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Looking back on our social media experiment

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Looking back on our social media experiment

A couple of months ago we decided to join the fray and get on the social media wagon as part of our social media experiment (or #socialmediaexperiment in twitter speak…)

Our approach was to concentrate on developing our twitter following through various methods, then (to save some time) link both our facebook and linkedin accounts to replicate the information (there simply wasn’t the time to do each independently). While doing this we picked up some useful bits of information which we thought we would share in this article.

Our twitter strategy

Our initial twitter strategy was to first of all create a number of tweets in advance and then schedule the release of them over time. We would then supplement this with day to day interactions with followers and also tweets about current events and goings on.

Our scheduled tweets would fall into four main categories:

  1. Links to blog articles
  2. Highlighting services
  3. Competitions
  4. Fortnightly special offers

The general idea was to do introduce an idea/service via blog article, a few days later reinforce that we offer the service, a few days later introduce a competition (prize being the same service), then after the competition run the special offer.

Unfortunately, the assumption behind this idea was that you would keep a users attention over this period of time. The reality with tweets however, is that each is sent out in isolation, and if a user is following more than a couple of hundred people, then he/she has a relatively low chance of seeing the tweet. Therefore trying to maintain an idea / topic over time is difficult.

A better approach is to rely on grabbing the attention with a catchy / intriguing tweet and then send people to a page that explains in more detail. Also, if you plan to run a competition or an offer then to successfully get the kind of engagement you need, you need to either have a massive follower base or repeat the tweet periodically over the course.

Increasing your followers

In hindsight, the low uptake on the competitions above was more than likely down to the fact that we didn’t have enough followers, and we didn’t continue to repeat tweeting the competition. But at the time we were very aware of spamming our newly found followers.

At the beginning of this little experiment we had only 200 followers, but in very short time this quickly doubled, then trebled, and we are now approaching the big 1000. Here are a couple of pointers that we picked up along the way.

The first technique is to add special hash tags to your messages. You should research which twitter users are well known for retweeting messages in your target area. These users will often identify a keyword you need to include in your message in order for them to retweet your message. You should first of all start following the user and then add the specific hash tag to any tweets you want them to retweet to their followers.

An example of this would be the user @bizitalk, if you read their summary it states:
The home of Trending #bizitalk where we Talk and ReTalk Business Promoting and Supporting Small Business

The second technique relies on the fact that a certain percentage of people will generally follow you back, if you follow them (one of them strange rules of twitter). Therefore, one useful approach to gain targeted followers is to find a twitter user that you know is of interest to your target audience, and then start following a number of their followers.

For example, we knew that there is a high chance that people following @nefollowers lived in the north east, which is the target audience we are interested in, therefore followed some of its followers.

However, if you go out and follow 5000 people and you yourself only have 5 followers, then there is every chance people will just ignore you… try to keep a reasonable ratio between followers and following (another twitter rule i guess).

Some observations

Here are some further observations that we made that you should hopefully find useful:

  • We used a very useful programme called “Hoot Suite” to schedule the release of tweets over time. The iPhone app is great and the pc / browser version is even better
  • Use the “NoFollow” app for the iPhone is an excellent way of unfollowing those people who did not follow you back (in the last mentioned technique)
  • Use ow.ly url shortner to reduce the size of web addresses, this is also the only shortner that is compatible with hootsuites statistics monitoring
  • Avoid being unfollowed by following those people who follow you
  • If you do indeed link your twitter to you facebook and linkedin accounts, be very wary about spamming, 10 tweets into the twitter sphere may seem insignificant, but 10 updates on Facebook and Linkedin will soon lose you people. We aimed for 1 or 2 per day
  • Various sources seem to indicate the best time to tweet is about 11am or 1pm
  • Create lists within twitter to high light those users you find to be valuable
  • Highlight any positive tweets / retweets as favourites, this helps to develop relationships with your followers

Conclusions

Finally, the initial purpose of our social media experiment was to look at the effect engaging in social media had on our website and business as a whole.

This is what happened:

We spent all of July working on increasing our twitter following, taking us from approx 200 to 800 followers. Throughout August we setup a schedule of tweets to be released every week day (mainly because i was on holiday…) which saw our followers increase gradually to approx 850. Over two months we gained approx 20 facebook followers (without directing people there).

In the month leading up to the experiment we had approx 300 unique website visitors (400 visits). In July we received 440 unique visitors (550 visits). With one week to go in August we are on track to match the numbers received in July. That being the case, its fair to say have seen a 50% increase in traffic going to the website.

As well as the above, without any additional off page search engine optimisation work, we have seen an increase in the search engine rankings for all our major keywords.

With regards to the most important question; has this resulted in an increased amount of business, it is difficult to say, as we have recently received projects via alternative means (i.e. funding initiatives). One thing i would say however is this that this month has been a very good month!

I would like to think our social media experiment had something to do with it….

 
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