Facebook, Pinterest Drive Social Traffic, Clipping Twitter’s Wings

Facebook remains king when it comes to driving social referral traffic, according to Shareaholic’s latest Social Media Traffic Report. The study found that referrals from social media drove 29.49 percent of overall Web traffic received by publishers, marketers, and site owners reporting last month from sites across the Web, with the majority of these referrals coming from Facebook.

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According to the report, Facebook drives 22.36 percent of social referrals, while its closest competitor for referral share, Pinterest, drives only 5.52 percent. The study also found that while Pinterest and Facebook have continued to thrive year-over-year, nearly all the other sites counted have seen their social referral numbers fall.

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Shareaholic’s study looks at the eight most popular social networks: Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn. The data focuses on “share of visits” — or percentage of overall traffic — such as direct traffic, social referrals, organic search, and paid search that reporting sites received from each social platform.

Merry Morud, social media advertising director at aimClear, says that Facebook continues to thrive where others have declined because the site has a large number of committed users.

“Traffic from Facebook comes down to the sheer volume of Facebook users that enter the platform daily (if not multiple times per day) and the fact that Facebook is familiar for users,” says Morud. “Part of the reason for the lack of adoption in other, similar social channels, like Google+, is the opportunity cost involved in building out yet another social profile and getting friends, peers, and acquaintances to engage there. Facebook users are entrenched in their profiles.”

Though a distant second to Facebook, Pinterest has doubled its share of influence in the past year — probably because Pinterest has also been able to build out an audience of devoted users, says Bitly chief executive (CEO) Mark Josephson. “Like Facebook, Pinterest has really nailed the user experience. They have largely focused on continuing to improve user engagement, and that focus builds larger, more valuable audiences that they should be able to monetize down the road,” Josephson says.

Morud adds that Pinterest is able to stay competitive with Facebook because the site offers users seamless simplicity. “Pinterest is as easy to digest as a virtual magazine, flipping through topically relevant images. In that respect, it’s fast, and mostly brainless — which is what most users want when consuming content online.”

Perhaps the most surprising part of the study is how quickly Twitter seems to be losing influence. The site is down from accounting for 1.17 percent of social referrals last year to just 0.88 percent this year, a decline of 24.97 percent. However, Morud believes the decline is temporary, and expects new features to make Twitter relevant again.

“I think Twitter is on the right track, from a marketing perspective,” she says, adding that Twitter cards, embedded images in tweets, and new call-to-action buttons will all help the company drive social referral traffic again.

Josephson also believes that Twitter is set to make a comeback, but as a result of the company broadening its reach to mobile app development. Last week, Twitter introduced Fabric, a bundle of app development products that will make it easier to embed both tweets and ads in apps. Josephson believes this push toward expansion will keep Twitter viable as a profitable marketing platform.

“We are believers in Twitter and their plan,” he says. “[With Fabric], Twitter will be able to reach more people outside the core Twitter app and deliver better results for advertisers on and off their core app.”

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