Can we learn anything from tweeted links that get clicked?

I love reading RSS feeds. I try to make time to read them at least one hour a day. My job requires me to stay updated with new development in marketing communication, but mostly I read my feeds because it’s rewarding to read stuff that make me respond, “I didn’t know that” or “I’ve never thought of that”.

I too find joy in sharing the articles that fascinate me using Twitter. Maybe because I’m vain, I want to know if others are also interested in what I share. This is why I track the number of click-through of each link I share via bit.ly.

Few days ago, I learned that an article I shared on a Sunday afternoon gained around 550 click-troughs. Normally Sunday afternoon is a slow time for my tweeted links, but maybe something about the content really captured people’s attention.

This triggered me to trace back all the links I’ve shared that are recorded by bit.ly (unfortunately bit.ly doesn’t track the links I share via Flipboard and Zite). I came up with a list of articles that gained more than 100 click-throughs.

Do inspect the list, and let’s make hypotheses on what kind of topics gain the most attention from people who get exposed to my tweeted-links. From that, what can we tell about those people? Will we be able to generalize the hypotheses to a bigger population?

Enjoy.

***

Why Atheists Should Fight Anti-Muslim Bigotry (104 clicks)
I don’t know which one caught the most attention: the anti-Muslim bigotry or the atheism. I have shared more links about atheism, but most of them never gain more than 50 click-throughs. It’s more likely what pulls more interest is the anti-Muslim bigotry, or the seemingly contradicting topic.

Brain Imaging Captures Female Orgasm in Action (106 clicks)
Sex always captures attention, I suppose (we’ll see more evidence later). I wonder if the topic was about the brain image of a male having an orgasm we would see the same level of click-through. If no, then what makes the topic of female orgasms more interesting? Is it because they are more elusive? Or maybe those who clicked through the link were mostly men, who were rather curious if they finally could decipher when women faked it or not?

Same Sex Marriage (Revisited) (109 clicks)
This article refuted the objections against same-sex marriages clearly and convincingly. Considering that I also tweet as @nickynmita that supports LGBT youth in Indonesia, I believe the readers of this article are those who are actually pro same-sex marriage, and they want to find rational supports from their belief.

Creative Review’s Advertising Picks of The Year, 2011 (109 clicks)
I guess people who don’t work in the advertising industry can be enticed with a classic top-ten or best selection kind of title.

Paul Krugman on Inspiration for a Liberal Economist (110 clicks)
The context mattered a lot: I have no data but anecdotal evidence makes me suspect that the educated urban middle-class Indonesia, “the tweeting class with fleeting social consciousness” I often call them, harbor suspicion to anything called liberalism, liberal economy, and especially “neoliberal”. I’m not at all sure if this article helped dissuade their prejudice against neolib or not.

Top 10 Most Overpaid Actors in Hollywood (110 clicks)
Maybe we like reading about celebrities, and more so if they become the cautionary tale of moral failing. Agree?

You Might Be a Marxist (113 clicks)
Do people silently fear that they could be Marxists? Or do they actually think it’s cool to be one? Or mostly they simply want to know what Marxism is all about? What do you think?

Case study video of an advertising agency proposed a microwave that played music (114 clicks)
What’s more surprising for me is that people in Indonesia actually bothered clicking through this link to a video. Maybe it was something in the link bait –it was about how great agencies came back with better solutions if they started thinking about solving the problem, not just making ads.

Is “Word of Mouth Marketing” Overhyped? (115 clicks)
One of my pet peeves is how old thinking in the broadcast media is forced to fit into the new media. This results in marketers and their mindless agencies keep believing they can easily and unilaterally push their branded content via people they deem as “influentials”. I hope this article can help them see the light and stop wasting money and energy doing social media marketing the wrong way.

‘Secret Ingredient’ In Religion That Makes People Happier (117 clicks)
In case you’re curious, it’s the social connection from the community rather than the belief in the content itself. I guess happiness is an interesting topic, and the word ‘secret’ always amplifies curiosity.

Horoscoped (117 clicks)
I can’t help being intrigued how two major sources of superstitions, religions and astrology, get the same level of interest.

Never Tell a Woman You Love Her! (Unless…) (119 clicks)
I guess the title says it all. It makes a good example on how to write a headline for banner ads.

Go to Work, Mom, the Kids Will Be Fine (123 clicks)
I suspect this tells how working mothers’ guilt and anxiety are still relevant for some who get to see my tweets.

Search by Image (131 clicks)
You’ll see again that tools (in this case, Google Search Image) and tips to do better search are relevant.

