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Jun 25, 2009

Twitter sending traffic to online media sites, but not online retailers

  • Huge growth for Twitter in UK to match USA growth. Easy mobile access adds to Twitter's mindshare.
  • Growing source of traffic for media sites - but legacy media/blogs has been slow to adapt (In contrast, with our top pagerank at Google and thousands of subscribers, Twitter has become the #1 source of traffic for this blog.)
  • Emerging source for commerce. (Tearn Media has already succeeded to turn Twitter followings to dollars retail. Optimization will lead to ROI surpassing legacy marketing.)
UK Internet traffic to Twitter, the “micro-blogging” service and social network, has increased 22-fold over the last 12 months. During May 2009 www.twitter.com ranked as the 38th most visited website in the UK and the fifth most visited social network. Just one year ago, in May 2008, it was the 969th most visited website and 84th most visited social network.


Twitter has been the fastest growing major website in the UK over the last 12 months, and certainly the most talked about. The noticeable thing about Twitter’s growth is that the vast majority of it – 93% in fact – has occurred during 2009. If anything, the service is even more popular than our numbers imply, as we are only measuring traffic to the main Twitter website. If people accessing their Twitter accounts via mobile phones and third party applications (such as Twitterific, Twitterfeed and Tweetdeck) were included, the numbers could be even higher.

One consequence of its phenomenal growth is that Twitter has become a key source of traffic to other websites. During May 2009 Twitter was the 30th biggest source of traffic for other sites in the UK, accounting for 1 in every 350 visits to a typical website. Over half of this traffic (55.9%) is sent to other content-driven online media sites, such as social networks, blogs, and news and entertainment websites. However, only 9.5% of Twitter’s downstream traffic is sent to transactional websites (i.e. travel, business and finance sites, plus online retailers). By contrast, Google UK (the country’s biggest search engine and source of traffic to other websites) sends 30.7% of its traffic to transactional sites, while for Facebook (the UK’s most popular social network), the figure is 14.7%.


Twitter has proven to be a fantastic source of traffic for content driven sites, and the media companies with a strong presence on the service are using it to great effect. However, with one or two exceptions (most notably Dell, which claims to generated $3m via Twitter), very few transactional websites have yet used Twitter to drive sales. During May, Google UK sent 365 times more traffic to transactional websites than Twitter. Given that Twitter has yet to settle on a business model that will take advantage of its huge, loyal user base, this is an issue that needs to be addressed by the people that run the company if they are to make the service a financial as well as popular success...

Smaller blogs and technology sites were amongst the first to benefit from Twitter, but mainstream media websites in the UK were quick to follow their lead. Twitter was the 27th biggest source of traffic to News and Media – Print websites in the UK during May, and all of the main newspaper websites now have multiple Twitter feeds.

The key to having a successful Twitter presence is to engage the community. Twitter is a great viral marketing channel, and for many users the aim is to have their story ‘retweeted’ – i.e. passed on by other users – as many times as possible. Although all of the newspapers have multiple ‘official’ feeds, these tend to be bland and have very low ‘retweet’ rates. Where journalists themselves are ‘tweeting’ themselves and engaging with the Twitter community, they typically have more success in creating viral stories.

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