April 28, Darren Rowse publishes a guest post on his Twitip blog titled 11 Useful Twitter Tools That Don’t Require Your Password. One of the readers submits the post to a social network, and suddenly other users of that social network start “voting” on it. The story receives over 1,200 “votes,” and an avalanche of 50,000 visitors end up on Darren’s website.
You probably think that the social network that I mentioned is Digg, right?
Well, it is not. I am talking about Twitter. The “votes” are tweets and retweets that contained a link to the story.
How do I know Twitter sent 50,000 visitors to that story? Because Bit.ly, the default URL shortener on Twitter, tracks the number of clicks that are sent to each URL. Here is a screenshot from the story in question:
In reality the Bit.ly shortened URL could have been used in other places too, say email newsletters, which could mean that not all 50,000 visitors were coming from Twitter. But to compensate this, there is the fact that different Twitter applications use different shortening services. Some still use tinyurl.com, while others use is.gd and so on. This means that the Bit.ly tracked clicks are only part of all the clicks that came via Twitter, making the 50,000 visitors number reasonable, if not an underestimation.
Mind you that I didn’t spend too much time looking for a story that had received tens of thousands of visitors from Twitter. There are probably many more around, perhaps some with over 100,000 visitors referred from Twitter.
And the interesting thing is that this phenomenon is not limited to tech blogs, blogs that have the Tweetmeme widget or blogs where the author has a massive Twitter following. Just like with social bookmarking sites, Twitter is picking stories from websites that don’t even know what Twitter is, that don’t have a “Tweet This” link at the bottom of their articles, and it is sending a lot of traffic to them.
For example, last week MSNBC published an article inside its Discovery Channel column titled Nude, Mona Lisa-like painting surfaces. I don’t think that the author of the article tried to promote it on Twitter at all, and the site does not have any Twitter widgets or buttons. Yet Bit.ly shows that it got over 6,000 visitors from Twitter:
It is not the same as a Digg front page, but it is a decent amount, especially when compared with other social bookmarking sites like Reddit and Delicious.
Another point to take into consideration is that Twitter is growing much faster that Digg or any other bookmarking sites:
Finally, Twitter also has a cleaner process for sharing links and stories. There are no “power users” who control what gets popular and what doesn’t, no need to submit the story to the right category and with a catchy title, no risk of people burying your stories for no reason, and the list goes on.
So instead of the “Digg effect,” soon we might be looking at the “Twitter effect.”