Who Runs The World? (133 clicks)
This is an infographic about conspiracy theories. I guess this gives another anecdotal evidence how popular this topic is for certain audience.

Marriage 3.0 (133 clicks)
This is a landing page to a blog in Big Think mega site. The blog writer, Pamela Haag, offers new perspective to see marriages and relationship. I find her perspective more realistic and healthier for today’s world where more women are more educated and wealthier, and when they start to realize romanticism might be over-rated.

“Sticking it Out for the Children:” A Home Design Solution (135 clicks)
This is from the blog mentioned-above. I wonder if the popularity of this article relates to the state of marriage of its readers, i.e. unhappily married but decide not to get divorced for children’s sake.

The Personality of Sperm Donors (136 clicks)
I really can’t tell who mostly read this: those who are interested to be donors or recipients?

“What is the best way to stop your child becoming an athiest?” (137 clicks)
Again, another example of when I really don’t know whether most of readers get disappointed or amused after reading this article? In case you ask me, I find it really funny.

Unwanted Penis Tattooed on Man’s Back (138 clicks)
Enough said. Next.

The Boner Curve: New Study Links Penis Size to Economic Growth (138 clicks)
Oh, the persistent appearance of penis-related topic in the list of intriguing articles. But one a more serious note, this is a good article reminding us not to confuse correlation with causation.

When I Came Out… (145 clicks)
This is landing page of a Tumblr of stories when people came out. I’m glad people are interested. I seriously think we need to have an Indonesia version of this.

Does Internet Piracy Really Hurt the Economy? (145 clicks)
The link was shared during the heyday of SOPA. Another example of the importance of context.

Is Marcus Bachmann gay? Dan Savage and Jon Stewart Think Gaydar Answers The Question. They’re Wrong. (150 clicks)
Even without data, I’m almost sure most readers of this article are LGBT people who like to debate whether gaydar exists or not.

Agency Client Speak Translated (151 clicks)
I can’t imagine how this article will interest people who don’t work in advertising agencies. And I’m sure they read it as catharsis.

Twitterature: The World Greatest Books in Twenty Tweets or Less (165 clicks)
I never understand why Indonesians (I don’t know about other people in different countries) embrace lectures-via-tweets so much. Are we Indonesians too reluctant to read blog posts? Is it because they love being spoon-fed, too busy, or they think our bad Internet access will not allow it? Anyway, I was being sarcastic when I shared this link. Lo and behold, many were probably enthusiastic instead of enraged by what the book offers.

Condom Campaign Highlights Dizzying Costs of Having a Kid (172 clicks)
One hypothesis: the article shows clever strategy and good creativity. Another hypothesis: condom is probably a proxy for penis. See above.

What Are We Voting For? (175 clicks)
The link was shared, I believe, during the general election time in Indonesia. The article discusses how ‘irrational’ and swayable voting behavior is.

How to Use Google Search More Effectively (200 clicks)
See the article on Google Image Search. Tips about tools most people use frequently are appreciated.

Your Followers Are No Measure of Your Influence (232 clicks)
This is similar with the article on word of mouth, i.e. the prevalent and persistent misperceptions in marketing communication, especially social media.

System Thinking: Lessons From The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Senge, Kleiker, Roberts, Ross and Smith (248 clicks)
This is the only presentation slide that makes to the list. My guess is that the topic of system thinking is interesting for many sets of people, especially those who don’t usually get exposed with my tweets.

HIV and AIDS Information Pack, 2011 (257 clicks)
The PDF was shared when the Indonesian Twitter universe was busy discussing the case of possible discrimination threat of a daughter of someone seropositive. I hope the article somehow contributed to minimize misunderstanding and prejudice about HIV and AIDS.

Marissa Haque: Addie MS Diduga Bermental Bully (dari Hasil Investigasi Masa Lalunya di SMAN3) (251 clicks)
I’m sorry, my non Indonesian-speaking readers, but I can’t translate this into English and still make sense to you. In short, for many Indonesian people on Twitter, the public display of the manic meltdown of this local, has-been celebrity is just too legit to quit.

The Password Conundrum (297 clicks)
I will classify this as “useful tips or info about using Internet more smartly” category.

Five Signs You’re a Bad Boss (333 clicks)
Are many managers wary that they might be bad bosses? Or most of the readers are people who want to check if their loathsome bosses are certified evil? I’m leaning more to the second explanation.

What Our Words Say (350 clicks)
I suspect this article gets shared a lot amongst passionate bloggers.

How Twitter Makes You A Better Writer (430 clicks)
Another example of the popularity of writing tips. I’m not surprised if these two articles are shared and read by the same group of people.

