Monday, April 19, 2010

The Flywheel Effect

I'm back to blogging after a rather spontaneous, two-week hiatus. My wife were expecting our daughter to arrive at the end of April, but were surprised and thrilled to welcome a happy and healthy Sejal Anya Woods, to the world on April 2nd, a full four weeks early.

As I return to the world of work, now two weeks later, I realized that Sejal's surprising arrival gave me an accidental test-bed for one of the interesting aspects of social media, the fly-wheel effect. Normally, I've been very consistently active in social media, contributing two posts a week to the Digital Body Language blog, tweeting about each post, joining discussions on LinkedIn, and in general working to build awareness for the blog and its topics.

This is "pushing the flywheel" in order to get more traffic to the blog, and as everyone involved in social media knows, you push a lot before you begin to see real results in terms of awareness, traffic, and interest. After almost 18 months, I'm happy to report that the Digital Body Language blog is doing very well, but that leads to an interesting question:

What happens if you stop pushing the flywheel for a while?

Unlike typical marketing campaigns that really only generate results when they are "active", social media investments have a momentum that lasts for a long time as the articles are read, shared, discovered, searched for, and linked to.

I looked at the analysis of blog traffic for the two weeks that I was inactive, I saw an interesting result. (Eloqua users, here's how to track your own blogs this way). The chart shows blog traffic over the past few months, and you can see fairly steady numbers in terms of total, new, and existing visitors. I've eyeballed a red line at the top of the graph to give you a rough, non-scientific trend for total visitors, and a purple line for new visitors.

In the last two weeks, with no new posts, no tweets (by me), no discussions, on forums or on LinkedIn, you can see a drop in traffic - but only by a little bit. Interestingly, while the total traffic drops off by about 30%, the new visitors traffic only drops off by 10%, showing that the awareness, links, and search rankings that the blog has built up over time are just as effective at driving new visitors.

Investments in social media tend to have this "flywheel effect" where each effort gets things spinning just a little faster, but a well spinning flywheel can keep going on its own momentum for quite some time.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
Come talk with me or one of my colleagues at a live event, or join in on a webinar


Jayne Swystun said...

What software do you use to generate the new vs existing visitors chart? That's exactly the kind of snapshot trending I could use. Thanks.

Steven Woods said...

that's directly out of our own (Eloqua) software. Would be glad to put you in touch with someone for a more detailed look.