An interesting question came up amongst alumni of our training programs recently: Are journalistic organizations seeing an up-tick in traffic to their sites as a result of regular Twitter usage? What other incentives are there to use Twitter, if driving traffic isn't the main goal? We thought some of our alumni reactions were so interesting, we're reposting them here (with permission):
I started managing our Twitter account a couple of months ago, and we increased our followers about 5-fold, but we haven't seen a concomitant increase in traffic to our site. We've seen more retweeting, but that doesn't seem to be translating to traffic.
I've heard from other outlets as well that Twitter has not been a traffic generator for them.
What are your experiences?
Have you seen any divididends from your site's Twitter account besides traffic?
- David Grimm, Science Magazine
In our experience talking to folks, Twitter hasn't been the greatest traffic generator for most publications; even large publications that use it to promote articles haven't reported overwhelming success in generating direct traffic.
It seems to work better as a tool for sourcing and learning about the community – whether it be the local community, or a specific industry. I for one, follow lots of journalists and organizations/institutions and everyday I learn about what's happening in the journalism world, in particular journalism education. For me in particular, it's more about joining in on a conversation.
But in regards to dividends, you could also view it as a very cheap way to simply have another delivery avenue. At the very least, it's one of those things that your organization can say "yeah, we have a Twitter account to keep our readers updated with what we are doing" with very little overhead.
- Jeremy Rue, KDMC Staff
USA TODAY is seeing good traffic generation. This is what our online marketing manager and Twitter guru, Brian Dresher, told me via e-mail:
''We've seen a significant increase in the amount of referrals we receive from Twitter.com. As a matter of fact, we issued a press release last month promoting our overall site traffic increase which was '...driven by an increase in users sharing and consuming content via social media tools like Twitter...' How do the number of referrals from Twitter compare to overall site pageviews? Still small, but growing by a significant percentage every month. I attribute a lot of our success with these gains to getting staff trained on how to effectively and productively utilize Twitter.''
Brian is actually speaking at a DC-based Twitter conference next week on the topic, called "How USATODAY.com is Leveraging Twitter to Extend its Reader Community.'' His Twitter URL is http://twitter.com/bdresher.
- Brian Dresher, Online Marketing Manager, USA TODAY
KPIX-TV gets a little referral traffic from our Twitter account, but it's not very significant. As Jeremy suggests, though, it's a good source of, well, sources.
- Dan Rosenheim, KPIX TV
Our Twitter followers for @cincienquirer have significantly increased over the past six months. I have watched our analytics and seen re-tweets and Twitter "reach" expand, but growth in terms of traffic is much slower. We are seeing increases in referrals from Twitter, but it is slow and lags way behind Facebook.
Honestly, though, we don't approach Twitter as a traffic driver. It is a branding and sourcing tool that we also happen to use to get out news. Twitter raises our profile and generates buzz amongst the influential early adopters, the tech savvy and news junkies in our area. It also connects us to a lot of influential sources in business, politics and our community, which has made for some excellent sourcing for our reporters.
It really depends on what your goal is as to whether or not Twitter is "worth it" for you. For us, it is more than good enough.
- Mandy Jenkins, Social Media Editor, Cincinnati Enquirer
My organization has been using Twitter to gain exposure in the community, local and beyond. We do think of it as one more avenue to drive traffic to our site. It's not much, though. I think last month we had about 600 hits from Twitter. But I've also been trying to use Twitter for its strengths, such as tweeting news updates from an important real estate conference, for example. It's also been fun to start conversations with our readers. Here's a fun story: The day GM sent their letters to the car dealers it wants to potentially cut, one of the more active local Twitter users sent a challenge to several Maine journalists, including me, to see who would be the first to uncover a Maine dealer who received a letter. I can't turn down a challenge like that, especially one posed in a public forum like Twitter. As luck would have it, I struck gold on the second phone call after googling "GM dealers Maine", posted a story to our website, updating my progress via Twitter along the way. As far as I know, we won the challenge. And, of course, we've received tips via Twitter. They don't always pan out, but it's worth it to be in the conversation and have people thinking about us. So, all in all, I'd say it's been beneficial, though not a huge driver of traffic.
Interesting twist: I was in the back seat of a car heading south when it all happened. I left early on Friday for a weekend in NYC and was using only a BlackBerry to tweet, Google GM dealers in Maine and do the interview. I then phoned the story in and had a fellow staffer post it to our website.
- Whit Richardson, New Media Editor, Mainebiz
I would have to echo Mandy's thoughts to the letter. The Statesman has a huge Twitter following on multiple accounts, and while we do see measurable benefit in terms of new "uniques" coming to us from Twitter, we see a greater benefit in its use to report and break news, brand ourselves and make contacts in the community. We allow one of our internet editors to spend whatever portion of his time he deems necessary to hand-manage our Twitter relationships, with one of the goals to keep the main news account personal, conversational and way from the "autofeed" feel many have to have due to resources.
- Zach Ryall, Internet Managing Editor, Austin American-Statesman