15 Strat Tips For Crafting the Coolest and Most Impressive Twitter Bio (491 clicks)
Despite its seemingly serious and bombastic title, this article is really hilarious and I guess that’s the reason it’s popular.

Twenty-Six Years Later, What Happened to the “Marriage Crunch” Generation of Women? (550 clicks)
This is the article I talked about in the beginning of this post. I suspect most of the readers and the spreaders are women. It suggests that getting married in time still preoccupies many middle-class, educated Indonesian women.

A World of Tweets (921 clicks)
This is an interactive real-time map of Twitter activity in a country. I guess many Indonesians were fascinated to see how the country dominated the Twitter universe, especially during desperate traffic jam in Jakarta.

***

So there you go. Do have your own explanations why certain topics are so popular? Do you have other questions? Please tell me what’s on your mind. If you post it in this blog, I promise I’ll tweet the link.

11 thoughts on “Can we learn anything from tweeted links that get clicked?

  1. My personal theory on the number of clicks for a particular link shared via twitter has a lot to do with its virality, not so much on people’s general interest. Meaning, it depends on who retweet the links and how many followers they have. For example, if a link is retweeted by somebody with 2 million followers, you can be sure that the link will have more clicks. :)

    • In my case, not all the tweet-links in the list were RT-ed by the so called people with many followers. Also, using that theory, it leaves a room to explain why some tweet-links get re-tweeted more than others? Influence, if we can use this concept to explain virality, is context-dependent. Timing and relation to current issues are key, and much less about the so-called people with many followers.

      • I think my initial theory can be simplified to the correlation between visibility and potential ‘click-through’s. The more the links are made visible to twitter audience, the higher the chance that you’ll come across people who find the link interesting, and then click through it (or retweet it again). Thus, in this case, retweets by ‘twitcelebs’, so to speak, result in higher potential for this click throughs.

      • Elisa,

        Yes, it sounds logical, right: the moe links are made visible to twitter audience, the higher the chance that you’ll come across people who’ll click through or pass them on. Yet if we read this article or the more academic-flavored one, we’ll understand that visibility is only a small part of the story on how an idea gets diffused.

        Do read them and let me know what you think.

        Cheers,
        PM

    • Good article. Thanks for sharing. I think I can agree that ideas spread by these ‘influencers’ (i.e. highly visible ideas) don’t translate directly to their virality and/or acceptance.

      But, I always see twitter as a unique platform in which a lot of these notions about influencer and virality don’t directly apply. Even more so in this link-sharing context.

      In Twitter, once somebody tweets something, it automatically lands in the followers timeline, like it or not. A link tweeted by ‘tweet-celebs’ means higher number of potential people who will click through it or ‘check it out’, even though they don’t end up agreeing with it or sharing it. Thus, I see the correlation between visibility and the number of clicks being more prominent in this case.

      To support this, I feel the list of topics that you have up there is very fragmented, and it’s a bit hard to draw high-level categories out of it. But this is based on a quick glance only, and I haven’t done the actual categorization. Thus, my temporary opinion to your headline question would be: No, we can’t tell much from these numbers of clicks about people who got exposed to the links.

      (Before I forgot, thanks for sharing the data and raising this discussion, in general I find this very intriguing)

      • Elisa,

        I included 37 articles in that list. I already took out links to articles in my blog (they usually gain 100+ click-throughs). Bit.ly also didn’t register links I tweeted via Flipboard or Zite. And I have linked-tweeted thousands of tweets: the number of pages that record my links shortened by bitly is 243.

        As I said before, many of the 37 articles in the list didn’t get retweeted. So the visibility of some of those links don’t differ much.

        Yes, I’ve gained more followers by each month, but then there are links in the list that came when my followers were <2,000.

        In Twitter, a tweet will only land in someone's timeline only if that someone's Twitter-client is activated. This explains why I have "prime-time" and "fringe-time" to tweet links. For example, according to analysis from SocialBro, my prime time is 9.30 to 11.00 am weekdays.

        So let's say we've identified several factors: whether the links were tweeted during prime-time or not, whether the tweets were passed over by people with many followers, whether the tweeted-links were topical or not. These are factors that lie in the externalities of the content of the link-bait or the articles. My question is, are there any other factors inherent in the link-baits or articles themselves that can explain why they gained many click-throughs?

        I'm very open to the possibility that we may never know.

