I have a confession to make: I’m not a Twitterholic. Not even close. I could shut TweetDeck down for a few days and continue stumbling blindly through my life without the tweets of friends and strangers streaming by out of the corner of my eye. But I digress.

Twitter has taught me there is a serious segment out there that feels differently. They share the things they watch, read, and buy, and they can start a movement very quickly. For evidence, just read sugarrae’s excellent post about launching tweetwasters. So even if you don’t have much traffic coming in from tweets, blogs, and shares today, it doesn’t mean you might not have a spike tomorrow. Here are some of the things I would set up and test to stay ahead of the game.

Provide Your Own Shortened URLs

The toughest part about testing social media traffic is detecting where the traffic came from. Most URL-shortening services use a 301 redirect when taking visitors to their destination, and that type of redirect cleans up after itself. Unfortunately for us, that means we can’t even detect they came from a shortened URL.

The best solution I can think of is to provide your own shortened URL on the page and make it as easy as possible for your visitors to use it. There are a couple ways to make sure you can track people using your URL. You can use one of the URL-shortening services that provides tracking (good list here from Brian Solis), or you can append a URL parameter to the URL that allows you to track this segment within your analytics. For example, instead of shortening the URL “http://www.omniture.com“, I would shorten “http://www.omniture.com/?src=scl” instead.

If you’re worried about how that might impact your visitors, test it! In addition to the normal conversion event you might assign to a test, I would also look at the incremental traffic received from providing the URL.

Sample Test Design
– General
– Hide or Show Shortened URL
– Standard conversion event (e.g. add to cart, page views, orders)
– Traffic coming from shortened URL
– All Visitors
– Visitors coming from shortened URL (src=scl)

Here’s a screenshot of how that segment would be set up in Test&Target:

Formulate Hypotheses

Let’s assume that you can now track the traffic coming from different outlets like blogs, Twitter, Digg, etc. Based on that, I would try to keep the social ball rolling with the following ideas:

Test whether displaying the ability to share more prominently is effective in increasing traffic. I would imagine that people who followed shared links are much more likely to return the favor.

Does your brand have a presence on Twitter yet? If so, test displaying your most recent tweets in a Twitterstream sidebar.

Do you have product reviews on your site? Jump on the social bandwagon and make sure they’re front and center. Test defaulting to reviews instead of standard product detail copy.

Know which site the traffic is coming from? Reinforce it and serve related content. For example, back in our Offermatica days, MarketingSherpa had a complimentary article about Offermatica so we created a targeted homepage campaign for that specific segment of traffic coming from the article. Through that campaign, we dedicated real estate that highlighted not only the MarketingSherpa mention but also other related articles in the press.

Let’s Talk

Hopefully this post has got you thinking about how you can better leverage the social media traffic coming to your site. For those of you who will be attending our customer Summit in a couple weeks, I’d love to talk more in person about your plans for optimization in 2009! I’ll be presenting with Experian on using Test&Target iteratively to reveal valuable customer insights. Brian Watkins will also be presenting with Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang and Comcast’s Frank Eliason in a session called “MyFaceLinkSpaceTwitBook: Boosting Conversion with Social Networks”. Jeremiah is a thought leader in the space and I don’t think it’d be an understatement to say that “Comcast Frank” has pioneered the emerging corporate brand presence on Twitter. Oh yeah, and feel free to tweet me at @sflily with your thoughts as well. I aspire to call myself a Twitterholic someday. Hey, a girl can dream…

For more information, check out this great post by Linda Bustos on tracking Twitter links.