There has been a lot of discussion about Facebook killing the organic reach of posts that Pages make, essentially forcing businesses to pay to actually get their messages viewed in the News Feed. Many have considered dropping their Facebook strategy altogether, and one Page made a lot of headlines when it actually did. Despite this organic reach drop-off, Facebook appears to be driving more traffic to sites than ever.
Facebook has always been about sharing, and that’s really what needs to happen now for sites to see traffic from the social network. Chances are you’re not going to get very much if you’re just pushing your own content out on your Facebook Page. The traffic is going to come from people finding your content, and then sharing it with their friends.
Shareaholic has released its Q1 2014 Social Media Traffic Report. The data comes from over 300,000 sites reaching over 400 million unique monthly visitors from December through March.
Facebook referrals have grown by 5.81 percentage points since December with 21.25% of the overall traffic sent to sites, according to the report.
This continues a trend that has been happening for a while. Late last year, Shareaholic looked at Facebook’s share of overall visits from November 2012 to November 2013:
“While brands enjoy hating on Facebook for limiting the reach of Pages and then forcing businesses to pay for ads, Facebook still continues to refer loads of traffic to websites when users share links they enjoy with all of their friends,” says Shareaholic’s Danny Wong. “Though, last month, Eat24 caused a ruckus because it initiated a 'breakup' with Facebook, brands will never be bold enough to actually prevent users from 'liking' or 'sharing' things from their sites to Facebook. Eat24′s popular breakup letter received more than 26k Facebook likes and shares. While most brands may have lost faith in their Fan Pages, they know the world's largest social network will still bless them with tons of organic traffic.”
“Facebook users love to — or can't help but — click links on their feed,” he says.
The data appears to validate Facebook’s own strategy. People are clicking on the links they’re actually seeing more and more. That’s of little consolation to businesses who have a hard time getting there in the first place, but it does appear to be the case.
In case you’re wondering what kinds of sites the data is analyzing, Wong says the network is “well diversified, with sites ranging from independent lifestyle blogs to publishing companies to commerce sites.”
Pinterest came in second in referrals behind Facebook, growing by 48% (2.31 percentage points since December. Twitter is number three, but StumbleUpon is gaining on it, growing by 4.91% (0.13 percentage points) during the quarter.
Interestingly, YouTube’s share dropped by over half (52%) over the quarter, though according to another report from Shareaholic, it dominates when it comes to post-click engagement on sites. In that report, Facebook didn’t do so hot, so make of that what you will. How much are these Facebook referrals really helping sites?
For average pages per visit, Facebook was below Twitter and LinkedIn, and well below Google+ and YouTube. It still beat out Pinterest, reddit, and StumbleUpon. Average bounce rate was identical to Twitter and Pinterest, and higher than LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube. Reddit was the highest, closely followed by StumbleUpon. For average time on site, Facebook was slightly higher than Twitter, but not as high as LinkedIn, and not even close to as high as Google+ or YouTube.
Forrester VP, Principal Analyst Nate Elliott recently wrote, "On average, top brands have collected 90% as many fans on Plus as on Twitter (In fact, the brands we studied have more followers on Google Plus than on YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram combined.)," he writes. "Second, and more importantly, Google Plus generates much more brand engagement than you think. Recently we studied more than 3 million user interactions with more than 2,500 brand posts on seven social networks. The result? Brands' Google Plus posts generated nearly as much engagement per follower as their Facebook posts — and almost twice as much engagement per follower as their Twitter posts."