        Cheers,
        PM

  2. My theories:
    1. The highly relateable factor for the right niche/demography. Many contents are quite specific and giving the right keywords for the links to effectively attract a certain segment of readers, i.e. (my wild guess) : middle-class (relatively privileged upbringing and lifestyle), educated/well-read, liberal-thinking, secular, Jakartan/urban-raised, career-minded (creative/arts/media/communications – most likely), late 20s to early 40s, English users (foreign education most likely), information junkies, unbiased to gender issues, socially conscious yet apolitical, relationship challenged and most possibly late bloomers (the latter two are wilder guess hahaha).

    2. Such specific niche is considerably a minority in Indonesia, yet makes a solid, committed segment of audience/readers – usually goes for those info-sharing feeds/digital content curating websites like mashable, digg etc. Adding some more local contents – there you grab’em. For this specific niche information is for information per se. Reading does not have to entertain, give instant solutions or effect. It’s about having a daily dose of relateable references.

    3. Consistency in sharing the links over time. Another wild guess is that many of the clickers are loyal followers, there’s an expectation and certainty of the content’s ‘quality’/characteristics, meaning it’s almost equivalent to subscription, albeit an informal and irregular one.

    4. Though I don’t advise you to create a more established, regular RSS feed or anything for people to subscribe. The surprise element makes it more natural and imho that’s also how you’ve gained your readers so far. :)

    Keep sharing.

    • Farah,

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I suppose your theories, especially #1, explains how I managed to build some sort of “niche” audience. And I agree with you about the possible characteristics of that particular audience, although I’d love to highlight “socially conscious yet apolitical” and “relationship-challenged:)

      I also agree that this nice will be very likely a minority in Indonesia.

      I guess, as much as my tweets somewhat have built a niche audience (the average click-through of a link in my tweet is probably 10 to 15), certain tweets gain much more click-throughs. The list up there consists of the ‘outliers’, where they find a much wider audience. I suppose this has something to do with mainly timing and relevancy with the mainstream topics. I suspect the impact of RTs by “celebritweet” is not consistent.

      Again, thanks for your theories.

      Cheers,
      PM

  3. I have always been interested in how niches grow and develop, especially here where many things are always (imho) pro-mainstream/mass culture. I do believe that the real demography of our society is more multi-layered than what the market (or people who direct the market) often suggests. And that includes the way information and knowledge are consumed.
    So yes, it’s the content, and timing + relevancy to current hype/breaking news like you said.
    By the way, we’re talking about links that get clicked right? Not just retweeted? Because I observe tweets that got retweeted multiple times (yes usually by celebritweets) usually don’t have links in it, or simply being retweeted for their catchy headlines. People love rhetorics. :)

    • Farah,

      You infected me with interest on how niche grows amidst mainstream. In Indonesia, when we talk about marketing, we refer to mass: mass marketing, mass products. Mass producers love the mainstream due to its efficiency,

      But I guess current technology plus the Internet somehow gives life to stuff that are not mass produced or mass distributed. Music and books and news used to be mass-produced and mass-distributed. Now it doesn’t have to be.

      Now on links that got retweeted, especially links from celebrities or celebritwits. I have never counted this. We need to see if in general tweets don’t normally have links. But if it turns out the proportion is 50-50 yet the ones that get retweeted are disproportionately sans links, then we are on to something.

      Again, in Indonesia the suckiness of Internet connections may contribute why tweeted links are less likely to be passed over.

      • hehe yes of course (re: the click vs retweet issue) it’s my personal assumption based on observing what’s happening around the timeline of people on my radar, which is extremely limited. Though it might be interesting to know the statistics, if there is one.

        But then again, I think what I really wanted to refer to is more about the conversations on celebritweets’ influence in getting information distributed. If I should rephrase my point: I agree they are hugely influential in spreading buzzwords around mass audience, which I am sure would be highly advantageous for marketing or hype generating. But I personally doubt it’s applicable in terms of sharing specific information that caters more to niches, like what your links offered. I do believe it takes more than buzzwords or hype to get people click on links and really read the article, aside from just being simply attracted to the headlines and retweet/share them, there should be a great sense of personal interest, or self-importance.

        At IVAA (which you may have reckoned, caters to very segmented audience/niches too) we make simple analysis of what kinds of information that attract most visitors. We do all promo web-based (hey it’s free :)), usually through updates on our website, then sharing the links around via twitter, emails, mailing lists and facebook. Promo of community events usually gets most retweets/share, but the one that grabs larger number of visitors (meaning people who actually click on the links to get more detailed info) is information on grants, contests, awards, residency application, and others that all have competition/opportunity factors. Less visitors: articles/features. Many of them don’t even get to 10 hits. So yes I quite envy those numbers you got there hehehe.

        Anyways, thanks for sharing your insights, your blog looks very interesting will read more of it, I need much help in the presentation department too (untalented marketer:)).

        Best
        wawah

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