Twitter Followers vs. RSS Subscribers

By Daniel Scocco

Daniel’s note: This is a guest post by Nathan Rice. My personal opinions are slightly different from his when it comes to Twitter followers vs. RSS subscribers (because I think the latter are more important for a blogger or web publisher), but I am always open to different perspectives and points of view. I am also curious to know which one you guys value more, so make sure to drop a comment after you read the article.

You may be aware that Twitter is the newest phenomenon in the blogoshpere. Big name bloggers have been jumping on the Twitter bandwagon for months, and many have effectively leveraged the micro-blogging service to increase readership, while at the same time using it to develop new relationships. The great thing about Twitter is that is helps you develop that two-way relationship that RSS lacks.

Having that Feedburner chicklet increase by a few hundred readers definitely feels good. The more subscribers you have, the more influence you have as a blogger. But I would assert that a new Twitter follower is far more valuable than a new RSS subscriber. Here’s why:

1. Twitter followers see your broadcasts

Although some people will tell you that using Twitter as a broadcasting service is wrong, but I disagree. Many people PREFER their friends let them know of a new blog post via Twitter. I may not always have my feed reader open, but I keep Twitterific in the corner of my monitor all day. When someone announces a new blog post on Twitter, I will very often click and read it.

2. Twitter followers can become your friends

The thing that Twitter offers that an RSS reader can’t is the ability to respond. Sure, there is always the comment section, but you’re far more likely to get a response from a blog author on Twitter than in their comments. Twitter is conversational, and thus Twitter users like to use the tool to converse.

3. Twitter friends can become your fans

Friendship means trust, and people who trust you are far more likely to become fans. Ultimately, fans are what you want.

The way a blogger gets to be influential, and thus make money, is by figuring out a way to get people to use their influence (no matter how small) to promote you. People who like you enough to do this are valuable, and Twitter is the perfect tool to cultivate these fans.

4. Twitter followers are usually testing you

I give my blog readers three options when they visit my blog.

  1. Subscribe to my RSS feed
  2. Subscribe via Email
  3. Follow me on Twitter

The reason I added that third option is because I suspected many people were coming to my blog, enjoying my content, but couldn’t justify adding another blog to their list of daily reads. For these people, I needed to give them an option that let them gradually get to know me. If they enjoyed conversing with me, or reading my tweets, then they are likely to click a “New Blog Post” broadcast when I tweet them, as well.

And since I use Woopra Analytics, I am able to watch the instant results of tweeting a new blog post to these followers. It’s amazing to see the “Live” number shoot up instantaneously.

5. Twitter followers can become RSS subscribers too

During the time since I added the third “Follow me on Twitter” option, I’ve seen my RSS subscriber numbers almost double. I certainly can’t give credit to Twitter for all of them (I worked my tail off in October to increase subscribers), I can say that I do believe Twitter helped tremendously as a part of my overall subscription and traffic increase strategy.

In the cases where Twitter followers and RSS subscribers overlap, consider yourself lucky. You’ve just made a new friend, and a new subscriber.

Nathan Rice (@nathanrice on twitter) is a front-end web developer for iThemes.com, and blogs about everything WordPress at his blog, NathanRice.net. He is also the founder of ElevateThemes.com where he releases premium-quality WordPress themes for free under the GPL.

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57 Responses to “Twitter Followers vs. RSS Subscribers”

  • Ajay

    They are both totally different and both extremely important. If you have a good number of followers you should ensure that you are regularly posting your feeds to your Twitter account.

    My stats show that I do get a few visits from Twitter.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Ajay, in my opinion Twitter followers are not extremely important 🙂 .

    I think it is a cool tool if you want to use it, but having a website or blog is far more important.

  • Craig Ernst

    @Ajay, I agree. I think that Twitter followers and RSS subs are apples and oranges. RSS subs are extremely important, but I think that to underestimate the value of Twitter followers, assuming that you stay pretty active on Twitter, is a mistake.

    And @Daniel, I don’t think it’s an either or thing at all, as far as building a Twitter following vs. a blog/website following. Twitter can enhance a blog readership and interaction tremendously. I once heard Twitter described as blogging crossed with instant messaging, and that’s probably not far from the truth.

    If you ask any blogger that has a decent Twitter following what happens when they announce a new blog post on Twitter, most will report that they see an instant spike in traffic… and for many it’s far more than a “few” unique visitors.

    BTW, Daniel, I’m a big fan of your blog. Keep up the great work!

  • Farrhad

    @Daniel: I completely agree with you.

    I would, any day, give preference to RSS subscribers rather that Tweeps 🙂

  • Young

    It seems that Daniel has not twitted for a few days.

