Pop Created the Twitter Link Farm

Many people complain about Twitter becoming a stream of links. Now a research report supports their claims, but the surprising reason for the shift is an increase in popularity some users receive, as noted by larger follower counts.

Two professors studied 2500 people on Twitter, and then artificially inflated some of the subject group’s Twitter accounts with new followers. The surprise result?

The newly popular Twitterati found that they couldn’t keep growing their accounts by just sounding off or offering day in the life content. To keep the momentum going they increased frequency posting links and updates, and found that stopped impacting their growth, too.

When that failed, the average follower stopped communicating. They just stopped.

Instead, they started viewing Twitter as a static medium, going in and browsing, and then leaving. Much like one would treat TV. And the posts that are left? Well, those are the links. The study concludes the more links that are on Twitter, the less conversation there will be.

I’ve been on Twitter since March, 2007. While my account never exploded like some of my peers, I have seen relatively consistent growth. Sometimes I have offered more link posts on their to grow my account, and currently, I do less of that (but still some). As you can see by the above chart, that’s never really impacted my growth one way or the other. I never left the Twitter conversation, though.

What causes an account to still grow? The truth? I can only say that I have strived to share useful or fun content, and to be present for others.

Plus, frankly, I enjoy talking with people on Twitter, much more so than Facebook. I know Facebook is more dynamic, but… I think that enjoyment shines through.

However, striking up conversations on Twitter is harder by the month. As the study indicates, the link stream gets thicker. And the genuine @s seem to be dissippating.

What do you think?

  • It takes much more effort now to create and carry a conversation than it used to. Not impossible but there is so much noise on Twitter now it is harder to break through.

    • geofflivingston

      Yeah, I actually look for updates without links. Just makes it easier to qualify real people.

  • I would agree. And, I’m definitely guilty of that. As we’re all strapped for time, we have to choose where to engage. It is getting harder and harder to do that – especially since so many are maximizing their time by scheduling posts. People are less likely to be there to respond when they post something now than a few years ago.

    However, unlike you, I’ve started to like Facebook more again. I had always preferred Twitter, but I’m finding it’s easier to converse on Facebook now. I’m guessing this is because my network is much smaller there and the connections are that much tighter.

    Much to think about with this, Geoff. The question becomes, what do you do about it?

    • My use/habits are much like yours, Laura. Time was, I couldn’t dream of *not* being on Twitter. The last year/year and a half, I’ve found that it’s still a great place to meet people, and I still enjoy Twitter chats, etc., but more and more once I feel I *know* someone, I start interacting with them on Facebook. I feel less pressure on FB, and I do feel some element of pressure on Twitter… to participate, to just “be” there, and that is physically not possible.

      • geofflivingston

        FB is one I yield to, not because I like it, but because I should and I know it. I do find it to be Fakebook, though! Hi, like my unicorn? LOL. Twitter is a pressure cooker, and a huge traffic driver for me, so no escaping that one.

      • I use twitter as a broadcast medium almost exclusively. That usage pattern is born out of my own frustration and learning. Facebook is about 100X more engaging for me. I can drop the EXACT SAME question in both streams (and I have), get zero response on Twitter and have a 100 comment thread on Facebook.

        I’m sure part of the issue is you “get out of it what you put into it” and since I put less and less into twitter, I am rewarded in kind…but I’m not willing to put that kind of time and effort into an uphill battle.

    • geofflivingston

      I think it’s a question of prioritization more than anything now. Focus on what matters and the rest takes care of itself.

      • geofflivingston

        For example, you’re focusing on Facebook. I am working on one on one dialogue through back channels to replace this. We’re still networking, just in different ways.

  • Pamela Morse

    I find that some of the chats I visited are not happening any more, and the full time convos like #usguys are full of links. When I first got a twitter account I thought it was all about links, just from observation. I think my peak chatting days are over, just because it took so much time. I like to use it to joke around and hang out, but that is more easily done in a personal way elsewhere now.

    • geofflivingston

      Totally agree. I have been enjoying real person meetings more and more frequently these days. Chats don’t mean very much to me anymore at all. I do have to work to get conversations going on Twitter these days.

      • Pamela Morse

        You are totally going to go deep into the personal presence and living where and when you are as you enjoy Scandanavia…and you will feel peer pressure to simply be….. it will be gloriously not like tweeting at all.

