Twitter's rise and the decline of blogs


UK internet visits to twitter 2009-2008

It was April when Hitwise last released stats on Twitter’s growth in the UK. Yesterday, Robin Goad published the chart above showing Twitter’s continuing rise and had this to say:

Twitter has been the fastest growing major website in the UK over the last 12 months, and certainly the most talked about. The noticeable thing about Twitter’s growth is that the vast majority of it – 93% in fact – has occurred during 2009. If anything, the service is even more popular than our numbers imply, as we are only measuring traffic to the main Twitter website. If people accessing their Twitter accounts via mobile phones and third party applications were included, the numbers could be even higher.

He goes on to look in detail at where traffic from Twitter goes, pointing out that 55.9% is sent to content-driven online media sites, such as social networks, blogs, and news and entertainment websites – a very different profile to Google for example.

On the same day, the Guardian’s Charles Arthur penned this:

Blogging is dying. Actually, no, let me qualify that. The long tail of blogging is dying. I say this with confidence […] Where is everybody? Anecdotally and experimentally, they’ve all gone to Facebook, and especially Twitter.

He backs this up with evidence of his own – which I have to say matches my intuition into what is happening:

More and more of the feeds I follow [haven’t been updated for 2 months]. Why? Because blogging isn’t easy. More precisely, other things are easier – and it’s to easier things that people are turning. Facebook’s success is built on the ease of doing everything in one place. (Search tools can’t index it to see who’s talking about what, which may be a benefit or a failing.) Twitter offers instant content and reaction. Writing a blog post is a lot harder than posting a status update, putting a funny link on someone’s Wall, or tweeting. People are still reading blogs, and other content. But for the creation of amateur content, their heyday for the wider population has, I think, already passed. The short head of blogging thrives. Its long tail, though, has lapsed into desuetude.

So what does this mean for brands? Well, as Charles points out, people are still reading blogs and we would have always have recommended talking to those in the short head (which is still pretty massive compared to the relative scarcity of conventional media) – i.e. those having engaging conversations with the large communities following them. It’s also essential to remember that unlike the transient nature of Twitter and the great walled garden of Facebook, blog posts are effectively conversations that are eternally visible through Google, meaning they have more inherent value to brands.

The fact to note here is that some of the creators (in Forrester’s terms) have moved from blogging to creation in other forms of social media, and this should not be ignored. Your social media strategy should never rest on blogs alone (just as it shouldn’t on any other part of social media) – you should be experimenting with Twitter, Facebook and other channels – and your strategy should be driven by your business objectives, where your target audience spends their time and where you can be most effective.

Of course it’s not just your strategy but the also the way you conduct yourself that counts (as Habitat discovered to their cost this week) – as Robin concludes:

The key to having a successful Twitter presence is to engage the community. Twitter is a great viral marketing channel, and for many users the aim is to have their story ‘retweeted’ – i.e. passed on by other users – as many times as possible. Although all of the newspapers have multiple ‘official’ feeds, these tend to be bland and have very low ‘retweet’ rates. Where journalists themselves are ‘tweeting’ themselves and engaging with the Twitter community, they typically have more success in creating viral stories.

Although we’d probably put it differently, we agree. Success with Twitter, like the rest of social media, is not about mechanistically shouting at strangers, it’s about being human – making friends and having conversations with them.