Twitter may not have as many users as Facebook, but when it comes to social sharing, it is arguably the king for many publishers. 

And for good reason: Twitter’s structure makes it the perfect platform for sharing links.

But are publishers using Twitter to drive traffic to their websites underestimating just how much traffic the social media hub is generating? According to social analytics provider awe.sm, the answer to that question is ‘yes!‘.

Yesterday, awe.sm co-founder Jonathan Strauss published a blog post detailing that, in the first six months of 2011, Twitter drove a whopping four times as much traffic to 33,000 of the sites using awe.sm’s platform than referrer data alone could detect.

awe.sm’s findings:

  • Just under 25% of links shared on Twitter produced a twitter.com referrer.
  • Nearly a third of links shared on Twitter contained no referrer information.
  • 13% of Twitter links listed another referrer.

There are a number of reasons links shared on Twitter don’t get the referrer credit they’re due.

Many users, for instance, use Twitter clients that simply don’t pass referrer information. And increasingly, links shared find their way onto other sites which display tweets and feeds.

In fact, awe.sm says that “1 in 8 visits driven by Twitter sharing are actually referred from other sites.’

Of course, publishers paying attention to attribution probably aren’t surprised about any of this. Whether you’re using a service like awe.sm or bit.ly to track traffic from Twitter-shared links, or tagging your links for analytics purposes, it is possible to ensure that you’re not significantly underestimating the traffic generated by Twitter.

As services like Twitter become more and more important to many publishers, and increased investment in social becomes a subject for discussion, such techniques to manage attribution will only become more important.

For more on how Econsultancy measures Twiiter traffic, see this post