Experiments in Social Media Marketing: A Recap
Running A Dialogue With Readers via Twitter
What’s a report on social media without a mention of Twitter? The micro-blogging site lets you see what your friends are up to and update them as to your goings-on in 140 characters or less.
Though the box asks “What are you doing?”, Twitterers use it to alert others to their whereabouts, solicit opinions from followers and include links to other sites and articles. One of the reasons Twitter is so popular is that it enables followers to respond publicly by addressing a comment to ”@username.” (It also allows you to send a private direct message, but only if both Twitterers are following each other.) Other common notations used include “RT” (retweet: essentially a forwarding mechanism that can help improve a user’s reputation) and the “#” symbol, which tracks the popularity of the attached word, as in #PSFK.
Before February, our Twitter identity (twitter.com/psfk) was simply an auto-updating feed of links to PSFK.com posts. For our experiment, we decided to survey our readers and ask them how they wanted us to use the tool. From their responses, we changed our Twitter account into a more conversational space, using it to broadcast messages from Piers and PSFK team members, link to interesting sites, and solicit and receive feedback from our followers.
Updating Our Facebook Profile
We realized that although PSFK had both a group and a business page on Facebook, our lack of updates meant our friends had no incentive to keep coming back. We started posting pictures of things we’d seen in our travels and posted news and events more frequently. Our decision to make our page more relevant dovetailed nicely with Facebook’s recent redesign: now any updates show up first on our profile.
We made a concerted effort to syndicate at least one article per day to the Huffington Post. These articles were kept to half or three-quarters of the original length so that readers were directed to click through to PSFK to finish the article.
We also reached out to companies and people the “old-fashioned” way—by sending them e-mails with links to the articles we’d written about them. Several people and companies replied with a thank you note, and promised to keep us updated on their future projects.
We spent time watching how Google was indexing us. We updated how our site auto-generates a readable sitemap and deleted broken links, including one popular link to a missing ‘Banksy’ art image which was driving a high volume of traffic to the site.
Overall frequency of updates on the site remained relatively constant between the two months under consideration. However, during the month of February we encouraged our writers to submit shorter form, ‘snapshot’ posts of inspiring things they came across in their daily lives. (These posts were more image-focused than text-focused.) The push resulted in a higher proportion of bite-sized posts, meant to be more instantly digestable (and hopefully diggable/linkable).
So how did a month of social media marketing affect traffic?
Between February 9th and March 8th, PSFK witnessed a 3.78% increase in visits and a 2.27% increase in unique visitors (we encouraged previous visitors to visit more). We also saw a 1.93% increase in pageviews, so people may have visited other articles that we were calling attention to before leaving. A major change though was that referring sites (such as images searches and social media sites) dropped by 9.4% to 31% of traffic!
Why did overall referrals go down when social media site referrals increased? Answer : for most of January, we had a broken link to Banksy photos that turned up in Google image search, accounting for several thousand visitors that month. When we looked at data that excluded traffic to the Banksy image in January and February, February’s count actually revealed a 5% (as opposed to 1.93%) increase in pageviews. Clearly, social media can be a powerful marketing tool, but search engines and popular images are still essential to any site.
Basically, it appears that it took 2 weeks of intensive social media work for Stumbling and Digging to take off: referrals from StumbleUpon jumped 112% percent, from 4,389 to 9,305, while Digg referrals increased 1,681%. (No, that’s not a misplaced decimal: the number of visitors coming to our site via Digg was 17 times higher). In fact, on Wednesday, February 25th, the highest point in the graph, referrals from StumbleUpon and Digg alone accounted for over 20% of traffic.
RESULTS BY ACTIVITY
Even though most of our articles hovered around 5 to 10 diggs, the volume of submissions led to more traffic over time: traffic from Digg went from 94 to 2,316 referrals in a month, a dramatic increase of 2,363%. 89% were new visitors, and overall they spent an average of 51 seconds on our site. Overall, we increased our digging from 25 to 211 articles, a 744% increase.
And we witnessed an interesting event during the period. A popular article we wrote about the National Gallery’s 41,000 LED-light tunnel was picked up by Gizmodo, and subsequently, directed some extra traffic to our site. That part wasn’t surprising – but what was interesting to see was how the Digg community treated and affected the popularity of the post. While our original article only managed to gain 6 diggs, a Digg user with 156 ‘friends’ submitted the Gizmodo reblog and set off a digg chain resulting in 3,046 diggs (and counting). We learned quickly that success in digging isn’t just dependent on the content or speed at which you submit your posts, but the influence (network and number of friends) of the person Digging.
StumbleUpon was by far the most successful social media site in terms of attracting new visitors. We went from 12,454 to 19,874 referrals: a 59.6% increase. Better yet, 97% were new visitors, making StumbleUpon the clear favorite for making our online presence known.
However, unlike the Digg readers who stayed on the site a while, the Stumble visitors’ average visit lasted a mere 14 seconds (we assume they came and then stumbled on). They only visited 1.18 pages, as opposed to Digg’s slightly more committed users at 1.28 pages.
Upon tweeting, we gained followers at a rate of about 36 per day and increased our Twitter audience 22% in one month, from 2,851 to 3,600 followers (and counting).
During that time we saw a 26% increase in traffic to PSFK from Twitter, from 4,064 to 5,147 referrals. These visitors were also more familiar with PSFK than random visitors like those from StumbleUpon, as only 60% were first-time visitors.
Although the traffic driven was not as impressive as StumbleUpon’s in real terms, Twitter visitors interacted with the site more, exploring an average of 1.6 pages per visit. More importantly, out of our top referral sites, these visitors were on the site for the second-longest time span at 1 minute 35 seconds–only referrals from Google.com stayed longer, for 2 minutes 10 seconds.
Modifications to the PSFK group pages started in earnest on February 23 and were a moderate success. PSFK gained a small amount of ‘new friends’ and our referral rate increased nearly 10% over the previous two weeks. Visitors were also moderately involved compared to visitors from other social media sites, looking at an average of 1.55 pages and spending 1 minute 27 seconds on PSFK.
By posting more frequently (20 articles), we increased referring traffic from the news site from 20 to 249 referrals. With only 249 visitors, we obviously didn’t make the front page on HuffPo but those who came through were very interested in what we had to say: they spent an average of 2 minutes 38 seconds on the site and read 2.14 pages. Furthermore, 76% were new to PSFK’s site.
Results were highly dependent on finding appropriate articles within a limited time frame. Some comments generated upwards of 60 referrals, but most only attracted a few. In short, the response to blog seeding was inconsistent and unpredictable.
We emailed several of the companies that we wrote about on PSFK. This traditional PR generated very little traffic; however, it alerted several companies to PSFK’s presence and may be useful in developing business relationships in the future. Several designers and companies featured on the site were interested in updating us on their future projects and many expressed appreciation for the article.
Google and Other Search Engines
Search engine traffic remained nearly constant, decreasing by just 0.15%. However, we expect a slight increase i