Google+

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: How Bloggers Use Twitter Hashtag Days

70

March 9, 2015 by Paula Reed Nancarrow

Clint Eastwood, 1966 Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Clint Eastwood, 1966 Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Blogging is a tough business.

Sometimes you’re the one with the loaded gun. Sometimes you’re the one who digs. This time I did the digging.

From March 1 – March 8, 2015 I ran a little survey.

I asked bloggers on Twitter who participate in hashtag days like #MondayBlogs, #wwwblogs, #ArchiveDay and #SundayBlogShare ten questions about their usage. (If blog hashtag days are a new concept for you, I explain the basics here.) The rationale behind the survey is here. Basically, I wanted to learn about the amount of time people spend writing blog posts, the amount of time they spend promoting their blog posts on Twitter, and the amount of time they spend reading and retweeting the blog posts of others.

A hefty number of people – 189 – responded.

Not as many as participate in hashtag days themselves, but enough to generate 35 pages of (to me at least) very interesting data. The hashtag days participated in are shown in the response to Question 1 below.

Q1 graph with numbers

Question 2 involved the number of times people typically tweet their own post on a hashtag day. 

Here I was genuinely surprised. By far the largest percentage of those who responded – 77% – only promote their posts between one and three time a day.

Q2 graph and numbers

I suspect that many people could generate additional blog traffic simply by posting their content more often. There’s a lot of fear of overwhelming or annoying followers with excessive retweeting that I think is unnecessary, and I’ll address that in next weeks’ post, where I will outline the pros and cons of my own practice.

The third question involved how many times people retweet others’ blog posts.

Q3 chart and numbersA large percentage here either did not know or were not able to give an hourly tally. For those who were able to give a daily rate, it ranged from 3-4 in a day to “at least 45, usually going to 60.” Often people worked sporadically in sessions around other things they had to do. Some spread retweets throughout the day by prescheduling them. There was concern expressed about spamming followers with retweets, and some were self-limited by a policy of only retweeting what they had time to read and found worthy.

Courtesy Imgur

Courtesy Imgur

Question 4 involved reading the blog posts of others.

Q4 chart and numbers

It should be noted here that while about a third of all respondents – 32% – said they read 4-6 blog posts, 34% who responded read nine or more posts on a hashtag day. Someone pointed out that the survey may be self-selecting on this score; after all, people had to read my post to access the survey in the first place.

bxp22775h

Question 5 concerned the overall amount of time people typically spend on Twitter on a hashtag day.

Q5 chart and numberes

If self-reported data is accurate here, 91% claim to spend three hours or less tweeting and retweeting other blog posts. This is divided almost equally between people who report an hour or less (47%) time on Twitter, and those who spend two to three hours (44%).

It could be that people who are not getting as much as they would like out of hashtag days are spending insufficient time sharing the posts of others. The pendulum can also swing in the other direction. I log my own usage on Toggl, as well as the hours I spend on creative work, and the results have frankly dismayed me. Again, this is something I’ll address in next week’s post on my own practice.

With the exception of Question 10, which was completely open-ended, the next two questions were the most frequently skipped in the survey.

Q6 chart

There’s a simple reason for this: may people do not know how to check their blog stats. For each blogging platform there are built in ways of doing so; you can also install Google Analytics on most blogs, though for me what WordPress offers internally is perfectly adequate.

Q7 chart

For these two questions, I have combined the tables so that you can better compare the results.

Number of Page Views % on Normal Day % on Hashtag Day
1-49 64% 40%
50-99 20% 25%
100-149 8% 12%
150-199 4% 9%
200-299 3% 10%
300-399 1% 2%
400-499 0% 1%
500 or more 1% 2%

Overall, hashtag days seem to help blog traffic, especially in the higher ranges. If they’re not helping you, you may need to make some adjustments, either to your engagement strategy or to make your content itself more engaging.

 

Questions 8 and 9 related to what role blogging plays in participants’ creative lives.

The eighth question involved how many hours was spent in creation of a blog post; the second, how many hours a week were spent in other creative endeavors. I probably should also have asked how regularly the participant wrote a new blog post, but alas, I did not.

