How to Run Your Own Facebook vs. Twitter Experiments

In this ongoing series, I’ll walk you through tips and tricks for using Chartbeat data to full advantage — helping you connect data-driven actions to increased unique visitors, loyalty, and revenue.

It’s no secret that social media is a necessary tool in building an online audience. But how well do you actually know your social readers? Chartbeat’s Data Science team dug into the data to learn more about the habits and patterns of readers who discover stories via social channels.

Across our network of more than 50,000 sites, we found that Google and Facebook were the main drivers of traffic. On average, Facebook accounts for about 30% of external traffic. That’s a lot of readers!

Understanding the nuances of that social audience is critical to successfully converting social visitors to loyal returners. Experimenting is the best way to get a real understanding of your unique Facebook and Twitter audiences and to evaluate your social promotion strategies.

First, set up your dashboard to see the frequency of your social visitors:

  • Double pivot on “new” and “social” in your Real-Time Dashboard. The top pages list shows you which stories are doing the best job of attracting new readers to your site.  
  • Then, switch from “new” to “returning” and check to see if there’s a difference. Are there stories that are resonating with readers that are more familiar with your site, but not necessarily drawing in the new crowd? Could you promote these stories in a different way to appeal to new visitors?
  • For most sites, you’ll notice that Facebook drives significantly more traffic than Twitter. While there are a lot of great, journalistic reason to Tweet, when it comes to getting readers onto a story, Facebook is typically the better choice.

Next, try some experimentation. Post a story on your social accounts and watch the dashboard to see if that post actually brought more readers to your story. If your readers aren’t clicking, try a different approach next time: Use a quote or fact from the story, try a different type of image with your post. By running a few of these small experiments, you can build your own best practices for engaging your social audience.

In addition to varying the type and tone of your posts, you can also experiment with timing. As seen below, our research suggests that social traffic substantially underperforms overall traffic from the morning through to the early afternoon, and substantially overperforms overall traffic during evenings and nights.

So if your goal is reach, late afternoon through the evening is the best time to attract readers on social media and get them to click through to your site. That being said, this can vary based on your own content focus and promotion strategies – so make sure you experiment and find the times that see the most traffic from your unique audience.

And remember, to keep everyone in the newsroom on top of social promotion strategies and success, you can get a specific social view in your Big Board display. To do that, simply select the ‘Configure’ button in the upper right and choose “Social Traffic” from the “Traffic Sources” dropdown.

Have any questions or curious about a specific topic you’d like me to cover? Reach out to me at or @tumbling_after on Twitter.

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