we were on Twitter. Our contacts that were not even very familiar with the blog started visiting on a regular basis once they were following us.

It wasn’t long before less familiar contacts - and even many people we didn’t know - were following us as well, deepening our pool of potential readers.

Can Twitter Help Your Business or Campaign?

Twitter is free and simple to use, so there’s no point in neglecting it. But in order for it to be helpful it must be used wisely. Much of it has to do with what we like to call “Twitter talent.”

A recent study by BlissPR - a public relations firm in New York - found that a majority of consulting firms are failing to use social networking. Those which do have Twitter accounts or Facebook pages either use new media too limitedly or fail to use it effectively - for example, they might post tweets that don’t pass what communications expert Ann Wylie calls the “who cares” test. Simply put: you need to provide your followers with useful information when you tweet.

Blogs can use it to drive traffic, campaigns can use it to update supporters about fundraisers or volunteer opportunities, and (as the Boston Globe found recently) restaurants can use it for posting their daily specials. All of these uses are effective because they provide followers with information they can use.

And because it simultaneously advances your purposes, tweeting effectively is to both their benefit and yours.

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