Q8 chart and numbersI am not one of the 77% who spend three hours or less writing a blog post, and one of the things I need to assess for myself is whether it makes sense for me to spend as much time as I do in crafting my posts, or whether that energy would be better spent elsewhere. Not that this doesn’t mean I might choose to do something that does not make sense. But at least I will do so with intention.

The ninth question had the most diffuse response of any in the survey.

Q9 chart and numbers

That’s not surprising. There are people working day jobs and writing at night; people exercising their creativity while working part time or raising a family; and people actually trying to make a living at it.

More power to us all.

I am not going to try to summarize the final, open ended question on what additional things people wish I’d asked.

Instead I will direct you to a pdf of the full survey, which you should be able to download here [this link may not work for some people – see below], and browse at your leisure. All the comments for every question are listed in that document. If you see your own, be sure to wave.

leavingrec1

 

There’s a lot I will be drawing on here, both in the numerical data and the comments themselves, over the next few months, as I refine my own blogging and social media strategies so that they more fully align with my creative vision and practice. To those of you who responded in such detail, I’m very grateful. I hope these responses will give us all food for thought, and a means to make our social media interactions more genuine, purposeful and effective.

[Coda 12:21 PM 3/9/2015:  WordPress used to have a Box widget, which is why I put the full survey pdf on Box.com. but apparently this is no longer supported, and their “embed’ tool doesn’t really embed. Supposedly this is the link to the public folder: https://app.box.com/s/1ezetfr9ofxgap2lhfopanurab9x29b6 and this is the link to the actual survey: https://app.box.com/s/biw2bym9lq8kg1m2oana3n8u0gba0dbm. If neither of those work for you you should be able to go directly to the full survey results here with this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-XMF5CQM7/. Please let me know what does and doesn’t work.]

Are there things you’ve learned from this community survey that might make you change your blogging or hashtag day practice? Why or why not? 

 

building-community

70 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: How Bloggers Use Twitter Hashtag Days

  1. Melfka says:

    Interesting read, thank you for running the survey and sharing it! I’d also wonder if you’d care enough to re-run in the future to compare results (or maybe get even more replies).

    Like

    • I’m sure I will be doing more surveys in future, Melfka; I probably won’t rerun this exactly as is because I’ve learned more about how to better design questions. I think once a year is probably the most you can ask an audience to answer this type of survey; also, there’s so much to mine here it won’t be necessary for awhile, at least for me. If somebody else wants to pick up the baton I’d be happy to do their survey!

      Like

  2. Norah says:

    Thanks for conducting the survey in the first place, Paula, and then for compiling these results. They make for a very interesting read and I probably need to give them some more mulling over. I look forward to future posts in which you’ll share your experience and recommendations. I think, from what you have shared above, I fall into the typical but inefficient range. I know I could do with some improvement, but really have to consider what activities progress me towards my goal and which are just enjoyable diversions. :)

    Like

    • I think inefficient is in the eye of the beholder, Norah, and as you well know, what you value in the interaction is the most important thing. Personally one of my problems is obsessiveness, and I’m getting a lot of good information here that’s going to help me direct my efforts in ways that may be less ‘efficient’ but will have more overall value.

      Like

  3. Lisa Reiter says:

    Fascinating Paula. I wonder whether there’s a correlation between time spent crafting a post though and response rates, retweets etc. I also know when I am particularly time starved (like at the moment) I am only likely to read a post with an intriguing title – like this one – couldn’t resist it!

    Like

    • I wonder about those things myself. Unfortunately the survey isn’t scientifically designed enough to really assess that correlation, if there is one. Nor can it measure how happy I am to see you! Just taking a work break now but looking forward to popping over to your blog and catching up with all things Lisa.

      Like

  4. Well done Paula, and thank you for the time you’ve put into this survey.

    The results are interesting….I fall into the self limiting catergory….I never RT something before reading it (or at least, where longer posts are concerned.. scanning it long enough to decide it’s worthy.. both of a RT, and more of my time later)

    I salute those who are able to knock a blog post out in 3 hrs of less….I’m definitely not one of those ppl!