  • Ruchir Chawdhry

    I still think that Twitter’s a complete waste of time… Can anyone ever convince me?

  • Siddharth Singh

    I think there is a basic difference between those who follow your blog on twitter and those who are your RSS subscribers. The RSS subscribers are more “content oriented”, they will more likely read the full post and a few more pages. On the other hand, twitter followers are more attached on the “personal level”, you may tell them that you are travelling right now, or not feeling well right now. It is a great tool to get that personal connection, that “bonding” with your followers.
    Both should be used together for the maximum effect, rather than one being used instead of the other. It takes little time and effort.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Young, indeed, I give priority to the blog 🙂 .

  • Shafar

    I get very low traffic to my blog from Twitter eventhough the new posts are tweeted by Twitterfeed 🙁

  • Nathan Rice

    Maybe it’s just my niche, but in my personal experience, I’ve found that an RSS subscriber doesn’t bring me the immediate benefits of relationship, feedback, and traffic that twitter followers do.

    Granted, as @Shafar said, some twitter followers are worthless. They’ve followed you and 5,000 other people in order gain new followers themselves. They don’t really read other peoples tweets.

    Obviously I’m talking about quality twitter followers. And in my experience, a twitter follower is more likely than an RSS subscriber to respond to some sort of call to action.

    But of course, your experience may be different. I think there’s something to be said for gaining *quality* twitter followers.

  • Meghna

    The two way conversational aspect amongst twitter followers make it very important. But I don’t see many people following new blog posts when someone tweets.
    A good comparison between RSS followers and twitter followers. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hussein

    I honestly got more followers than subscriber. And I think I am getting more traffic from twitter whenever I tweet my blog post or retweet my blog post. Also I not only get traffic from twitter but also friends. 🙂

  • Eyebee

    I have RSS feeds set up via Feedburner. I feed my blog posts into Twitter. I also feed that into Facebook, and into Friendfeed. It doesn’t cost anything to do this beyond the time taken to set it up, and it does result in at least a few extra visitors, so why not?

  • Bill

    I have only been on twitter for a short time but i have grown a following and also am following many people. i have seen my blog traffic go up also. i like twitter.

  • Ajith Edassery

    I started using Twitter very recently. I thought it’s a good tool to get a quickie answered or to announce something. RSS readers on the other hand are genuine readers (mostly) of what you have to say where as Twitter is sometimes only broadcast… Many times people don’t even care what you are muttering.

  • Luca – Reach Success Online

    They are 2 different ways to gain readers but Twitter seems to be a lot of work. My blogs are very new so I’ll try both and see how it goes.
    Thanks for the Woopa link. It looks very interesting.
    So much to learn so little time

  • Adam Singer

    Twitter is fun and useful, but the signal to noise ratio is so high that a Twitter follower is worth FAR less than an RSS reader. RSS readers take much more time and effort to acquire and are worth much more.

  • Ian Stewart

    I’m reminded of Darren Rowse’s argument (which I’m about to paraphrase terribly) for the value of RSS subscribers. A lot of their value rests in their technological engagement with the interwebs, their ability to become a Godin-Sneezer or a Gladwellian Connector-Maven. I’d bet that the average twitter user is at a higher level of engagement than the average person using RSS readers. So a quality twitter-sneezer has potentially more influence than a quality RSS-sneezer.

    (If I had more time I’d try and put more buzzwords in the paragraph above. Perhaps I’d work in “paradigm”.)

  • C.J. Harley

    I like to see my RSS subscriber numbers increase, but it does feel good when someone wants to follow me on Twitter. I just recently added a link for readers to follow me on twitter if the choose. I have seen my RSS number go up and a few new followers.

  • Matt Gio

    I have to totally agree, but I wish I knew how to convert followers into readers for sure

  • Rosario

    Ofcourse, blogging makes me to increase my weight from 75 kg to 86kg. No idea to move away from the pc. 🙂

    Daily Blog Tips plays major role in it 😛

  • Nathan Rice

    @Matt Gio,
    It’s not hard. I’ll have to ask Daniel if I can write a follow-up post on how to convert Twitter followers into blog readers. 🙂

  • Brian Monahan, Expert in the Rough

    Nathan,

    Good info, I think a Twitter follower has another component which has a larger viral effect than a subscriber.

    If Tweeter followers actually Retweet or Reply with your name and will actually peak the interest of their followers.

    I believe most subscribers do not have public listing of the the blog feeds they follow.

    so yes Twitter for now has a viral component which I believe is greater than subscribers.

    But I could argue a subscriber may be more valuable and qualified for the long haul.

    Many twitter followers are simply following for a re-follow. That however is not a bad thing since you get the chance to make an impression.

