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