Cases: how The Atlantic uses Twitter to drive traffic
Jake Swaringen, SM Editor for The Atlantic
Although most of the traffic to the content comes from Facebook, Twitter plays an important role in this business - not only as a source of direct traffic, but also as a means of reaching out to industry leaders who distribute content across all platforms. , from Facebook and Reddit to the media (there’s a huge amount of journalists on Twitter). Web sites used to set up RSS, which automatically uploaded content to Twitter, but then it became clear that to maximize traffic, you need to hire an SMM editor who will use technology and humanize the community on the social network.
Jake Swaringen has worked with SMM since 2011 - first for a small newspaper in California, then as the digital editor of Modern Farmer magazine. In September 2014, he became the social media editor for The Atlantic, and manages all social platforms with a total of several million followers. We talked about the role of Twitter in driving traffic and maximizing CTR.
Let's start by defining the role of Twitter in sending traffic to those who post news. How important is it? One of your authors wrote that its influence is very limited. Do you subscribe to this?
If you measure its impact numerically, then Twitter will turn out to be a very small traffic generator - less than Facebook or even a link from an average blog. I remember once Miley Cyrus posted a link to our article on her Twitter urging everyone to follow the link and read it. She then had 2.2 million followers, and only 2000 people went through the link. Less than 1%. Less than banner ads. Of course, we have authors like Ta-Nehisi Coats, who are interested in any post. When he writes, “I have a story,” it usually flies quickly over the Internet. In addition, it is difficult to measure traffic when it comes to Twitter - someone can see something on a tweet, post a link on their own and as a result it will attract a lot of traffic. So it's hard to track.
What about twitter as an influence network? Although the traffic from it is not so big, the industry leaders hang out there, and from there the information is distributed across other networks.
I saw examples of how history played on Twitter, and nowhere else. The idea of being able to get in touch with influential people who can attract a lot of attention has a right to life. But, despite this, it seems to me that even if we completely stop writing anything on Twitter, it will not be a serious blow. We stay on Twitter because many of those to whom we want to convey our content use Twitter to receive information. And it allows you to immediately enter into dialogues in a way that cannot be done on Facebook. Although The Atlantic is not a news agency, and we do not try to instantly respond to events, we want to participate in dialogs and for this we need to be on Twitter.
We heard that Twitter is starting to work closely with Google, and the latter will be able to better index Twitter content. Are there any consequences for SEO?
Our SEO metrics are pretty good, but I don’t know how much better indexing on Google will affect Twitter.
How do you decide to launch a new account? The company has many verticals and subcategories. Is there any profit / loss analysis before launch?
There are two points. Firstly, how exactly will you build traffic from this account, more precisely, how will you build followers. Followers on Twitter are easier to build than on Facebook. But it takes time and effort. The second is the workflow. Who will be in charge? Who will be the owner? You can’t just set RSS to feed on Twitter and forget about it. We need to write headlines and write texts specifically for Twitter. I would think about whether the topic is suitable enough to gather the community around it. Is there someone among the employees who is very interested in this and who may already be doing this? This is not a task that you can simply take and start developing, as a section on the site. The topic should be good, and you need to find someone who will deal with it from the heart. On the Facebook page, you can post 3-4 times a day,
What is the dynamic between Atlantic primary and secondary twitter accounts? How do you decide whether the story will go to the main account, or will additional verticals spin it?
Everything that we publish goes through the main account. We do retweets for additional ones and hope for additional followers.
I noticed that most news organizations, including yours, sparingly use hashtags. Is it on purpose?
There are two points. The first is aesthetics, or even snobbery. Hashtag tweets look like marketing, or like posts from someone who can't use Twitter. The people who manage such accounts want to look like they work for some major publisher or brand. Second, hashtags do not attract additional attention, unless you are using some kind of tag that is currently in trend.
Do you use tools to schedule tweets, and how do you decide whether to schedule a tweet or just publish it right away?
We have a tool that automatically decides when is the best time to publish a topic. About 70% of tweets go through it. Most of our publications are evergreen enough - in a couple of weeks they will be as relevant as they are today. When we have something radically news and momentary, we publish it immediately.
We heard that you need to tweet the same thing several times a day, because only a small percentage of followers see a particular tweet. How often do you repeat?
In my experience, unlike Facebook, where people complain about excessive repetitions, you can post the same thing on Twitter often, because the information disappears in the stream of tweets. We post things 5-7 times.
In a day?
Not. Sometimes something in the morning, and then in the evening. But usually - within two to three weeks we return to something.
How important is it to post a photo with a tweet? Does this increase CTR?
We do not have exact data. I read a lot of different reports mentioning an increase in CTR. It seems to me that this is so. Especially, specific types of pictures. You can post a tweet with a graph, map, or any other iconography - and people immediately begin to retweet it. Faster than the time it takes to read an article or even to simply understand what a schedule means. We are doing a post, and in a few seconds we already have 5-7 retweets. It seems to me that people just like to retweet some iconography. It seems to me that on Facebook people like to seem comprehensively educated, and on Twitter - they are at the forefront of current news.
That is, a self-contained tweet from which you don’t have to go anywhere works better?
Yes. Most people do not want to leave Twitter. This is good for Twitter, but bad for organizations like ours.
The Atlantic employs journalists with a large number of followers. How important is it? People with great pleasure will follow a tweet of a living person, than a tweet of a famous brand?
I think yes. We have a Parse.ly tool for tracking statistics. When Ta-Nehisi Coats tweet about his work, it causes a strong reaction. With branded accounts, this does not happen. It is important to have a journalist who is well represented on Twitter. They can attract more traffic than brands.
How important is it for the SM editor to focus not only on the set of followers for publication, but also on the journalists who write them?
Important. If you work with us, we help you build a database of followers if you want to. But we do not force everyone to infiltrate social networks. That would be a very bad strategy. If someone wants to do it - cool, but this is not our strategy for everyone. This is just a nice addition.
What statistics do you judge about yourself? Specifically, with regards to Twitter.
Regarding Twitter, I watch referral traffic. How many people came to us, how many were in the “favorites”. Retweets are very important as well. If I suddenly see that there are less conversions from Twitter than it was, I immediately think that we are doing wrong. We mainly look at referral traffic.
How do you distribute roles when the main SM-editor is resting? Are you expected to work from anywhere? Or can you just send someone a letter asking them to “take care of it”?
We have, fortunately, a couple of people who can replace me. The daily Twitter related issues are handled by my colleague, without my constant supervision. On weekends, we work mixed - I plan something in advance, and we have an editor that helps on the weekend. SM is not the hardest thing in the world. You can teach anyone how to make a copy of the post and insert a photo. The whole terrible secret of working with social networks is that it is not so difficult to work with them.
This is an excerpt from my Twitter Marketing Guide . It contains the opinions of various SMM experts.