TWITTER BOMBING WORKED! (to stroke my ego)

Really Dude-

Sometime last Fall at an undisclosed location I learned a secret. This secret was couched as a “strategy” to grow my audience using Twitter. The primary tenet of the “strategy” was to share direct download links on Twitter instead of the link to your site page. I immediately started calling it “The Twitter Scam” because to me it was clear that many people would click the link not expecting to hear audio play and BOOM! they would get an audio assault. Over time I saw more and more reputable podcasters using this tactic and curiosity got the best of me. Was it possible that the decreased effort required of clicking the mouse two times vs. only one time was the reason why this strategy produced such amazing engagement?

I did some looking around and found 4 major tenants of a full blown Twitter bombing strategy –

#1 – Share direct download links

#2 – Hashtag like crazy. Look for the most popular, loosely relevant hashtags and pack em’ full

#3 – Create a crap load of accounts

#4 – Combine the previous three together and post like like a hat out of bell (edited for content)

To be clear, I always knew that this strategy was sorta pushing it. So instead of going all the way I decided that I would only do it with one account so that I wasn’t actually infringing on any Twitter EULA rules  and that I would only do it for a month just to test it. Here is exactly what I did.

– I used my @wowsmallbiz Twitter account

– I created an account with socialoomph.com

– I created a post for episode of my show, some with images, some without

– I used my direct download link on most of them

– I used 2 – 4 relevant hashtags per post (I didn’t research using any tools, I just wung it. Is wung a word?)

– I scheduled the posts to run from as often as every 2 hrs to as far apart as every few days depending on how strong I felt the episode was

– I launched this campaign all at once on 12/11/14

– On 1/11/14 I removed all of the direct download links and replaced them with links to my site

Here is what happened –

 

Libsyn

There are a few clear observations to be made here:

#1 – I obviously don’t have a huge audience. Go ahead, rub it in.

#2 – Direct download links don’t appear to have helped build an actual audience at all

A few less obvious observations

#1 – The traffic didn’t tail off right away. It slowly shrunk over about 6 days. I’m not exactly sure why unless it was because it took that long for the spam bots to stop hitting my links in my older tweets?

#2 – My Twitter engagement is up, a lot more retweets, follows and likes since implementing. This has nothing to do with the Direct download link in my opinion and is likely just because I am posting a lot more.

#3 – Some of the Twitter engagement is from bots and follow / unfollow farmers, however I have received more audience emails, guest proposals and sponsorship proposals since I started the strategy. Yes, I understand that it’s totally circumstantial evidence.

My takeaways are as follows:

– Like I always knew, a good product is the most important thing. You can’t trick your way into success.

– If you already have a loyal following then this whole thing is likely a pretty bad idea. You do run the risk of alienating your loyal fans.

–  Direct Download links shared on Twitter does nothing helpful and can really tick people off if it kills their mobile data plan.

– Posting more often can increase engagement, but you can also easily overdo it.

– Hashtagging does help increase the number of people exposed to  tweet but they had better be relevant.

– Creating multiple accounts can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. I’m not going to do that and I would suggest against it.

– Actually engaging people on Twitter is the thing that really matters.

– Anyone who uses direct download links has skewed numbers and using those numbers to show an advertiser feels wrong to me.

– I have some work to do.

Here is the unvarnished truth. The whole time I was running the bombing test I was just hoping against hope that it was real. For a while I was even tempted not to shut it off once the month was up, the idea that the traffic was that high was so intoxicating that exposing myself to the reality that it was all false was painful. It’s really pretty embarrassing to peel back the layers of hype and lay myself bare, even with the knowledge that it was my intention all along.

I am not here to point fingers, call names or really care if I have fingers pointed at me (although poking in the chest is where I draw the line). I really wanted to be painfully transparent about my experiment in hopes that it can keep others from wasting time and give other new podcasters the confidence to keep working on the quality of their content and the actual depth of their audience engagement as opposed to looking so much as download numbers.

I appreciate any feedback on this. Please be gentle.

Cheers!

Oh, and if you want to try Social oomph – it is pretty handy for Twitter… here is my super tacky affiliate link

 

 

  • Just like any powerful tool, this strategy can be used for both good and bad. If the goal is to inflate downloads, so that you can post your fake stats in a public forum, or use it to trick advertisers into believing that your show is a lot more popular than it really is, then this strategy becomes spammy and fraudulent.

