A Colombia University (New York) study has published its findings and it is exactly what we have known for years: most Twitter users do not click links shared on Twitter.
In all my years of practicing digital marketing, I have seen this trend and passed on the info to as many as are willing to learn, including students at the digital marketing trainings I have conducted. I am convinced that in most cases, online publishers who depend heavily on social media to drive traffic to their websites are making a big mistake.
I cannot recount how many times people have pointed out the fact that MobilityArena does not have huge social media followings. My response has always been that it would be a disproportionate use of time and other resources to grow those channels. We are a media platform and not a social media service – and the two are largely at variance
Social Media versus Online Publishers
There is a great difference between social media and online publishers. The two are set against one another. For the most part, social media is designed to lock the user down so they do not leave. And that has worked largely. As such, there is a huge inertia when it comes to clicking links shared on Twitter or Facebook to go read an article on a blog or news site.
By way of example, we were in discussion with one brand that had over a million Facebook followers, and the gentleman in charge asked us, “We have so many social media followers and you have just a few thousand. Why should we do business with you? It looks like you need us and not the other way.”
It was an amusing moment and I resisted the temptation to school him there and then. We had colleagues from both sides present and he would have been embarassed. What I had checked out before that meeting was their website traffic, and it was pitiful. It wasn’t even on the radar. Their 1,000,000 Facebook followers and likes could not do anything to put their website visibility. But we with less than 6,000 Facebook likes, had hundreds of thousands of website visits monthly.
Why? Partly because social media inertia: users do not like to click on links. Here is a stement from one of the authors of the Colombia University study:
“People are more willing to share an article than read it. This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.”
This has been evident for years. MobilityArena shares a link about the specs and price of a new smartphone. Someone asks in reply, “How much is it?” The price is in the article we linked to, but…social media inertia and so they don’t want to click those links shared on Twitter or Facebook.
This is why as a publisher, social media is not high up on our list of priorities. We are present there for the sake of the minority that will click through to read. But we would rather invest our energy, time and money in building our platform and getting our work done for those who really want detailed information.
I remember telling one brand manager who wanted us to trend their product on Twitter that we could do that, but the more critical point of focus should be how to get people to buy their product. Social media users love to share. Hundreds of people will retweet and share your tweet but only a handful of them will take any action that adds to your business’ bottomline. I am not sure that is a great use of scarce resources.
We have seen an established pattern of great Twitter trends that did not result in users clicking to visit the ecommerce site or blog or other website being marketed.
Want to market online? Note this
If you are serious about getting the most out of your digital marketing activities, you need to treat social media and online publishers as two different subsets and craft different strategies and budgets for taking full advantage of them. For thwe records, readers of blog and news sites are much more willing to click through to source sites, product sites, and the like.
Social media is greatest for engagement and awareness. The real click action tends to happen elsewhere – on online publishing platforms.
You can go through the Colombia University study here.