Twitter has a big problem.
I have been an enthusiastic user of Twitter since joining in March 2008. In almost 7 years I have posted almost 53000 Tweets and grown a considerable “audience” of Followers. I have told many people over the years how Twitter, more than any other medium, helped me grow my agency. We can draw a direct line between a handful of early key clients who contacted me either via Twitter or because Twitter.
I can even trace over $1 million in agency revenue to one Tweet I made back in 2009 (you’ll have to meet me in person to hear the whole story).
Twitter was a natural extension of this blog, which is why my personal Twitter account shares the same name. I would post content to the blog, share it out via Twitter, drive traffic back to the blog and start a conversation. It was great and it worked a treat. I loved it.
Along the way I naturally also have embraced Facebook, both personally and for different Groups and Company Pages, LinkedIn, Google+ (tumbleweeds) and Instagram (mainly for personal use). They all had their benefits but for years no other social network was more effective (for me) than Twitter.
But over the last year or so something has changed. It was probably happening slowly and so it wasn’t immediately noticeable, but I started to get the feeling Twitter wasn’t working for me quite as well.
The first and most obvious sign was where I found myself spending my time online. I was checking Twitter less and less, to the point where I don’t really read the timeline much anymore, I merely check for replies or notifications. I was having less conversations on Twitter.
Meanwhile, I was spending a LOT more time on Facebook. This is significant as I was never a big fan of Facebook and have objected to some of their changed, developments and policies.
When it started, Facebook was used by a very young audience and wasn’t a great business marketing tool. These days of course the average Facebook user is middle-aged and the kids are on Instagram and Snapchat. But the big difference I find is that I now have a lot of excellent conversations on Facebook, especially in some of the Groups I participate in.
That’s all very well, but these personal observations are just that…observations. I decided to back it up with some data.
First some context.
I tend to share most of my Mediahunter blog and Sticky news posts on the following accounts…
Mediahunter Twitter (around 49,000 Followers)
Craig Wilson Facebook (374 Friends…I have always kept this to people I actually know)
Craig Wilson LinkedIn (500+ Connections)
Stickyads Twitter (708 Followers)
Sticky Facebook (1171 Likes)
I also manage the DiG Festival accounts and post a lot of content on the above accounts plus…
DiG Festival Twitter (2552 Followers)
DiG Festival Facebook (1069 Likes)
So I decided to check the referral traffic to these websites to see which social networks are delivered the most visitors in 2014 compared to 2013. I also looked at the stats for a significant client of ours who uses both networks very effectively.
While there are a lot of variations due to the relationship between each website and the various social accounts (which I won’t bore you with) there was a significant overall trend……Facebook had closed the gap considerably in delivering traffic to each of these sites compared to Twitter. This is telling when you consider the difference in audience sizes between my Mediahunter Twitter account and the Facebook accounts.
The stats for the client were the most shocking. This client has almost twice as many Twitter Followers than Facebook Likes but saw only a modest 18% increase in Twitter traffic between 2013 and 2014 compared to a 200% increase for traffic referred by Facebook. In fact, Facebook now delivers 4 times more traffic to this client’s website than Twitter.
(Side note: the number 1 source of traffic for all of these sites….by a long way…was Google organic search. SEO works!)
This is a big problem for Twitter and I suspect it will only get worse if users like me find themselves spending considerably less time engaging on Twitter compared to Facebook.
For quite a while now high profile Twitter users like Robert Scoble (426,000 Twitter Followers) have declared that Facebook is where the action is for them. And yesterday Chris Brogan (303,000 Twitter Followers) published this explaining his increasing love of Facebook.
As Chris explains, it’s never really been about the number of Followers, it’s about the quality of your conversations. I agree. I used to have those conversations on Twitter but these days they are happening more and more on Facebook.
Do I recommend that marketers should be walking away from Twitter and pouring all their efforts into Facebook? No. Or at least not yet. There is still value in tweeting but it appears to be diminishing. And if I was a marketer who was focusing predominantly on Twitter I would be very worried.
We saw this happen quickly in Google+ and fairly quickly with MySpace. Once a social network starts losing audience and engagement it can be hard to reverse the trend. The challenge now is for Twitter to reverse this decline, work out how to increase engagement and value or be left behind and disappear into irrelevance and eventual obsolescence.
Do you agree? Are you spending more time on other social networks or does Twitter still fly for you?