    I feel I could add more….but this damn headache is screaming ‘MOVE AWAY FROM THE SCREEN’ so I’m going to have to leave you (and #MondayBlogs) for now and attempt to sleep… :O)

    Take care, Kimmie x

    Like

  5. Thanks for running the survey. I’m getting a 404 on the downloadable pdf though.

    Like

  6. Thank you so much for doing this for the blogging community!

    Like

  7. Judith Post says:

    Thanks for doing this. The results are really interesting. I knew I wasn’t very efficient at blogging or tweeting, but I didn’t realize HOW inefficient I am.

    Like

  8. Gene'O says:

    This is very interesting, and helpful. Not sure I’ve learned anything, but it’s confirming something I have suspected for awhile — I should be sharing a lot more of my own links. I share a LOT of links to blogs, but on hashtag days, probably only three of every ten I share take people to my own blogs. I do a lot of sharing for friends and a lot of retweeting.

    Like

    • Gene’O: I do think many people treat Twitter like Facebook, and fear sharing too many links for reasons that don’t really apply on this medium. Not that i don’t encounter a huge number of people who do nothing but self-promotion on Twitter. On the other hand, if you don’t find engaging ways to repeat links to posts you want people to read, Twitter moves so far that you miss a ton of opportunities to connect with people. It’s a tricky balance.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gene'O says:

        Yeah, I get that. I’ve also had trouble with Facebook, so I started with Twitter first. It took me a year just to figure out how to do the following, now I’m trying to figure out the traffic side.

        One thing I notice more successful bloggers doing than me — even ones who don’t have many more followers on Twitter — is that they have a handful of links they share week-in-week out.

        Like

  9. Exciting info on #MondayBlogs (as the creator of the hashtag, I’m thrilled to see that)! Thanks for providing and analyzing all the data, Paula. I’ll be reading your follow up posts to see your thoughts. hugs!

    Rachel @RachelintheOC and @BadRedheadMedia

    Like

    • Thanks, Rachel. It’s not a terrifically scientific survey, but I think it will prove useful for a lot of people. Were you able to download the whole document? I expect you’ll have your own suggestions for how people can get the most value out of the time they spend; the ones here and here are still things newbies need to hear, as I’m sure you’re well aware. For example, it really surprised me that so many people were holding themselves back on tweeting their own content. I could swear that at one point I read a post of yours that suggested tweeting your own content once every two hours. This was before the pinned tweet, and I remember the suggestion as a way of helping people find a post to retweet quickly. I spent some time on your site yesterday trying to find that, but was unable to. Perhaps I dreamed it; or perhaps I’m confusing it with something I read by someone else when I was new to Twitter. At any rate, I know sometimes the misuse of the hashtag can be a real nuisance for you and Will, and book promo and robotic retweeters are equally annoying, but for me #MondayBlogs has been the greatest invention since sliced bread. It’s given me discipline and motivation I didn’t know I had; and the only “difficulty” I have encountered is that when I really work it, it almost works too well.

      Like

  10. jan says:

    Very interesting – I wouldn’t have though the majority of writers have the same blog, tweet habits as me. Thanks!

    Like

    • There were some surprises for me as well in that regard. I thought more people would report tweeting their own posts more frequently than they did. I am rather guessing, however, that a hefty number of those who dominate #MondayBlogs with multiple tweets of multiple personal posts either do not spend much time visiting other blogs, or have little to no desire to report in. We’re just another marketing channel. ;-) That said, I can testify to the fact that when you tweet your own post 12 times in a 24 hour period – which is what I do – if the post proves popular it can be difficult to find any time to read posts on the hashtag day itself; it’s as much as I can manage to reciprocate the favor by retweeting, and hope to catch up with those that intrigue me later in the week.

      Like

  11. Jess Alter says:

    Oh, gosh, thank you so much for putting this together, Paula. I found myself right in the middle regularly–except on how much time I spend on my primary hashtag day reading and commenting and tweeting others’ blogs (I spend a full workday doing it).

