This morning I have struggled a bit to get off the ground and coalesce into writing something that might be valuable to someone else. One of the things you see a lot with my blog is me attempting to be honest with my readers. This isn’t really the point of this mornings post but i would say if you are struggling with something… let them in on it. I’ve said before that blogging is therapeutic and at the same time lowering your guard a bit is too. Now I am not saying that I recommend this practice for everyone, because it does in fact give trolls an attack vector.
The thing I wanted to talk to this morning is the interwoven relationship between blogging and social media. I can say without hyperbole that almost every one of my social media accounts exists because of this blog as I sussed it out as another possible syndication venue for my content. It is not a coincidence that both my twitter account and my blog both started in April of 2009, because twitter has long been the vehicle that bloggers get together to talk to one another. This is why I asked for twitter handle as part of the sign up instead of other social media options.
I think the reason for this is that twitter is better than any platform at the quick distribution of a blog link. You have enough characters to provide a quick summary, a link and an image enticing your readers to click through and visit your post. The retweet culture allows someone to pass your information on… without passing too much of themselves in the process and I think that simply leads to more folks passing more information around than on other platforms. Granted in the era of the quoted retweet that changed a bit, but I still feel like that platform is the best place to quickly distribute content.
The thing is… I don’t just think this I know this from the statistics. I’ve been running google analytics since day one and that has given me a lot of information about what works and what doesn’t work for the purpose of spreading my blog. If I had utilized this more fluently rather than the generally lazy way that I do… I could be a hell of a lot more popular than I actually am. However it does tell me things about which platforms work and which do not. Let’s talk for a moment about the content I share and where it gets consumed.
Direct Traffic and RSS
First off one of the things you need to know is that the majority of your readers are probably still to this day going to be consuming your content through an RSS Feed Reader. Before sitting down to write my post I ran some numbers for the past year of usage and only 14% of my traffic comes from any referral source. This means the majority of my readers are either coming in directly or through an RSS feed reader. There are some other statistics that I have through WordPress that tell me that the majority of my readers are in fact coming in through RSS.
I don’t want to necessarily talk about the numbers because I have a larger audience than some folks and a much smaller audience than others. I use analytics for the purpose of learning about the data not necessarily as creating a benchmark to judge my success on and I highly suggest if you decide to go down that road you adopt a similar stance. The big thing I want as a takeaway however is that RSS is in fact not dead and you are going to see a large number of your users that are not accessing your content directly. As a result I highly suggest you check your own blog out in a news reader and make sure it looks like you want it to look. Since I am not trying to drive ad venue I syndicate my entire blog out over RSS instead of snippets… your mileage may vary here.
In the above bit I mentioned that only 14% of my readers come as referrals from any other source and that also includes social media. As it stands right now I syndicate my content in the places that are built into WordPress, so that when I hit publish it also sends my content out there as well. Here is a rundown of where all said content goes…
- Twitter – This is my primary social network
- Facebook – At some point along the line I created a Facebook account just for the blog. I don’t use this network much.
- Google Plus – Hold out from that era when we thought Google Plus would rule the world and a lot of us bloggers started hanging out here.
- GPlus “Page” – Similar hold out where I thought it was a good idea to create a Tales of the Aggronaut page.
- Tumblr – I don’t even know why I do this, but it was an option in WordPress so might as well.
These are effectively the places that I can push to each day when I hit publish without further interaction. The only publish option that I am not utilizing is Path… which if I am being completely honest I don’t know what the hell it actually is. It’s seems to be an iPhone thing and since I am not an iDevice user I have never actually encountered it. Now since only 14% of my traffic comes in through referrals… I could make an argument that syndication doesn’t actually matter. However I feel like putting your stuff in front of as many eyeballs as possible is always going to be a generally good idea.
Let’s talk a bit about where that referral content is coming from.
- 25% – Twitter – this is my primary platform for engagement so it probably isn’t shocking that the vast majority of my click-through’s come from it. It probably says way more about my willingness to engage with it than the actual power of the platform. My tweets don’t really go viral so it isn’t like I am getting a crushing number of hits this way.
- 12% – Bhagpuss.blogspot.com – That is right… my appearance in the Inventory Full blog roll is quite literally beating every social media platform but twitter. Thanks Bhagpuss!
- 9% – Facebook – this shows up as a few different addresses but combined together it equates to a little less than 10% of the referral traffic.
- 2.5% – Google Plus – There are still folks actively using this platform in spite of the fact that I am not. At one point I had a nonsense number of people following me so there may be some residuals from that?
- 1.3% – Reddit – Not something I actively engage with but a handful of my blog posts have made their way to Reddit where they got significant action. Getting anything on Reddit means you are going to have a constant trickle of users from there clicking on the links as people search.
- .32% – Tumblr – I mean it makes a lot of sense given that my posts are not exactly formatted in the Tumblr way and I don’t spend any time engaged with that platform other than occasionally going on a reblog bender reposting cool comic book art.
Now as an academic experiment I extended out my timeframe and looked at all traffic I have ever gotten to my blog. At that point a bunch of data points change… namely my referral rate goes up to 26% of my traffic and the influence of twitter drops to only 11% of that… with WoW.com coming in second at a little over 8% showing the sheer influence of being part of the World of Warcraft blogging community used to be. To round out the top five… you have Google Plus at number three, Facebook at number four, and Reddit at number five. It is funny how things change over time.
Ultimately my take away from all of this is that social media syndication is worth it… but only if you plan to engage with those communities. I feel like my numbers don’t really point out that Twitter is the most superior platform but instead that it is the only platform I am willing to actively engage with. It is the place where people know my name and respond to the things I say… and on the other platforms I am just a weird guy that refuses to use his real name or picture. Granted my real name is pretty freaking easy to find and I have tweeted out my picture a few times… so it is a personal choice thing not like a witness protection program thing. Ultimately I feel like you get out of social media what you put into it as far as blogging goes. I still feel like it is my favorite way to link up with other bloggers, but especially now that we have the discord and how active it has been… maybe that could shift into being that primary vehicle of communication for the community.
Regardless don’t feel like you have to do social media if you are not comfortable doing it. My engagement brings me in some hits but in the grand scheme of things it accounts for a very small percentage of my total users. The effect that is impossible to capture however is where people found out about my site in the first place. I have a sneaking suspicion that if you somehow managed to factor that into the equation… then social media would have far more weight in the equation that it appears to have. I choose to put my stuff out there and over time have built a community of regular readers, and if you do the same you will build your own circle of readers as well.