Deriving Value From Social Media Referral Traffic

There are many who want to look at social media in the same way they might look at search. Some want to see the direct value in social media traffic and when the traffic doesn’t lead to any meaningful conversions they want to condemn social media and proclaim it as valueless.

There is value in social media. It may not be as direct and measurable as we’d sometimes like, but the value is still there.

Consider the image below of some recent referral traffic to this site.

Time on Site and Bounce Rate from Social Media Referrers

Stumblers clearly didn’t spend much time here. Most bounced immediately. Sphinners stayed a little longer if not a long time. The large majority still bounced. Visitors from both Webmaster-Talk and Teaching Sells on the other hand didn’t bounce nearly as much and spent considerable time on the site. Why the difference?

More Engagement There Leads to More Engagement Here

The answer is pretty simple. It’s about my own engagement on those other sites and the familiarity the visitors who came here had with me prior to visiting. It’s about brand.

While I do maintain a presence at StumbleUpon the mass of the people who found their way here did so when this page randomly appeared after stumbling. They didn’t visit because they specifically wanted to see my content. They weren’t planning on spending time here in advance. They just happened to find there way here.

Referral traffic from Sphinn likely had a little more familiarity with me and so stayed a little longer and bounced a little less. The numbers still aren’t to brag about, but that can be explained in part on the post visited, April’s This Month In SEO, which might more likely be bookmarked than consumed right away.

Now consider both Webmaster-Talk and Teaching Sells. Why did people from both sites spend so much more time here? It’s because both are sites where I’ve spent a considerable amount of time engaging with the community. Visitors from both were planning on spending time here before they arrived.

My brand and engagement is stronger in those communities and consequently the communities were predisposed to engaging with me here.

Social Media Extends Brand Reach

The ability to build your brand through social media is perhaps the greatest marketing value you can derive from it.

I’ve never been to any of the Barnes & Nobles in San Francisco. But having become familiar with the store in other cities I wouldn’t hesitate to walk into one in San Francisco. If I was in San Francisco and wanted a book I’d seek out the store. My experience at one store is transferred in my mind to the other stores.

Having become familiar with me and my brand at Webmaster-Talk and Teaching Sells people had no hesitation spending time here. They sought me out based on an experience I provided on those sites. I’ve extended the reach of my brand to those communities.

Not everything needs to happen on your site. Part of the conversion process can take place elsewhere.

The Value Of Social Media

Most of the value in social media is indirect. You may have one popular post bring traffic from StumbleUpon, see similar numbers to those shown above, and come to the conclusion there was little value in it. That’s not the case.

There may not be direct and measurable value in a single submission, but there is value. A series of submissions to the same social site will likely lead to less bounce and more time on your site. Why? Because it takes more than one submission to build your brand.

One submission people don’t know who you are. Five submissions over the course of a month and they begin to.

When developing a social media marketing strategy think long term. Think about how you want others to perceive your brand and act accordingly.

Social media provides an opportunity to extend the reach of your brand without having to spend a fortune. You still need to do the building, but the cost is minimal in comparison to the alternatives. A quick spurt of traffic from a popular submission looks great in your stats, but it’s the longer term where the true benefit of social media is realized.

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  1. Fun stuff Steve… got me lookin at mine now – lol

    Stumble = 1.11 PagesPer, 12 seconds 95% bounce

    Shinn = 1.52 pages, 1:52 on site, 84% bounce

    Forum = 2.1 pages, 2:29 onsite, 46% bounce…

    ..and here’s a neat one –

    MyBlogLog = 2.85 pages, 5:07 onsite, 44.4% bounce

    hhmmmmm… gonna dig into this some more…seems Google reader and AllTop folks are pretty good as well. Fun stuff for a Saturday morning!

    • A couple of weeks ago while look through Analytics I looked at the disparity in bounce rates and time spent on the site and realized the numbers had a direct relation to how much I contributed to the referrers in question.

      I thought it was interesting.

    • Thanks Adam. Pretty cool that I’m ranking for the term, though I have used that anchor text quite a few times when linking back to the post.

      Odd though, the snippet that Google is using below the link. They’re grabbing the ‘Click here to cancel “reply”‘ from the threaded comments plugin. Seems like a strange choice from the page.

  2. Of course you have to also consider your expectation of engagement from those sites’ visitors. Our target demographic is college students; Stumbleupon tends to be a more general audience and so the visitors tend to bounce more than, say, Facebook (which has more student-oriented visitors).

    I could adjust my content to do a better job of keeping Stumble visitors around, but as they aren’t a key target it wouldn’t be a good use of time.

    • Absolutely and I hope I didn’t imply the numbers I’m seeing would be the same for everyone or that everyone’s site should be targeting the same social media traffic.

      What I found interesting about the Analytics was that I could easily connect my own engagement with another site and the subsequent engagement visitors from that site had with mine.

  3. I tend to agree with you Steven. Generally speaking stumblers are looking for something eye catching, and when they are directed to a blog, they want something that will catch their attention almost immediately.

    In some cases stumbleupon can bring long lasting visitors, but it has to be something eye catching.

    • Generally speaking stumblers probably aren’t hanging around too long initially, though there are ways of making them stay a little longer and if your site repeatedly ends up on the other end of the stumble button I would think stumblers would start recognizing the site and sticking around a little longer as well.

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