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7 Reasons Having a Twitter Feed in Your Sidebar is a Really Dumb Idea

By Marcus Sheridan

Marcus Sheridan also recommends this free website performance assessment.

7 Reasons Having a Twitter Feed in Your Sidebar is a Really Dumb Idea

 It’s official: Twitter feeds and sidebars are the worst couple since Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries.

(Yes, I’m serious and no, I’ve never actually watched the show.)

I say this because last week I invited anyone on my newsletter list to send me their website URL and I would reply with a  very quick analysis of their site’s biggest weaknesses.

45 minutes after the email was sent, I had about 25 responses already in my inbox.

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Did I bite off more than I could chew? No, but after 40+ websites and  5 hours of analysis, I was able to see dozens of different industry sites and also some very disturbing trends (more on that in the coming weeks), with one of the worst offenders being mind-boggling Twitter feeds (aka ‘Steams’ and ‘Timelines’) that kept popping up in the most inconvenient of places.

Waiting for the Twitter Magic

But hey, I get it, I really do. 2 years ago, when I started with inbound marketing, I heard all about Twitter. That was when I, like many businesses, opened up an account (for my swimming pool company), put a Twitter ‘follow me’ button on our website’s sidebar, and waited for the magic to happen.

After 30 days of almost no results, I got the grand Idea to put my real-time Twitter feed in the sidebar instead of just the simple ‘follow-me’.

Again, no dice. No leads. No prospects or customers ever mentioned it. Very few people followed. It was an utter fail.

You see, the sad reality is that too many people have drunk the Twitter Kool-Aid and grossly overestimate its value when it comes to web design and conversions.

Here’s why:

7 Reasons Why Putting a Twitter Feed in Your Sidebar is a Really Dumb Idea

1. That’s Prime Real-Estate!!!: When it comes to the web and conversions (converting a visitor into an actual lead), proper placement of call-to-action buttons, forms, etc. is a huge deal. For example, with most blogs and websites, great calls-to-action (like newsletter subscription buttons) are on the upper right side of the page in the column area or located just after the main content itself. Notwithstanding, many businesses have taken up this prime ‘conversion’ space with tweets that almost never lead to ‘action’ from a visitor. Think about it for a second: Would you rather people read one of your tweets or have them give you their email address and contact information?

2. People Don’t Know What the Heck Twitter Is: That’s right. It’s easy for someone who uses the platform 24/7 to think the entire world is on there, but the fact is they’re not, and it’s not even close. 

Do some industries see a very high amount of active users on Twitter? Yes, that may be true, but they’re almost always marketing and social media niches, not average Joe business owners and consumers.  In fact, a large majority of the world still can’t look at a Twitter stream without getting completely confused with the odd culture that’s found therein. Again, this is just how it is.

3. Four-Week Old Tweets Make You Look Lazy: Here is what was really bad about most of the Twitter streams I saw in the sidebars—They were practically dead. Some had not even been updated for 2 or 3 months! Think about the impression a visitor to your site gets when they see you don’t even take the time to update your account (assuming they even know what it is).

4. There are a Thousand Better Options: Free eBook? A powerfully written report? What about a webinar sign up, or a list of popular blog posts, or even your newest Youtube video?

Here is the thing my friends: People come to your website to learn. They expect to be fed. They expect to receive answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. This is the essence of inbound and content marketing.

You can either give this to them through clean content (in a variety of forms), or you can imagine them reading your tweets and being so enthralled that they beg for your business immediately. I don’t know about you, but I’ll choose the power of great content any day of the week.

5. Why Send them Away?: This one is a no-brainer. If you’re sharing content on your Twitter stream that’s linking to another website, and someone actually clicks on that link, you’ve now likely lost them. Or, at the very least, they’re now pretty darn distracted.

Although there are proper occasions to link to other articles from your site, this is certainly not one of them.

6. Clutter is Bad: That’s right, too much of anything is a bad idea, and this is especially true when discussing Twitter and sidebars. Derek Halpern of Social Triggers has done a phenomenal job of discussing this issue of sidebar effectiveness in detail, but the fact is, simpler sidebars with less choices have higher conversion rates the majority of the time.

7. What’s the End Goal?: Right now, you should be able to look at every page of your website and make one simple statement: The main goal of this page is to……

This being said, if anything doesn’t align with your goals, you drop it. Yes, that’s right, just let it go. Once you truly understand your goals, especially on an individual page basis, the clarity of design and layout will be clearer than ever. You’ll better know the calls-to-action, photos, and content that lends itself to success, and you’ll also be able to intelligently ignore the ‘social media checklist’ that grows longer each and every day.

Read More: Why IMPACT Abandoned Twitter

I’m Not a Twitter Hater

Some of you right now are thinking I’m anti-Twitter. This isn’t the case. I love the medium and appreciate its capabilities and potential.

But just because you and I love something doesn’t mean it makes business sense, especially when it comes to website design and conversions.

Your Turn:

I’ve been brutally honest in my opinion here with respect to Twitter streams/feeds in sidebars and now I’d love to hear your frank thoughts on the matter as well.

Should they be there? If so, why? If not, why?

Would you add anything to my list above?

C’mon, share your thoughts everyone.

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Topics:

Social Media Marketing
Web Design
Published on December 22, 2011

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