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How To Use Twitter As A Content Distribution Network
If you think social media provides value now, just wait.
From a developer’s standpoint, Twitter is an exciting application because of the freedom provided through their API. A rogue hacker can download one of the many Twitter libraries, connect to the API, query for the top trending topics at that time, take and put the trending topics in irrelevant tweets that are meant to spam Twitter, in the end 4chan‘ing the trending topics that show on a user’s home page for monetary gain.
Let me explain. Or rather, let me quote Superman: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Twitter has essentially given every developer in the world great power by allowing them access to their API. You can make the argument that any API can provide this value. However, due to the sheer amount of content and range of the audience, Twitter takes the cake right now. That is until Facebook releases its search API, if they ever do.
From a business standpoint, Twitter’s API should provide the same excitement. How you might ask? Through savvy content distribution.
So what does this have to do with search engines?
A few months ago I wrote an article on a topic that gained a lot of attention. It was retweeted about 100 times, which wasn’t a huge deal—relatively small in comparison to many other popular articles shared on the web. But what came next was shocking.
Through the retweet button from Tweetmeme, I was able to derive the short URL used to share the link. I also distributed the article by using a short URL link of my own. Using these two short URL links, one posted on the website and the one I created for myself, I setup Google Alerts so that I could track the viral activity of each.
I also took it a step further. I realize that due to the different Twitter clients, web apps, desktop apps, or any of the hundreds of ways to post a Tweet to Twitter, that most likely the short URL would be changed during a retweet, thus diluting my attempt to track the viral activity. To counteract this, I set up a script to check the Twitter search API for Tweets about my article periodically each day. I then logged the URL’s that were included in each Tweet. If the URL showed up more than once, I started to track it with various methods, including Google Alerts.
The point was to try and find out every spot that my article was distributed via Twitter. Luckily right now URL shorteners are usually only used for Twitter, which allowed me to ignore the potential influence from other website applications on the short URL’s.
What I found was a huge opportunity to gain backlinks from posting links in Tweets.
Twitter = content distribution = backlinks
Alarm bells are probably going off telling you that links on Twitter do not count because Twitter utilizes the “nofollow” attribute on all links, and you are correct. Many of my friends who consult for companies on search engine optimization theorize that even though “nofollow” exists, links using the attribute still maintain a measurable value. True or not, I don’t know—but the valuable links from retweets are not search engine backlinks.
The value of the Twitter API comes with giving free access to millions of developers across the globe to your content.
You play the savvy marketing executive and I will play the exceptionally resourceful programmer. You don’t know me and I don’t know you.
Lets say you break a story about Google Wave on your company blog and you ask your bright young intern to Tweet about it with a link to your blog post.
Just after your intern posts the link, I query the Twitter Search API (the beauty of real-time) for “Google Wave” and it serves up your Tweet. Since I am a content aggregator, my cool little script pulls your Tweet down from Twitter to my local database, parses the Tweet for the link to your blog post and removes the shortened link which gives me the full website address to your company blog. I pull the title from your website, and then distribute the result on my website.
Visually, the initial Tweet looks like this:
JoshuaOdmark: Is Google Wave the next best thing? We think so… http://9mp.com/Yxe
And the result that shows on my website:
Boom! You just gained a backlink
Of course this is a hypothetical situation with certain assumptions, but you can see how it is possible to gain backlinks through Twitter. The key is to get your Tweets in front of as many third party applications as you can.
You can do this by getting as many retweets for your links as you can. Each and every retweet is an opportunity to gain at least one backlink.
But always remember, nobody likes a spammer. Take the high road and follow Twitter’s acceptable use guidelines. Over time you will keep all of your current followers, continue to gain more, and create an authoritative Twitter account which will pay off in dividends down the road.
Twitter is one of the hottest companies in the world right now and they have the venture capital funding to prove it. So focus on the long-term value by building great content, continuing to build your engaged followers, and the backlinks from retweets will come naturally.
At that point, all that’s left is to count the increase in organic traffic to your website.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.