Facebook Referral Traffic Soars, Twitter Tanks Again - InformationWeek

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10/31/2014
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Facebook Referral Traffic Soars, Twitter Tanks Again

Facebook drives more than four times the traffic of its closest competitor, while Twitter's share of referral traffic continues to decline.

Facebook: 10 New Changes That Matter
Facebook: 10 New Changes That Matter
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Website analytics company Shareaholic released its latest report which revealed -- once again -- that Facebook reigned supreme as the top driver of social referrals. The company pegged Facebook's share of Internet traffic in September at 22% -- higher than all the other top social sites combined.

Shareaholic's latest data looked at how much traffic Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn drove, based on analysis of 200,000 websites that cover 250 million unique monthly visitors, it said.

As a whole, the eight largest sources of social referrals drove about 30% of the overall traffic that sites received in September, nearly doubling year-over-year, the report found. Only three social networks -- Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+ -- experienced at least a 50% bump in the share of visits over the past 13 months, it said.

"Google+ may still live on," said Shareaholic lead marketer Danny Wong in the report. "In fact, in the last year, it saw modest gains, increasing its share of traffic 57% from the same time last year." Though its gains are significant, the site still drives only 0.7% of traffic.

Between August and September, only LinkedIn and Facebook saw gains in traffic referrals; every other top social network posted a drop or no improvement, the report found. LinkedIn doubled its share of traffic in September, though still accounting for only 0.04% of traffic. Facebook's numbers jumped 3 percentage points, further separating it from only the pack.

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"With a $200 billion market cap and an active user base that rivals the entire population of China, Facebook has significant staying power," Wong said. "For publishers, marketers, and site owners, this is especially important because Facebook is the leading driver of social referrals to sites across the Web."

While Twitter beat expectations in its third quarter earnings call this week, its user growth remained unimpressive -- once again calling into question the company's long-term growth potential. Shareaholic's data echoed Wall Street's concerns, revealing that Twitter's share of traffic referrals is steadily declining.

Twitter sits at a distant third behind Facebook (No. 1) and Pinterest (No. 2), with less than 1% of all social referral traffic. Since September 2013, Twitter's share has continued to decline from 1.17% -- its 13-month high -- to 0.88%, its 13-month low, according to the data, representing a 25% drop year-over-year.

Pinterest -- at No. 2, though still far behind Facebook -- is demonstrating more potential as a viable site for marketers, publishers, and site owners, Wong said. In September, it delivered 5.52% of total visits sites received. Its share of traffic has grown 50% year-over-year, further separating itself from other social sites.

"Pinterest, while wildly popular among American women, hasn't yet scaled to the size of its competitors," Wong said. "Even still, with an estimated 70 million users, it has firmly secured its position as the second-largest referrer of social traffic."

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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 ... View Full Bio

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Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
11/6/2014 | 11:35:32 AM
Re: Facebook Referral Traffic Soars, Twitter Tanks Again
That's a good point, too. Facebook has tweaked the visual nature of news stories and links by making images more prominent. Compare this to the small, fleeting images in Twitter, and it's clear that could have an effect, too.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
11/6/2014 | 11:27:09 AM
Re: Nonintuitive
I think @danielcawrey is right -- Facebook is just that much more powerful. Facebook's algorithm probably plays a part too. Think about it: Tweets are a flash in the pan, and the odds that even a sliver of your followers see them at the time that you post them is rare. Facebook's algorithm -- regardless of people's opinion of it -- combats this. Links have more staying power on Facebook.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/31/2014 | 2:38:02 PM
Nonintuitive
Kristin, What's your take on why this is? For me, I see Twitter as all about referrals to external links, while Facebook is more about staying on the site to read friends' posts. Is it just the sheer volume of users?
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