    However, if you don’t care about downloads, and all you’re trying is to get any new visitors and subscribers you can get, because even 1 new listener is definitely worth something in the long run, then it is no longer about inflated downloads, but about trying to overcome the super-short lifetime of a tweet, and giving the visitor the “fastest path to listening to your show”.

    I follow a handful of people on twitter, yet I don’t see most of their tweets in my timeline, because I don’t log in more than once a day, so the feed goes by pretty fast. So if someone is re-tweeting something multiple times a day, then I just might catch it. If they’re re-tweeting something valuable, I don’t consider it as spam. If all they’re tweeting is “buy this, buy this, buy this”, then yes, I would unfollow them in a hurry.

    So I think how someone views your twitter bombs would depend on the intention, aggressiveness (multiple accounts, robot posts, robot clicks, fake follows), etc. As long as you’re not using the fake download numbers to turn around and trick someone else, I might be ok if you did that, because I would probably still see your link just once, and if I clicked on it, and found your show interesting, I just might subscribe to it. And that right there, is valuable for any podcast host.

    My 2 cents.

    – Ravi Jayagopal
    Podcast Host, http://SubscribeMe.fm/podcast/

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  • Show Notes Guy

    Bryan… your article reflects my own Twitter Bomb experiment (at least phase one). I’ll be featuring articles and podcasts for the month of February on this topic.

    Included in the interviews will be Rob Walch (LibSyn), Todd Cochrane (BluBrry) and John Lee Dumas (guess LOL). I think there are MANY podcasters who are confused by the “leaders” who are running this technique, and even selling training courses or offering Social Media Management services (with a HUGE price) to increase downloads… it’s really quite scary if you think about it.

    As I teach my coaching clients, “Downloads to NOT equal listeners” and “You can’t change the world in the downloads, only in the audience.”

    BTW – here’s the link to MY article on Twitter Bombing:

    https://shownotesguy.com/Podcasters/twitterbomb-experiment/the-secret-of-top-podcasters-twitterbombing/

    • bryankalos

      Thanks for sharing Mr. Show Notes Guy! 😉

  • Jeff Smith

    Great article! I to experienced the intoxicating high of the traffic bump after using a few DD links. My current strategy is 1/3 my stuff, 1/3 quotes, 1/3 my guest’s content. In the 1/3 that are links to my shows, I use the advanced feature of pretty link to roll between show notes, DD, itunes, and stitcher. This works pretty well for engagement, and I can use it to show my guests some link love. Also, this feels less spammy to me.

  • Thanks Bryan, this post is exactly what I was looking for and explains a hell of a lot.

    I can totally relate to Michael O’Neal’s reply, I started a podcast last november and have been trying out different methods to boost my downloads and Twitter DD’s certainly did just that but after the initial “wow factor” the thoughts of “this has got to be to good to be true” began to kick in.

    To be fair I always word the tweet “Listen directly to..(the guy I’m interviewing)” so there’s no surprises, I’ve also experimented with both DD’s and straight forward links to my show on my website but of course there’s a huge difference.

    Thanks again guys, it’s been a real education reading the post and also the quality comments – cheers.

    • bryankalos

      Thanks for your honesty Ken. I’m glad you are out there trying things.

  • Awesome post, thanks for sharing your experience and perspective!

    There seem to be quite a few articles on #twitterboming popping up, and I do hope that Libsyn and other podcast hosting providers get on this and fix their analytics to counteract the seeming effectiveness of this, before the positive reputation trend for podcasting gets impacted more severely.

    I wonder what specific analytics would be a fair alternative for Libsyn and other hosting providers to measure “listenership”?

    • bryankalos

      Thanks Juergen, Most consider the Apple Core metrics to be the best comparative from show to show.

