Facebook Referral Traffic Skyrockets

Facebook drove nearly one-quarter of all Web traffic in June while other social networks experienced significant drops, says new report.

Kristin Burnham, Senior Editor, InformationWeek.com

July 23, 2014

3 Min Read

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Facebook still reigns supreme as the top driver of social referrals, despite news feed algorithm changes that caused some brands' organic reach to plummet. According to a new report, Facebook drove nearly one-quarter of all Web traffic last month.

Facebook was the only social network to post an increase in social media traffic referrals, according to data from Shareaholic, which took into account more than 300,000 sites and more than 400 million unique monthly visitors. Every other social network in the top eight posted double-digit drops from 10% to 57% between May and June, the report found.

In June, Facebook generated more than 23% of the total share of visits to Shareaholic's network of websites -- a 10% increase from March. Facebook's social referral gains are even more impressive year-over-year: Since June 2013, its share of traffic has skyrocketed, up more than 150%.

[User satisfaction with social networks remains low. Read Social Networks Bomb In Customer Satisfaction.]

"Users are always plugged into their feed, and without realizing tend to be highly invested in frequent check-ins and lightweight touch points with their connections," said Shareaholic lead marketer Danny Wong. "Simply put, Facebook is winning the referrals war because users can't seem to get enough of content shared by close friends and relatable acquaintances."

In the past year, the 8 largest sources of social referrals drove 31% of overall traffic sites received last month, the report said, compared to just over 15% during the same time last year.

While Facebook's social referrals skyrocketed, every other top social site struggled in the last quarter. No. 2 social referrer Pinterest dropped more than 19% to a 5.7% stake in referral traffic, though its share grew nearly 70% since last year.  Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn also saw significant drops in Q2.


YouTube (-32%), Google+ (-21%), and LinkedIn (-57%) all experienced declines between March and June, but even more so over the past year: YouTube's share of referral visits dropped nearly 83%, while LinkedIn's dropped 77% and Google+ experienced a 20% decrease, according to the report.

Wong attributed YouTube's decrease to expense -- not all businesses have the resources to develop high-quality videos that their audience wants to view and share, he said. And because Google+ "arrived late to the game," it failed to grow user adoption as most marketers and publishers still don't understand its value.

Wong sees more potential for a rebound in LinkedIn, mostly due to its new open publishing platform, but he said the site is likely becoming more a source for stories.

"I've also seen a ton of engagement in groups or status update threats and in the comments of posts," he noted. "Is there a chance LinkedIn has become insular? I would think so. But another diagnosis of LinkedIn's anemia can be that its 'professionals-only' image is deterring many users from taking full advantage of the platform."

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About the Author(s)

Kristin Burnham

Senior Editor, InformationWeek.com

Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior writer. Kristin's writing has earned an ASBPE Gold Award in 2010 for her Facebook coverage and a Min Editorial and Design Award in 2011 for "Single Online Article." She is a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

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