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Listens Do Not Equal Listeners or Why Twitter Bombing is BS

Jan 2, 2015

This is an article I wrote for the September 2014 issue of Podertainment Magazine

There is a trend I am starting to see with some podcasters - they are starting to heavily spam Twitter.  What they are doing is sending out massive amounts of tweets, often using multiple twitter accounts.  These tweets will be packed with different trending hash tags and a direct link to one of their old episodes.  They will do a different tweet for each old episode and will do these tweets over and over and over.  And when I say spamming Twitter - maybe “Twitter Bombing” would be more accurate description.  We are talking about in many cases 10 or more tweets an hour - 24 hours a day - 7 days a week - 52 weeks a year.  (In one case it is over 150 tweets an hour)

Apparently some lets call them “Snake Oil Salesmen” have told these podcasters if they twitter bomb like this for their old episodes it is “guaranteed” to grow their audience.  Well I went and looked at the stats of three of these Twitter Bombers and the data was fascinating.  First - here is how often these three shows were tweeting.

Show A - 16 Tweets an hour

Show B - 11 Tweets an hour

Show C - 7 Tweets an hour

When I looked at the overall stats for daily downloads for all episodes they all looked similar to the chart below (chart 1)

Chart 1

And if that is the only graph you look at, then the numbers and trend lines look great.  Maybe these Snake Oil Salesmen have found the magic bullet to growing audiences?  Ummm - NO!!!!  Because the devil is in the details (or data) and when you look closer at these shows stats they all have something else in common stats wise.  The following three charts are for the three shows I looked at.

 

 

 

 

(Charts A to C)

Let me explain the charts above: 

The Horizontal axis is for how many    episodes back in a shows catalog that episode was released and the vertical axis is for the number of downloads for that episode.  For example a 3 on the horizontal axis means it was 3 episodes ago for that show, a 33 means it was 33 episodes ago.  Look up for the number of downloads for that episode.

In Podcasting if you really are growing an audience - then your downloads from a few episodes ago should be greater then the downloads for your episodes from much further back in your catalog.  That is not what I have found with any of the Twitter Bombers - The Blue line is the chart of the per episode downloads - and the Red line is the trend line.  In all three cases the trend line was strongly negative. With the most recent episodes getting almost no downloads compared to old episodes.

Worse than that when you go and look at their user agent information what you find is very very few downloads are coming from iTunes.  This means yes they may be getting some listens to old episodes but they are not getting listeners and definitely not getting subscribers.

All Twitter Bombing is doing is proving some people will click on anything - but these people that are clicking on those links in tweets - they are not coming back - they are not subscribing - and they definitely are not listeners of the shows.

Why does all this mater? Why not just let these Twitter Bombers blissfully think they are growing their audiences?

Because many of these podcasters that are Twitter Bombing are now starting to hit up advertisers for advertising. What the Twitter Bombers are showing advertisers is Chart 1 above for their stats. They definitely are not showing Charts A to C.  When these advertisers then pay money for ads on these shows and the ads don’t perform, and they definitely will not perform because there is no real audience to take action, do you know what the Advertisers think.

“Wow Podcasting has no ROI”  

And that is bad for all of podcasting. For ad campaigns I run at libsyn, I will not include any twitter bombers, simply because I need to protect all those shows that actually have real audiences - not just listens.  Including Twitter Bombers in a campaign would likely mean the end of those campaigns.  

Here is a simple message for the Twitter Bombers out there.  When it comes to growing your audience ie LISTENERS - there is one tried and true way to do that - WOMM - Word of Mouth Marketing.  This is where you produce a really great show with really great content - and your audience tells their friends and so on.  That is the ONLY proven way of growing and sustaining a real audience.

Please stop “Twitter Bombing” - and take that time and effort and put it towards creating great content.  

 

Update 1/9/15:  I want to clairify the definition of "Twitter Bombing".  If you are tweeting out the direct link to your latest episode 1 to 3 times in a week and saying here is my latest episode - that is NOT twitter bombing - that is good social marketing. You can even use the tools in Libsyn to get that first tweet out when you release your episode.  But if you are tweeting 5, 10, 20, >150 times an hour 24/7/365 using popular hash tags - that DEFINITELY is Twitter Bombing.  

 


Rob W
almost three years ago

Philip - that iTunes info comes from the user agent info from each episode. This is part of the advanced stats in the libsyn.com offering.

Travis - Minneapolis MN
almost three years ago

I've been an avid podcast addict for years (since my first iPhone) and only recently taken the first steps at test recording and planning my first podcast. That said - I'm always looking to soak up as much information and education about podcasting as possible.

Having gone to school for marketing and have run several successful small businesses - I'm always on the lookout for marketing ideas and tips for things to avoid.

Twitter has been one of those areas that I'm not sure about how to best utilize beyond conversations (replying and tagging) people - and content generation/curating. Spamming people just doesn't make sense - but hashtag bombing kinda has that appeal like it might work - so thank you for disproving even the appeal.

A couple questions I have though is how you define twitter bombing. If you do 10 per day - finding people looking for a certain keyword and then tweeting with that hashtag in a meaningful way - would that still fall under the same "twitter bombing" grounds?


Mike
almost three years ago

Great post! Thanks for sharing! I am always looking for ways to grow my audience but I agree word of mouth is best in any business!

Phillip Swindall
almost three years ago

These are very similar to the growth that followed my on Twitter Bomb Experiment. However, while I'm continuing to conduct experimentation, I have YET to find one piece of information which you are reporting in this article and that is "iTunes Subscriptions."

With respect, I must ask... where in heck are you getting this data? I have YET to find ANY iTunes data on podcasts being publicly disseminated. If you could share the source, if would GREATLY help me in my similar research projects.

Thanks