      • I have been working tirelessly, cutting back on sleep (my friends and family know the significance for me), basically working full-time or way more for the past 6 months or so on MicroBrewr Podcast. Now I recently started selling advertisements on my show. So download numbers are important. My audience is low, so I sell each podcast slot with an ad on the website. So website visits are also important. If my memory serves, I’ve never tweeted a direct-download to the audio, the link has always been to the show notes. Yet several of the episodes have experienced similar graphs. An episode might live for 10 weeks or so, I’m not really tweeting it after the first week, but weekly download numbers will jump 10x for 3-6 weeks then drop off… can’t figure it out, haven’t found any back links in Webmaster Tools… Anyway, 1) I guess this trick proves that stats for my website visits are skewed. 2.) Anyone Twitter bombing, should present only their AppleCore numbers.–whether presenting to advertisers or the public at large. 3) I don’t Twitter bomb, and I haven’t noticed anyone else Twitter bombing on my behalf (Although now I’m wondering whether I should search Twitter for “MicroBrewr”, without @, and check the links.) So I feel ok presenting my total download numbers, but advertisers might not accept that. 🙁

  • Very well written article. I thoroughly enjoyed it and appreciate the work that went into it.

    • bryankalos

      Whoa… OK it just got real up in here. Thank John, that means a lot.

  • Michael O’Neal

    It was February of last year when I stumbled upon this strategy, and I refined it more and more. At first…the direct download plan was intoxicating…lots of downloads. But as time wore on, that idea was less and less intriguing because engagement stayed basically the same. Since then, I’ve done a lot of research around where the links go, what they see when they click a link, and what they hear initially if they do click a direct download link. Now the direct download link is only about 20% of the strategy. I’m having a lot more engagement and results sending them to a variety of other places. So, it’s not the *strategy* that’s the problem…when you think about the lifespan of a tweet, it’s only about 5 minutes or so on someone’s timeline. So, it makes a little more sense to repeat those tweets a few times a day. Don’t forget that every time someone sees your content, it’s another doorway into your business. The twitter strategy is just one arrow in the quiver, and can *definitely* be used for evil if you let it. But building a podcast is a combination of your brand, your broadcast quality, your social media strategy, and how you monetize.

    • bryankalos

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Michael. I agree with what you are saying. Keeping rocking.

      • Michael O’Neal

        No problem @bryankalos:disqus. I think the people critiquing the strategy aren’t looking at the bigger picture. Just at the folks doing all direct downloads and posting their results all over the place. There is a real strategy that very few people have touched on using this technique. So for now…I guess it will remain shrouded in mystery. 🙂

  • Wow, fantastic research and graphics! We have suspected this for so long and have been frustrated with huge download numbers getting posted around for some un-named shows that aught not to deserve it (shall we say).

    That is great that you have pulled back the curtain, and yet even inside this, there is value in learning to promote wisely and above all to build your email list.

    Natalie (BizChix.com) is getting great engagement with a private Facebook group for her audience, is just one great way to stay engaged with your listeners.

    • bryankalos

      Thank You Mark for being so cool and sharing your thoughts.

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  • How did you remove the DD links? Did you delete the tweets and then repost with links to say your show notes page? Sorry if this is a Captain Obvious question but just want to confirm. What if you posted every 10-12 minutes but it was a link to the show notes page, is that still considered Twitter bombing? I want the engagement but not a bad rep since I know I have a quality show and I want to protect my brand.

    • bryankalos

      Good questions. I did all of the rotational posting using socialoomph.com so on 1/11 I removed the DD link from all of the posts and replaced with a show notes link. My advice would be that posting a few times every hour on a rotating basis with a few very relevant hashtags will marginally help grow your audience. If you already HAVE a loyal audience they will likely start to ignore you on Twitter because of all the noise.

      That’s part research, part opinion so take it for what it’s worth.

      • Do I inderstand this correctly? The links in your tweets are redirected through Social Oomph, and there’s a backend interface where you can change the redirect, initially it redirected to direct-download of the audio, later you changed it to redirect to your show notes page?

        • bryankalos

          Mostly, it doesn’t change the links in the old tweets. It changed them in the tweets from that point forward.

          • Show Notes Guy

            Nathan, Bryan simply took all of those tweets with Direct Downloads and used the URL replacement tool in Social Oomph to literally CHANGE ALL of those links.

  • Jim Collison

    Good work Bryan and thanks for being transparent! It took some real courage to write this post. We would all be better off if this kind of honesty was displayed more often!

    • bryankalos

      Thanks Jim! Or maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment?

  • Loved the article. Haven’t tried the strategy for my podcast, but have for my travel website and while I do get a lot of traffic my bounce rate went crazy. I see the pro’s and con’s for web traffic but see how sharing a direct download link to a podcast could cross the line.

