Compared to Facebook, Twitter's generally a poor driver of direct traffic.
Although the results will differ from site to site, in many cases, Facebook shares and traffic will heavily outweigh traffic that originates from Twitter. If that's true of your site, you might be thinking: "why bother with Twitter at all?" It's not all that great for direct traffic, it costs money and time to manage a Twitter account. Your time and effort might be better spent elsewhere, right?
But there may be more to this than it seems. While Twitter may provide only a small fraction of your direct traffic, it's almost certainly where you'll find the people who you most want to get your content in front of: influencers, writers, and those with the power to see your link more widely dispersed. Here's why.
Twitter is the new RSS
Back in the day, RSS was a key technology. These days it's less important now that it was - that's because among media people, influencers, and bloggers, RSS has largely been replaced by Twitter. This article is an example of the phenomenon in action - I'm a blogger, and the seed for this article came from an link that appeared in my Twitter stream. It was a discussion of the value of Twitter to the Atlantic by Jake Swearingen, The Atlantic's social media editor. Now, I don't follow The Atlantic or Swearingen, but I do have Twitter lists of people who share content about social media, blogging, and the like. They put this article in front of me, and now I'm writing about and linking to it.
It's also worth noting that I rarely visit an article from Twitter directly. Links usually go into Pinboard or Instapaper for later reading. Abandoning Twitter means cutting of your link to a group of people who are well placed to publicize your content.
Twitter traffic is not directly attributable to Twitter
The link to Swearingen's article in the section above has no obvious connection to Twitter, but that's where it was found. For many bloggers, a Tweet will form the kernel of the article, but any traffic that follows links in that article will not appear as Twitter traffic. It's second order traffic, or what's been subbed - originally by another Atlantic alumnus - dark social. Dark social refers to traffic that ultimately originates with social media, but is the result of sharing on blogs, email, chat, and so on; sources that can't be attributed to social media but that wouldn't exist without it.
For better or for worse, Twitter's where influencers go to understand what's happening in the areas that interest them, which means direct traffic from Twitter should only be considered the tip of the iceberg.
As has been noted by Twitter themselves several times, the reach and ubiquity of the platform reaches far wider than it may, initially, seem.