    Just my two cents but agree with your aproach.

    Thanks,

    Brian
    @coachbriany

  • Missy (from G34 Media)

    First, twitter is a fantastic tool to compliment blogging, it isn’t a replacement for a blog.

    As for which is more important? As someone else has pointed out, this is an apples and oranges comparison.

    Twitter is a multi-purpose tool. It is part RSS reader, part blog, part IM, etc. RSS is simply a feed reader. You see.

    Also those who use Twitter regularly really do (from sheer repetitive exposure), get to know their followers. Eventually someone you just started following will post an interesting question or comment, link to an attention-grabbing headline from a recent post, and BAM. You’re hooked. You start to look deeper into this person, and maybe even become a regular visitor to his/her blog. That is how it works on Twitter.

    This comparison doesn’t work, because two very different animals are being compared.

  • Nathan Rice

    @Missy
    I wasn’t comparing Twitter to your blog. I was comparing Twitter to RSS subscribers. Twitter, in this instance, is not meant to replace your blog, but rather be an enhancement for your blog … an extension of your blog. And it can drive some serious traffic TO your blog, if you find the right followers.

    Nathan

  • Missy (from G34 Media)

    Nathan: Oops! I should have addressed my comment to Daniel. As he was the one on a comment above who stated:

    “I think it is a cool tool if you want to use it, but having a website or blog is far more important.”

  • Sohail

    Twitter followers are better in my opinion.
    – You have access to them whenever you want
    – You can have a quick feedback from them
    – If you have more blogs you can always tell them about a blog post on any of your blogs (To RSS subscribers you can’t always tell check my other blog as well)
    – you can ask them for DIGG and stuff caz thatz more fiendly then asking RSS subscribers.
    – Give them link they will come on ur site (RSS sunscribers don’t really visit you)
    – you can share quick things with them (many times u will not like to write a whole blog post for certain things)

  • Ben Moreno

    At first I didn’t like Twitter but I think I am slowly starting to see the potential. Interesting point of view here for sure.

  • Ramses

    I agree with Nathan about getting quality followers. Now, not all my follower are ‘quality’ ones, but when I publish a new post, about 10-20% of them click to it and many do something with it (linking to it, retweeting it, commenting, etc.).

    So, using Twitter along with your blog and tweeting some quality stuff once in a while really adds something to your blog and you as a blogger.

    Again, it may differ from niche to niche, or even from person to person.

  • Money & Finance

    Despite the Fact that RSS has been around a lot longer than Micro Blogging it would seem that it still hasn’t quite caught on. Not sure why because personally I love RSS.

    I think Internet users are still very confused with RSS whereas Micro Blogging sites such as Twitter adopt a very simplistic approach.

  • Kathy – Virtual Impax

    Not that it’s been said here, but there was an article on Wired not long ago where the author suggested you dump your blog and use Twitter. Um, my Twitter followers found me via my blog. I find most of the people I want to follow on Twitter via their blogs. The two are hopelessly intertwined.

    While I can see a blog thriving without Twitter- I really can’t see the reverse. You have to have a “home base”. 140 characters does not a conversation make!

  • Stephan Miller

    I follow most of the people who follow me on Twitter, so I don’t really see it as “following” but more as a group. I put in and I get out. I ask questions and they get answered. I find cool things and tweet about them and get thanked by followers. It is apples and oranges, but I do feel I know people on Twitter better than people who subscribe to my blog because there is more instantaneous interaction.

  • Melvin

    They work hand in hand i think. Altogether twitter brings more traffic while rss works more w/consistency. Twitter is so nice that it can boost your online presence so fast…

  • The Geek Entrepreneur

    I just started my blog at the beginning of this month (November), and the number of people who have subscribed to my RSS feed pales in comparison to my Twitter numbers. It’s almost a 3-to-1 ratio.

    I wrote a post about this on my blog, asking whether Twitter is perhaps becoming more popular than RSS. Personally, I think it is. I am more apt to follow someone on Twitter because of the reasons you listed in your post. I think it’s only a matter of time before Twitter takes the place of RSS.

    Wesley
    The Geek Entrepreneur

  • Nick Stamoulis

    The two way relationship is what is key. You can get someone to respond back to you almost instantly where the RSS doesn’t have that capability.

  • Leila

    My sentiments exactly.

    Both are good to have of course…but Twitter is seriously taking leaps and bounds into the whole social side of SEO and its a great way to make those connections.

  • Leila

    You can even use RSS on Twitter to track tweets! (Yeah I tested it out just to see, because of this post hehe).

    Hand in hand 🙂

  • Triguy31

    I agree with Eyebee. Its available, its free and it gives users access to your content. Where is the drawback?

    Rob
    @triguy31

  • Danny Brown

    I’d go for blog RSS/subscribers over Twitter numbers every time.

    the problem with Twitter is that it can often be nothing more than a faux popularity contest. “I’m almost at 300, who will follow me to get me there?” type of questions. Who cares how many followers you have if it’s not for genuine reasons.

    Another reason I’d go for blog subscribers is that they’re making an investment in you and your time. When they read your latest post, they interact first by reading and secondly by commenting.

    Twitter doesn’t necessarily offer that option. While it’s true you can filter out the Tweets you want to see with numerous Twitter tools, not everyone uses them. This leads to your latest blog post announcement (or any other part of the conversation) getting lost in the noise.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some fantastic people on Twitter – I’ve also met some class A idiots. At least when people put commitment to your blog it’s because they genuinely want to hear what you have to say – something that’s not always true of Twitter.

  • Eyebee

    Sure, it’s nice to have people follow you. Most of us like to feel that at least some other people find us interesting enough to listen to us at least sometimes. This goes for life in general, not just online, or Twitter.

    Having said that, I just tweet what I want. I post interesting (to me) links, and I engage in daily small talk with others. I just use Twitter as another avenue of communication, and try to enjoy it as such, and do not try to manipulate it.

  • Craig Ernst

    @Wesley, The Geek Entrepreneur

    Funny thing is.. and I don’t think that anyone’s mentioned it here yet… you can actually set as RSS feed to pipe directly into a Twitter account.

    Some people do this with the various Twitter apps that automatically post your new blog post to Twitter.

    But a few others I’ve seen have a separate Twitter account dedicated to an RSS feed which just posts title links from their blog.

    I don’t think Twitter can really replace RSS feeds, but it’s possible Twitter could take advantage of the complimentary features.

    A Twitter-branded feed reader anyone?

  • Danny Brown

    @ Craig Ernst – Not if it’s anything like TechCrunch who do nothing but throw out RSS feeds – where’s the benefit there for Twitter users? 😉

  • SEO Tips Blog

    I have an application that automatically tweets my RSS feed everytime I publish a new blog post so the process is actually automated. It’s pretty cool. Also the communication and ability to direct message other Tweeters is really cool I’m totally sold on Twitter.

  • Whibbly

    I agree, tweets are just waste of time. They’ll get you very less of traffic. We mostly get it from Twitter search rather than our followers.

  • laptop

    i like this post. some good information.

  • Jessica

    Believe it or not, I still don’t use RSS feeds. I prefer the mailing list!

  • Eyebee

    I don’t consider tweets a waste of time.

    Why not?

    Simply because I have my blogs set up to post a tweet automatically when I post an article. So, IF it is a waste of time, it was only so once, when I added the code.

    If it drives extra traffic it can’t hurt, if it doesn’t no harm done anyway.

    I wouldn’t manually tweet each post, but then again we don’t manually add each article to an RSS feed either do we?

  • Shane Hudson

    This is a very good post, my blog is just starting up and my old blog was before twitter had a big inpact on the comunity. So hopefully twitter will be good for my new blog.

  • Green

    I agree with most of what Danny said here. From a personal standpoint I can see Twitter being useful but as of yet I haven’t found a ton of use on the business side.

  • Asep Saepul

    Tweets not usefull now for me but i’m sure it will usefull sometime next day, month or year.

    can you follow me on twitter, i will follow you back.
    here’s my twitter url :

    Asep Saepul
    https://twitter.com/Blood_Pressure

  • switch

    I never use a RSS,feed,it is not give the food for a children,or a dog,I can’t understand.I often write a english as i am a chinese.but I don’t know what’s the mean with the RSS.

  • Twitter Loco

    Twitter is just another excellent tool to add to your internet arsenal.

    I love the site. and of course the rewards of using the site.

  • twituser

    So Twitter is awesome for Taking traffic to you website . It is very
    simple to setup and its a fun positive way to keep in contact with
    people. To get more followers on twitter check out this amazing
    tool.
    Twitter
    Traffic Machine

  • Jeff Newman

    Thanks for the link to woopra.com. I look forward to trying that out.

  • medyum

    I honestly got more followers than subscriber. And I think I am getting more traffic from twitter whenever I tweet my blog post or retweet my blog post. Also I not only get traffic from twitter but also friends

  • Eryaman hali yikama

    Good info thanks for sharing with us.Nice information, valuable and excellent, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need, thanks for all the enthusiasm to offer such helpful information here…

  • BlogTipss

    Twitter is one of gretest sites to communicate with people and Twitter is awsome to get more targeted traffic to your site or blog.
    thanks for tip.

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