You may not know this, but 10 days ago there was an almighty gas explosion in the town where I live, Shrewsbury in the UK. A building was destroyed in the town centre, and several people were injured.
At the time, I was at home a few hundred yards away, and to cut a long story short, I was on the scene just after the emergency services arrived, with my trusty camera in hand, and got a few shots. I posted these on my website as fast as I could, and I was indeed the first person to get any photos of any quality on the internet. More to the point, I used my Twitter and Digg accounts to call attention to the photos. Within minutes, my page was indexed and getting hits.
What I didn’t think about was the bandwidth that these full-size photos from my five mega-pixel camera would consume. Within an hour I was up to 1,350 unique visitors and 2Gb of bandwidth, at which point the site was closed down! Fortunately, I use a reseller account with tentahost.co.uk, and set my own limits on individual domains, so it was only my own limit that was exceeded, not the overall account. Tentahost were great in helping me to sort it out.
The point of this post is to say that never before have I managed to get any meaningful attention from social networking sites, yet with this hot story, I got attention, and lots of it, almost immediately – and it felt sort of special. I was even contacted by BBC news. For a while, my web page was at number one, with the Digg submision and the Tweet also in the top five on Google for “Shrewsbury gas explosion”. (Later, the BBC and Sky took over at the top!)
Unfortunately, as many people have mentioned is often the case, the traffic I got was not interested in buying anything from me or looking at my website, apart from the explosion photos. I really am starting to wonder what the business value of sites like Twitter is, for me anyway. After all, nobody using Twitter is looking for my products or services, and nobody is interested enough in my web sites to follow me, and why would they? What can I say in 160 characters that’s of any use to someone booking a holiday or buying a TV? If anyone has any ideas, I would be interested to hear them.
I’m still not sure how my one Digg submission and one Tweet caused my web page to be indexed within minutes, when normally it can take as long as a few days.
Meanwhile, I moved the photos over to Flickr and the traffic on my site is back to normal. My only reminder of this episode is the big bump in the middle of the Google Analytics graph, as big as the one in the share price graph during the dotcom boom and bust!