    • bryankalos

      Thanks Alexa

  • WilliamMaguire

    My co-host and I tweet our new episodes 3 or 4 times a day for the day after we go live. Then once or twice a day for the balance of the week. We hashtag relevant tags and links (but never direct download). Thanks for sharing and being honest. It is tempting but I am sure it alienates more people than it brings in. Did you get any negative replies to your tweets?

    • bryankalos

      Thanks William. No real negative responses on Twitter.

  • Bryan you have such a great way of sharing challenging truth. I love the humor and the gut level honesty. It is very helpful to the rest of us on this path. As I launch my podcast, my goal is to inspire a movement not fill up stats. Thanks for the encouragement in the right direction.

    • bryankalos

      Golly, thanks Brian. Congrats on your big launch today! #Boom #launch #brianisawesome #Bryanistherightwaytospellit

  • JayFleischman

    I don’t see this as Twitter bombing; rather, I see it as repeated promotion of a piece of content. You’re not using fake accounts, not mercilessly retweeting among those accounts to make it look as if an update is getting more traction than is really the case.

    The only thing I see as being wrong is the use of direct download links, but if you were to label them as direct download links then even that would be alright.

    Most people recommend repeating a message on Twitter because the stream is unfiltered and most people won’t see an update if you send it out once.

    For people with big followings of real users, how is this outside the norm?

    • bryankalos

      I feel you Jay, thanks for being here and saying smart talk words on the internets

  • Bryan – I appreciate you were willing to share the experiment and what you learned. I have read a couple of articles about Twitter bombing, and this is the best one. I would rather have one listener who feels an episode of my show made a difference than be able to show I had 1000 “listens”.

    • bryankalos

      Jody, I appreciate you being a swell chap. That is all….. But I am wearing a bath robe

  • Best article I’ve seen on this topic yet. I’ve not practiced this strategy but am well aware of its existence. This does more harm to podcasting than just about anything I can think of.

    • bryankalos

      Thanks Jeff. I will make sure to lose to you at Trivia Crack now as Appreciation.

      • Don’t you dare quit on my Bryan!

        • bryankalos

          I find myself in the unfortunate position of being compelled to quote Brokeback Mountain “I can’t quit you”

  • I love this transparent take on such a polarizing subject. I experienced the same results you outline here when I was promoting Smart Time Online more on Twitter earlier in 2014.

    In fact, I could make a very valid argument that although my download numbers may have been skewed, my engagement, emails, messages, inquiries and interview requests skyrocketed… because that’s exactly what happened.

    Because of that, I’m not quick to pass judgement on anyone who practices this (loosely). I think there is room for SOME of this method, perhaps without the direct download linking though.

    Great article man.

    • bryankalos

      Thanks John, On the redeeming side, I do have a super nice podcast player.

  • Thank you for such an honest look at your experiment and numbers. I know some people get bummed about their shows when they only hear about those with thousands of downloads a day, thinking there’s something wrong with what they’re doing…and they will do anything they can to see bigger numbers, even if those numbers aren’t really a reflection of reality. Great stuff!

    • bryankalos

      Thanks for the kind words Christopher. Although it would have been funny if you just insulted my crappy excuse fo a beard instead

  • Hey Bryan, great post!

    I too tried the high-frequency tweeting and using relevant hashtags. I was going to write a post about it but haven’t gotten around to it.

    My results were similar, and I believe like you do. It’s not 100% real.

    However, we all need to promote our posts and episodes more often. In an attempt to be falsely humble, we mistakenly assume “if we build it they will come.” Bringing older evergreen content back to the surface is how we’ll all grow our audience.

    The point being, don’t swing so far back the other way that you never share anything after the day it goes live.

    Great post, great stats, and great job!

    • bryankalos

      I’m with you Ellory. Thanks for taking the time to share, I’m a fan.

    • Agreed Ellory.

  • bryankalos

    Thanks Denny! arent you at least going to call me some kind of a name? maybe cotton headed ninny muggins?

  • Denny Krahe

    Great post Bryan, and thanks for being so transparent. I understand why someone might try the twitter bombing strategy, but I think as more and more people are running the tests, showing the results, and what is actually happening (2-3 seconds of play counting as a DL) sets in I hope that fewer podcasters will continue the practice.