Social Media Sleuthing: A-List Traffic and bit.ly Tricks

Ever wonder how much traffic social media A-listers and publishers drive with their own Twitter stream? Using bit.ly, you can often see this as well as a wealth of other information, such as what content someone shares and even what accounts they manage.

If you know me, you probably know that I am part analyst, part geek, and looking to peel back one more layer of the onion whenever I have time. In this occasional series, I will be sharing some of the ways I have learned to use social media and marketing tools to peel back one more layer.

Here is some of the information you can discover with a few minutes on Twitter and bitly.

How much traffic do publishers and social media A-listers drive?

To find out, grab a bit.ly or j.mp URL, add a + to the end of it, and throw it into your browser bar. The resulting info page is available for every bit.ly link and shows how many times the link has been clicked.

Many vanity URLs used by publishers, like on.mash.to and nyti.ms, are managed through bit.ly, you can add a + to these URLs to get the bit.ly info page. Here is an example link with a + added: http://on.mash.to/w1Di47+

So how much traffic do they drive? Here are click stats from bit.ly, pulled by averaging five links shared from each account.

Bitly Click Statistics for NYTimes, Mashable, Jay Baer and The Oregonian

What content do they read and share?

Next, dive one layer deeper. What content do people share regularly? Rather than reviewing a Twitter stream and clicking each link, click the username on the info page to access the user’s timeline (note some people have set the timeline to private). You can see Jay Baer’s timeline at http://bitly.com/u/jaybaer.

Jay Baer's Public bit.ly Timeline

Looking more closely at the timeline, you can quickly see two things.

  • What sites Jay reads and shares content from. Across a few days, Jay shared links from CNet, Social Media Today, Social Media Examiner, Convince & Convert, Simply Measured, Search Engine Land, ClickZ, Social Fresh, Managing Communities, MediaPost, Forbes and 12most. Further, Jay’s sharing isn’t biased to any one site, he only shared one or two links to each site.
  • Jay is not (likely) using Twitterfeed or another automated tool to share these links. Feeds often have redirect URLs through feedburner or a similar service or have a distinctive link structure.

Unexpected Findings

When you drill into the timeline, sometimes you will see an unexpected mix of links. Often, this happens when someone is managing multiple accounts.

The Portland Business Journal generally only shares links to their own content. However, when you look at their public bit.ly timeline, you see links from two different sites, the Portland Business Journal and Oregon Sustainable Business.

Public Timeline for the Portland Business Journal account

The same person is likely managing Twitter for both sites’ accounts. Since they are part of the same business, this isn’t a surprise, but sometimes this can uncover surprising or useful information.

Here are two examples of information I found through a brief bit of bit.ly sleuthing.

  • The same person was handling social media for small parts of both AT&T and Verizon. Although the accounts being managed were small, far removed from corporate and not competing with each other, this was still a shock to me.
  • The (undisclosed) client list for a social media consultant. With additional time, this list would have revealed a significant amount about the tactics this consultant generally employed for clients.

Your Turn

What are your favorite tools for social media sleuthing? What kind of information do you look for? Share your favorites in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

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About Eric Wittlake

I am a digital and B2B marketer with a background in online media and analytics. I work with B2B clients on media and integrated marketing programs at Babcock & Jenkins. You can connect with me on Twitter at @wittlake or in the comments here on my B2B Digital Marketing blog.