    I’m not sure how I feel about it, still, because my site analytics show that even as my hashtag day blog tweets are getting retweeted, no one reads the blog entry. That’s really disheartening. I look forward to your follow-up blog entries to learn if I’m doing it wrong or if I should just abandon hashtag days altogether.

    Kudos, Paula, and have a wonderful week.

    Like

    • #MondayBlogs can easily be a full workday – and evening. It’s almost always my highest day for page views of the week, and there’s often a day-after effect as well. Some of that has to do with strategy. Some of it has to to with targeting content. The irony is, at least for me, that the posts that get the most traffic are not really the ones that have the most meaning or significance for me personally. My memoir pieces never do as well as my pieces about Twitter and blogging and hashtag days. So much for leaving a legacy. If my tombstone ends up with a 140 character epitaph that includes #RIP, I won’t be surprised. I suppose then I’ll only be allowed to post on #ArchiveDay or #zombieblogs. [Hey, does anyone have that trademarked yet?]

      Like

  12. Paula, you are awesome for putting this together! Thank you!

    Like

  13. K. Renae P. says:

    Very cool analysis.

    I’m very interested in the numbers of reported stats on hashtag v. nonhashtag days. Honestly, I am surprised the difference isn’t bigger considering the amount of time most report they were focusing on tweeting and retweeting on a hashtag day. And then the number of retweets those tweets must get.

    Also, I’d be interested in seeing how many of those extra views were refered because of tweets or from some other referrer like clicks from likes and comments. I know in my case, I see a difference (not a big one) in view on hashtag days, but the views do not mostly come from Twitter- they come from the comments and likes I leave on other blogs. It would be cool to compare the referrals from Twitter on a hashtag day to a nonhashtag day.

    Either way, I see value in hashtag days. If for no other reason than discovering new blogs.

    I hope you don’t stop blogging they way you do for the sake of time. The nature of most of your posts call for a lot of time. It is time well spent becuase we, the readers, get thoughtful posts like this one. I think the time all depends on the climate of your blog.

    Thanks for gathering and reporting this. It is interesting. I learned a lot and have a bunch of new questions.

    Like

    • Thank you, K. Renae. It’s very interesting to me that you get a lot of views from comments and likes on other blogs. I am hoping to get more of my traffic that way in future, but first I have to figure out a better way to manage my hashtag day time. I very much appreciate your comment about my posts; I usually do feel that crafting a post is worth the time expended; it’s just that there is other writing I would also like to be doing and well…human limitations are a pain in the butt. ;-)

      Liked by 1 person

  14. lorilschafer says:

    I think one thing that these results fail to show is the effect of those of us who are Twitter “regulars” – i.e., we use Twitter daily and with similar effort expended. I get a lot of RTs from Monday Blogs, but I also give out a lot, and not just to Monday Bloggers. (In fact, I’ve generally found that I get a higher return-RT rate from my regular tweeting activities than from hashtag days – though not as many hits.) Consequently, there are people who RT me whenever they see one of my tweets, and vice versa, which might give an impression of added efficiency when it’s really my week-long effort contributing to the effect. I found it interesting what you said last week about a number of people being upset or confused as to why someone would RT a tweet without reading the post. When I first started doing Twitter, I felt the same way. As time goes on, however, you realize you just can’t do that and still be polite. I don’t generally go out of my way to RT someone who retweets me, but I do make sure to catch them next time I see them as long as the tweet isn’t offensive. If I had to read every one of those posts, however, I’d hardly have time to retweet anybody, which very quickly becomes offensive itself. Plus it restricts me to RTing stuff I think is great, which severely limits what I can do. I am very unlikely to be interested in most people’s poems about death or stories about toddlers, but does that mean I shouldn’t RT them? Other people do appreciate those types of posts, and I see nothing wrong with spreading the word about something even if it isn’t my thing.

