Some people use Twitter to organize street protests in Tehran. Some people use it to share their daily thoughts and observation. But it is increasingly becoming clear that one of the most powerful ways people use Twitter is as a social information filter and link distributor. Over the past few months, TechCrunch has experienced the power of this micro-media firsthand as the percentage of traffic we get from Twitter has grown to the point that it is now our second largest source of outside traffic after Google. In the past 30 days, Twitter accounted for 9.7 percent of all traffic to Techcrunch.com, up from 1.8 percent six months ago. This is out of millions of visits.
Looking at our Google Analytics numbers, here is the breakdown of visits to TechCrunch by source over the past 30 days:
Top Sources of Traffic To TechCrunch
1. Google: 32.7%
2. Direct: 22.7%
3. Twitter: 9.7%
4. Digg: 7.4%
5. Techmeme: 2.4%
6. Other: 25.1%
Twitter has been rising up that chart, just recently surpassing Digg. TechCrunch is certainly not typical of most Websites, but this data certainly shows the potential of Twitter to generate traffic. A large portion of that traffic comes from the TechCrunch account on Twitter, which has nearly 715,000 followers (it is one of the accounts suggested to new users). For many people, Twitter is replacing their RSS readers. One of the ways we use that account is to Tweet out links to our stories, which then spread virally as followers retweet those links. Retweets are becoming a new type of link currency. We are big believers in retweets (in fact, there is now a retweet button at the bottom of every post).
About a month ago we started using Awe.sm, which lets us send out our own custom short links (http://tcrn.ch) and track how much traffic we get from them. About 73 percent of our Twitter traffic comes from people clicking on an http://tcrn.ch short link. Another 23 percent comes directly from Twitter.com via other short links such as bit.ly’s.
We can also approximate how much Twitter traffic comes from desktop and mobile clients. At least 44 percent of Twitter traffic comes from clients, and that counts people clicking directly on http://tcrn.ch links from those clients. So the true number is easily more than half.
For us, and I’d argue increasingly for other large Websites as well, Twitter is not just about micro-media. The most powerful Tweets are those which point elsewhere. Or to put it another way, the shortened link may just be the most powerful type of micro-media there is. Those retweeted links are turning Twitter into a social broadcast media that rivals any other on the Web.
(Photo credit: Flickr/Brett Weinstein)