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​.omni​ture​.com”, I would shorten “http://​www​.omni​ture​.com/​?​s​r​c​=​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
Audi­ence:
– Gen­eral
Element(s):
– Hide or Show Short­ened URL
Conversion(s):
– Stan­dard con­ver­sion event (e.g. add to cart, page views, orders)
– Traf­fic com­ing from short­ened URL
Seg­ments:
– 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.

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