    Like

    • Yup on the RT’ing without reading. I haven’t read that many posts of @MisterSalesman, but one I did read was on RT’ing versus thanking a person, and she makes the point that a RT is always more potentially useful than a thank you. So if you have to choose, and if you can’t be the reader yourself, give them a chance to get another one. As of now 153 people have tweeted this post at least once, and there is just no way that I can read every post of everyone who tweets me, but I can reciprocate – just barely. ;-)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I second the thought of a RT instead of a “thank you for the RT” clogging up my mentions on Twitter. I always think: if you REALLY wanted to thank me, you could retweet my post. *sigh*

        I’m not convinced that a tweet listing a bunch of Twitter names with the word thank you gives us any juice. The other ones listed don’t suddenly become followers. Some people even favorite it. What for? Am I missing something here?

        Like

      • lorilschafer says:

        And even the reciprocating is a ton of work! I actually try to catch as many people as I can in my stream because it’s so much faster than having to look them up one by one in order to return the favor. And yes, I would much prefer an RT to a thank you, myself :)

        Like

  15. Joy says:

    This was great – thank you for taking the time to both put the survey together and analyze the results. I find this stuff fascinating…and useful :)

    Like

  16. Charli Mills says:

    Thank you for the the data from your survey! I love seeing the colorful array of responses to creative time which seems to reflect a broad swath of people who are writing. I’ve finessed my own use of #MondayBlogs and it seems to be working well. For example, I might only tweet once, but I’ll RT any other RTs and that seems to be a greater dynamic than when I did more than one tweet a day. I feel engaged in that community and meet new people or learn new ideas or tips from blogs weekly. I’d like that level of engagement with #wwwblogs, but Wednesdays are long writing days for me and I have to prioritize. I pop in when I can. The great thing about data research is that it always reveals some insights and some new questions. Much appreciated!

    Like

  17. Janika Banks says:

    Funny how bloggers feel so alone sometimes, I think between you doing this survey and Rachel’s #MondayBlogs I’ve seen a huge change in bloggers feeling more positive on twitter. =)

    Like

  18. Glen Speering says:

    This is a great analysis, worthy of publication or a feature article somewhere.

    Like

    • Thank you Glen! Rachel has more connections in that respect than I do; perhaps we should have a conversation. People like her, who set up and administer hashtag days, are the people who made something worth analyzing possible.

      Like

  19. Super-interesting. I’m happy I found your blog!

    Like

  20. Terry Tyler says:

    Another big well done to you, Paula – am just going to open up the ‘other questions’ bit for later. I have often come to the same conclusion as the one you mentioned above – that people don’t realise that by posting something more than twice a day you won’t be annoying the whole world, because Twitter is a moving, changing thing; people log on and off all the time. I still get people who’ve been around for ages saying, oh, only just seen this!!!! about a blog post I’ve posted over, and over and over…!

    As an aside: so many people don’t see what a great opportunity hashtag days are when it comes to getting your book, or indeed any other product, out there, although I agree with Rachel Thompson and no doubt with you as well that sales/advertising should be far from the sole purpose of blogging. But: I’ve just been off the internet for several days. My latest book has been reviewed (most favourably) on several book blogs. Those book bloggers use the hashtag days: both the book and its sequel have sold a fair few copies over these days without me doing any promotion at all.

    Like

    • Yup. That’s the karma. It should go without saying that reciprocity doesn’t work without good content behind it, though I do know (sigh) why we all have to keep saying it. As I told Carol on Twitter, these days I’m far more concerned about reciprocity burnout – I have a tendency to work a system to death once I’ve invested time in creating it – and what we call in the nonprofit world ‘mission drift’ – spending so much time on what gets hits that I don’t have the time or energy to do the writing which has deep meaning for me. That’s going to be changing. Life’s too short.

