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In breaking news, Twitter is still a huge traffic driver

As news was breaking on the attack at Ohio State last week in Columbus, Dispatch editors were publishing what they knew quickly online. As the news was spread on social, an interesting trend was happening: Nearly all of the referral traffic to was coming from Twitter.

That’s right, while Facebook is still the largest driver of referrer traffic, Twitter is still crucial in breaking news.

The early tweets from Columbus show how quickly the story caught on, with more than 100 retweets on each post:

The first post on Facebook, which happened around the same time, also had a lot of shares:

Data from Google Analytics shows that in the first hour the story was live, 71 percent of the users who found the story came from Twitter, which was more than Facebook. It wasn’t until the third hour of the story being live that Facebook and searches became bigger traffic referrers.

Data from analytics showed similar numbers, with Twitter referrals outpacing Facebook in the first two hours the story was live.

Twitter was also celebrated around the Presidential Election last month, after 75 million election-related tweets were posted by 3 a.m. the following day. In 2012, 31 million tweets were sent about the election, according to an article on USA Today.

In fact, a majority of the posts that gained the most referral traffic from Twitter in November for GateHouse were election or breaking news related.


So what should newsrooms do when responding to breaking news? Get the news out on Twitter fast, at the same time you are updating the website.

The Dispatch team retweeted the university’s Office of Emergency Management tweet first as the story was first developing. Within minutes they had a few paragraphs up on the website.

How do you keep tracking of key sources on Twitter? Create lists of local sources, police and fire, so you can keep track of updates. For key emergency management sources, set push notifications on your phone for their tweets:


Be sure to still keep posting to Facebook, but keep in mind that an early tweet on a fast-moving story can go a long way in reaping the traffic rewards.

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