Twitter drives 4 times as much traffic as you think it does
Over the last few weeks, TechCrunch has run a couple posts using their own referrer logs to measure how sharing on various social services drives traffic. In these and other analyses based solely on referrer information, Twitter performs surprisingly poorly relative to expectations many of us have based on our own observations of the volume of link sharing on Twitter.
Does that mean the people you follow on Twitter who share links all the time are that atypical? Do most normal people just not click on links in Tweets? Is LinkedIn far more popular with the rest of the world than it seems to be with the people you know?
No, no, and no. There is a much simpler answer behind this disparity: referrers are a poor way to attribute traffic from social sharing.
Referrer analysis is based on the outdated metaphor of the web as a network of links between static pages that could only be navigated by browsers. Today’s web is built around social streams and other APIs that are consumed via dynamic web applications, desktop clients, mobile apps, and even other web services, all of which render referrers obsolete as an attribution mechanism.
And in the case of links shared on Twitter, it’s very misleading: the referral traffic one sees from Twitter.com is less than 25% of the traffic actually driven by Twitter.