      Like

  21. Annecdotist says:

    Lots of interesting stuff here, Paula, and look forward to your future posts on how you’re using these data. Strange that for people with under 50 page views using hashtags didn’t help. And so ironic that it’s these kind of posts, rather than those that come from the heart, that get the most RTs

    Like

    • i do think it helps pretty much everyone, Anne. The percentage goes down for under 50 page views on hashtag days I think because more people are moving into a different category. I do think, however, that people who have figured out how to get higher page views with good content, lede lines, and strategy see a more exponential effect for their efforts on hashtag days. The fact that these are the posts that I’m getting the most hits for is ironic in terms of my original intention for the blog, I suppose, but perfectly understandable in the sense that this is a common issue we all have, and are trying to figure out together. But getting a visit is half the battle, isn’t it? Come for the data, stay for the angst and giggles, that’s my motto.

      Like

  22. carol hedges says:

    this was interesting..esp the suggestion that you don’t over spam if you promo your blog more that 3 times. I had a lot of complaints when I first join Twitter, but with more followers and a wider time zone, I agree with Terry, I get pople reading something for the ”first time” that I posted ages ago. I also have a LIST of bloggers whose blogs I enjoy, partly so I don’t mis them but also to check I RT them. I do think a % of the Monday Blogs people are just priming..I never see them elsewhere, nor, If I say hello do they reply ( dead giveaway)x

    Like

  23. kazblah says:

    Wow! You have put in so much work here, both in collecting and analysing the data. Thank you. This is such a fantastic source of information.

    Like

  24. I think this was fascinating! I was delighted to see #SundayBlogShare doing so well, considering I only created it about four months ago!

    I think that on hashtag days, people don’t seem to realise that the more posts you read and retweet, the more you will get in return. You, Terry Tyler and Carol are often found doing this, and I’ve followed the same idea. It has increased my views hugely!

    Thanks for doing this!

    Like

  25. Tim says:

    Interesting results – thanks for running the survey, Paula. Provides some real food for thought.

    Finding the balance between sharing posts and being perceived as spamming is a tricky one – I suspect that many of us (me included) tend to err too much on the side of caution. It’s not necessarily that we don’t see the value in doing it – speaking purely for myself I actively choose to be selective in what I share and actively limit the number of RTs I do. I realise that probably costs me a lot of page views, but equally that’s not a big motivation for me – I tend to participate to expose myself to more blogs rather than because I’m necessarily looking to build numbers.

    Like

    • And there’s nothing wrong with that, Tim. Personally I am hoping to get to the point where my blog growth comes from search engine traffic and I don’t have to depend so heavily on social media, because all that reciprocity is a lot of work, and takes time from other things I’d like to be doing. I also think that when you have young ones and a family about, you have some built in restrictions that keep you from overdoing it in that department – which is probably a healthy thing.

      Like

  26. Ruebi @ LHB says:

    Thank you for conducting this experiment Paula! It’s great to see the results!

    It’s good to see that the hashtags can serve as a sounding board for sharing our own posts but also as communities as we come together to promote each other.

    Like

  27. kathysharp2013 says:

    I found this very enlightening. So far I have shared the link to my own blog only once on hashtag days, thinking it might be against Twitter etiquette to do much more – but now I will certainly share more as I go!

    Like

  28. […] They were all very enthusiastic. You can read the results of the survey here. […]

    Like

  29. […] 189 bloggers active on Twitter responded. I wrote a bit about the results of the survey here and here. (If you don’t know what a hashtag is, or you don’t know what a hashtag day specifically […]

    Like

  30. […] done with the survey, I had 35 pages of feedback from 189 bloggers on Twitter hashtag usage. My analysis of that data, and the survey results, are still available, as are the blog posts I wrote on using […]

    Like

  31. Terry Tyler says:

    I’ve just been fascinated by this all over again. I am always trying to drum into people: USE THE HASHTAG DAYS! There still exists the problem of people not RTing back, though; I have over 60K followers, I’m worth RTing back, but so often I notice that bloggers who write about different things from me don’t RT – hardly any ‘mummy bloggers’ will, for instance, though beauty and fashion ones do. Again, it’s people not realising how Twitter works. Every time your blog is RTd by someone other than your ‘usuals’, it spreads your potential audience. I’m not just followed by writers, after all, which is why I RT a variety of stuff.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 74,774 hits
%d bloggers like this: