the “Fry” effect
On 09, Mar 2011 | In Blog | By agenda21
The term “The Fry Effect” isn’t new. It reflects Stephen Fry’s social media influence and first started to appear around Jan 2009 when Fry, still relatively new to Twitter, bumped up his followers from 54,770 to 63,571 when discussing the micro-blogging service itself on the Jonathan Ross show. This technologically orientated influence was seen again, a few months later, when Fry talked about newly launched gay mobile app “Grindr” on the BBC’s Top Gear, prompting 1000s of UK downloads of the app. CEO and founder of Grindr Joel Simkhai was astounded by the effect: “we had about 10,000 downloads overnight, increasing our base by 50%. Within a week, we were up to 40,000″.
Since the rise of Twitter’s popularity, the term has been used a variety of times to describe the impact of Stephen Fry’s tweets. Such is his authority and influence on Twitter (currently followed over 2m followers across the planet) that quite often his 140 character messages crash websites that he links to, due to the huge increase in web traffic. There are other examples of the knock-on effects of his Twitter activities. For example, a single tweet of his once boosted sales of a little known book (Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman) so dramatically that it rose from number 3,629 in the amazon charts to number 2.
The 2009 blog post from Nextread.co.uk (which could claim to have coined the phrase) describes The Fry Effect as a mundane series of actions:
“Mr Fry wants to mention a web-link, he then checks to see if they can cope with the increase in traffic, they say they can, he posts the link and then the website crashes as numerous amounts of his followers all check out his recommendation, as well as Re-Tweeting his post for others to do the same”.
At agenda21, however, we think of it as more of a digital ripple: a series of connected, digital events all stemming from a single 140 character message. With our penchant for accountability and analytics we’ve examined “The Fry Effect” from the perspective of one of our clients, who recently experienced their site being tweeted about by the king of Twitter himself @stephenfry.
On the 14th February, Mr. Fry tweeted:
The link is to our client’s site and, on the day the tweet went live, Action for Children received a staggering 83% increase in unique visitors.
To us, this is interesting from both a social media and SEO point of view. We look at social media analytics and reporting, where we measure social media click through rates to measure the effectiveness of the social platform, as well as influence of our clients online. If we look at the click through rate for Fry’s tweet about “Action for Children”, we can see that it is only 1.79%. Despite the traffic growth increasing by the thousands, this relatively low percentage of clicks, on top of what we discovered to be low conversion rates, brings up questions about engagement and audience relevance, as well as the much debated issues about ROI and effectiveness of social media.
With a powerhouse like the mighty Stephen Fry, it can be hard to measure the impact and effect of a tweet as followers come and go daily. The website “tweeteffect” reports that Stephen Fry lost 532,928 followers in the last 187 updates, whilst also gaining 532,312, netting a loss of 616 followers in that timeframe. The site’s statistics report on the fluctuation of followers in line with each tweet and show that the tweet under our microscope increased his following by a hefty 2046 followers!
Having segmented the data in Google Analytics, our findings reveal that the bounce rate for the Action for Children website for traffic which went directly from Stephen Fry’s tweet was 74.59%, which means that the majority of people who came from Twitter didn’t visit any other pages on the site, other than the homepage which the link directed them to. We can also see that those who came direct from @stephenfry only spent an average of 34 seconds on the homepage, whereas the previous week’s visitors hung around on our client’s site for an average of 2 minutes and 6 seconds, visiting an average of 3.5 pages on the site.
So, what’s the long-term impact of “The Fry Effect”? Unfortunately, we don’t have any further data from other Fry tweets to give any conclusive analysis, but for our client we have so far only seen 4.5% of the traffic from that week returning to the site and the huge increase in traffic didn’t equate to any significant growth in donations. We have also not seen a lasting impact on search traffic. However, a slight increase in direct traffic over the last couple of weeks could signal brand awareness benefits; sadly, this is one area we can’t explicitly measure.
From a social media perspective, relevance is obviously key. Although @stephenfry has over two million followers, how many of them are the ideal demographic for Action for Children? Is the charity and its message relevant to those that are interested in an iconic British comedian and television personality? How many of his followers saw that tweet, which was posted on a Monday morning? Perhaps the majority of traffic came from the 100+ re-tweets from philanthropic Twitter users and their followers?
With the recent update to Google’s social search, where those you follow on social networks influence your Google search results, it will be interesting to see how “The Fry Effect” grows as users get sites that he has shared with his followers ranking higher for relevant search terms. Also, with the new official Twitter analytics tools rumoured to be launched soon, we may be able to give our clients increased visibility and reporting as to the effects of their own tweets.
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Update: Having just concluded this post about Stephen Fry, we’ve just discovered that another client’s Twitter feed has today been followed by the real (verified) Justin Bieber account! This is causing some interesting growth in our followers… stay posted for further analysis!