Thursday, August 23, 2012

Twitter: useful and getting usefuler

A few weeks ago I posted that our new Twitter account was proving mildly useful.  More time has passed, allowing a more thorough investigation.  I'm a scientist - I trust data.

The following data were obtained from Google Analytics Aug 23, measuring traffic to the CFN website over the past month.  We usually get around 50-60 visits per weekday (it drops by half on weekends).  If you have a website and haven't used Google Analytics, I suggest you do so; it's free, easy to use, and gives lots of info.

Of the 472 visits in the past month that came from referrals (i.e., a link from a non-CFN webpage to the CFN site), 55% were from the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club website (the publisher of CFN).  10% were from this blog.  And 11%, representing 53 visits, were from Twitter's t.co domain (the remaining 24% were from a scattering of smaller sources).  These Twitter visitors stayed on the CFN site longer (over 6 min on average) and visited more CFN pages (11 on average) than non-Twitter visitors.

I am especially impressed with these numbers because our Twitter account is still new, with the number of followers growing daily (we just grew to 142 a couple of hours ago - thanks @wrnaturalist!).  Getting so many visitors is great, but seeing how deep they explore our site, reading articles and searching for species with our search tool, is what makes me really happy.  Twitter visitors are our journal's best visitors.

Why are Twitter visitors so great?  Because they are our target market.  These people have chosen to follow us, or else they've found out about us via retweets from accounts they do follow.  Our tweets go to people who want to read them.  This precision contrasts with advertising, which spews a message out to a large number of people who mostly don't care about it.  Twitter is free, efficient, and beneficial.  For a journal like ours that has more passion than money (we're non-profit, and keep subscription fees low so people and small conservation groups can subscribe), Twitter is a very useful engine*.

How did we build a large effective following so quickly?  I'll blog about that soon.  But our overall approach is to be consistent with the CFN brand: nature-loving, and less boring than the mega-publishers.  We're not just spitting out press release style announcements of new CFN papers; we provide added value to our followers by being a fun and useful go-to resource for Canadian natural history information.  And we help our followers when we can.  Mega-publishers can buy attention; we're earning ours, with the help of Twitter.  That helps our authors, our readers, ourselves, and hopefully nature in general.

* Yes this is a reference to Thomas the Tank Engine.  My son is brainwashing me.  Serves me right for brainwashing him to be a Leafs fan.

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