        • geofflivingston

          Ah, we had a change in plans. Now heading to Arizona/New Mexico. Still should be removed from it all quite nicely!

  • The trend has been creeping in for the better part of a year. More and more people are treating it like a broadcast channel, often automated. Social is loosing its soul. The same thing happened to AOL chats back in the day. Advertisers brought in automated bots and the bots eventually killed the conversation.

    • geofflivingston

      Yeah, we talked about this on Twitter. Social is going to become a part of the meal instead of the main dish at this rate. People won’t stand for non-stop messaging.

      • An interesting side note. I actually wrote this comment before we talked on Twitter. Let’s do the time warp again.

  • esta h. singer

    GR8 read Geoff.

    I’ve been on Twitter since 2009 and watching it evolve. I have established very solid friendships over the years, and met these friends IRL. That said, had I recently joined, my experience would be different. Twitter is an art if you’re truly understanding and leveraging the platform. There is a balance between engaging and sharing.

    It’s easy to get lost in the streams if you’re not managing the plethora of information and chats; “lists” are a must. What makes a bit easier for me to keep conversations moving is my inclusion in several groups #BA75 (article written about top 75 Badass Women on Twitter) and #WIHG (Women in High Gear.) Members are very active; sharing and engaging. That said, simply by reaching out to influencers will demonstrate the true “power of the force” ~ they will respond graciously.

    It’s interesting you find Facebook more dynamic; I find it static. On Facebook you share a history, on Twitter you share interests. Facebook is like a Mall (you go into a closed environment expecting to run into people you know) Twitter, the street (you can turn any corner and meet someone new.)

    Like you, I love twitter; I can’t imagine my life without the amazing and supportive friends I’ve made all over the globe. Thank you for the article! So hard to keep up with new stats! :)) esta

    • geofflivingston

      And thank you for the tips. I am sure some folks are going to get a lot out of the list suggestions. On FB, I do find the commenting to be more dynamic, the topics, well, not so much.

      And yes, there is just too much new research to stay ahead of… We must all do our best, and be satisfied that we cannot possibly get all of it!

      • esta h. singer

        Amen ;)

  • Twitter is a poor platform for conversation (long back-and-forths can annoy mutual followers; lack of threading makes multi-user conversations difficult to follow), but an EXCELLENT platform for link sharing.

    I don’t see it as a problem at all. It’s Twitter’s best use, IMO. Most of what I read online I find via Twitter. It’s a great discovery tool.

    • geofflivingston

      Well, Twitter likes to call itself a news or information service, so this makes sense. Good point!

  • Interesting – I definitely like breaking into a lively back-n-forth discussion on Twitter with some of my regular friends. Otherwise, the longer and more visual format of Facebook seems to be the place where I interact the most. It is also where I am most candid since it is still an opt-in regarding what gets shared (versus the very public Twitter feed…I RARELY DM).

    I do post a lot of links because I share a lot through Triberr…and of course plenty of content via Bleacher Report, anything Denver sports, and ESPN…hey, I’m a sports guy!

    • geofflivingston

      It’s funny, the threaded comment feature was a huge debate and point of conversationin 2008. I really think it gets back to that function and how commiunities grew to use the networks, but like hashtags are Twitter’s domain, threads are Facebook’s . After I published this, I felt guilty about going on Triberr. Yikes!

  • Brian D. Meeks

    I agree, the genuine @s are disappearing, but I find the people that I’ve been chatting with for several years are still happy to discuss baseball or bacon.

    I wonder if it is the newer folks who haven’t quite gotten into the joys of the Twitter conversation.

    It is hard to say, but I would guess that I have fewer conversations than I did a year ago. The main reason for this is that I’ve found the communities (one in particular) in G+ to be more lively. The group discussions are often incredibly informative and surprisingly respectful.

    FB still has some, but they are mostly people saying how much they hate people with differing political views. Those conversations have become tired and predictable.

    • geofflivingston

      I think FB is fakebook, frankly. I rarely see the type of deep sincere conversation that I like, or the discussion of cool things like you do on blogs. It reminds me of the Waltons. I totally agree that G+ communities rock the house, and in many ways represent the best part of that network.