Social Activity Becomes Significant Source of Website Traffic

A significant online trend is shaping up — people are:

(1) spending more time online at social sites sharing conversation and content, and

(2) are finding content via social sites, rather than through search engines.

One implication of this: expect to get more website traffic from social sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

John Battelle writes that the conversation is shifting — and so is how we find information online:

Search, and Google in particular, was the first true language of the Web. But I’ve often called it a toddler’s language – intentional, but not fully voiced. This past few weeks folks are noticing an important trend – the share of traffic referred to their sites is shifting. Facebook (and for some, like this site, Twitter) is becoming a primary source of traffic.

Why? Well, two big reasons. One, Facebook has metastasized to a size that rivals Google. And two, Facebook Connect has come into its own. People are sharing what they are reading, where they are going, and what they are doing, and the amplification of all that social intention is spreading across the web.

For a long time if you wanted your business to get found online, you focused on traditional search engines. You made sure your site could get found in Google and Yahoo and other engines.

But gradually, almost imperceptibly at first, people started changing their online behavior. I’ve noticed it with my own sites, where each month traffic from social sites is growing.

According to a Nielsen report (PDF) out just yesterday, “two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit a social network or blogging site and the sector now accounts for almost 10% of all internet time.”

People are using large social sites such as Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn to share news and information.  They are discussing brands at these sites.  It is not an isolated phenomenon, but a growing trend.

Consequently, Twitter and Facebook are becoming  sources for finding information — and driving traffic.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter are not good for writing content so much as merely pointing out content on other sites, and sharing small bits of insight.  You wouldn’t — or couldn’t — write long articles or commentary on Facebook or Twitter, where your messages are limited to 140 characters.  But they sure are well-suited to point out links to content elsewhere.  They are also well-suited to sharing quick opinions and insights about products and brands.

So, for instance, if you want to know what people are saying right now about Comcast, you go to Twitter and search for the word “Comcast.”  In that way, as Techcrunch noted,  you can think of Twitter as an alternative  search engine.

I make no predictions about how Twitter will supposedly replace Google.  I highly doubt that.  Traditional search engines are still best for comprehensive searches of information.  But if anyone wants to know what people are REALLY saying and their sentiments, and see what they point out they’re reading, increasingly he or she is likely to turn to Twitter.  Social sites like Twitter are a different option for finding information — one that people increasingly use.

So if your business and your brand are not visible on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social sites, you’re missing out on a growing alternative channel for sourcing information.

Get there now and start building a presence and a network on social sites.  That way you too can be found where the conversation is happening.  Don’t overlook this important source of website traffic and word of mouth.

More in: 39 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

39 Reactions
  1. Anita, I often feel quite privileged to read your posts. Honestly. You put a tremendous amount of thought and energy into these posts and it is so clear that you are one of the small biz visionaries of our time. I’m not trying to flatter you.

    I have been pondering this phenomena myself, reading Batelle, among others, and contemplating if I should offer up a new service product to replace my Webscout concept and aim it just at helping people improve their presence on LinkedIn, and the use of it to find new sales, new business. That’s why I use it, frankly. It makes a nice contact dbase, but I can use Excel a lot faster… And, as a small biz owner, if you use these tools right, you can find new prospects. It isn’t easy or fast, but it is there.

    It is so about the connecting. The content and how it relates to our customers. I search LinkedIn and Facebook almost as much as I search with Google. I don’t say that lightly. I use Twitter (and I’m like you, i doubt they will be replacing or threatening Google anytime soon, if ever, nor do they probably care to) to search for people and titles (thanks to that cool link you gave me a few weeks ago). I think Facebook is more of a competitive threat, but it doesn’t take Google much to add a bit more social spin to their platform. Just look at some of the beta apps. Add in the local search aspect, Google Knol, and on and on.

    It is such fun to be able to expand our work and our companies by way of these tools. It gives me as a little co owner room to try things at lower cost, it gives me the freedom to be anywhere, it gives me the work with brilliant minds all around the world. I love it.

    Thanks for this post.

  2. Anita,
    Your article is spot-on. Everything I have been doing in the past 9 months has been geared towards Social Media, and will continue too.

    Recently, some local Social Media rock stars have formed a club, The Cleveland Social Media Club. That says it all. I joined.

    The Franchise King
    Joel Libava

  3. Hi TJ,

    Nothing worthwhile is fast or easy, I’ve found. It takes dedication and devoting some time to it — but you can expand your network, build up your brand, and drive traffic to a website by participating in Twitter and Facebook.

    And I use that word “participating” very deliberately.

    You have to GIVE more than you take on social sites. But if you do that, the rewards can be meaningful, even significant.


  4. Anita,

    I agree with you that more and more traffic will come from these social networking sites as they become more mainstream. However, I have to disagree with you on the fact that it will be at the expense of the search engines.

    When you want to look up “blue widgets”, you are not going to go look for it in Facebook or Twitter…you are still going to go to a search engine so that you can scour the web and not just some social network site.

    I think the traffic it is going to be canibalizing is the random website traffic from people “surfing” the net. Instead of randomly surfing the net, people will be surfing their social networks. However, I they will leave their social networks and return to search engines when they are in the need of some good old fashion research.

    So my advice is to get involved with the Social Networks like you said but don’t let it take away from your continuous efforts to improve your search engine presence.

    Best regards,

  5. It is such fun to be able to expand our work and our companies by way of these tools. It gives me as a little co owner room to try things at lower cost, it gives me the freedom to be anywhere, it gives me the work with brilliant minds all around the world. I love it. -> TJ, you did hit the sweet spot of this post and I strongly agree with you here. 🙂

  6. Hi David, actually I think we are closer in agreement that it might have appeared on first glance. You make a good point – I agree that search engines remain very important — both sources of traffic should be sought after.

    And let’s not forget that trends like this shift gradually, not overnight. The majority of the population still is not going on Twitter. 🙂


  7. You make a good point. I myself have looked up a few things by using Twitter. Twitter users can offer a more honest and real opinion about a company or product. I still use Google search but Twitter is better if you want to see what others think.

  8. Martin Lindeskog

    Yesterday I read post, 9 Twitter Search Apps : Better Than Twitter & Google by Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal.

    You guessed, I found it in the stream of Twitter messages. I didn’t remembered who “tweeted” about it, so I used the advanced search feature on Twitter:

    “twitter search applications”

    and then found the piece:

  9. Martin Lindeskog

    I used Twitter’s serch engine when Google’s mail program, Gmail, was down, sometime ago. I searched on the hashtag #Gmail and found plenty of up-to-date information.

  10. Thanks for the observation. It’s eye opening. The twitter search feature is a valuable tool to gather intelligence on “the buzz” out there but I’m not sure how one markets there on a macro scale. I see the micro–have your employees go there and twit out your business. But I don’t see how mass marketing is done on twitter. When twitter figures out how to enable that, there they shall find their long-sought revenue source.

  11. Martin Lindeskog

    You could get the impression that Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt was a bit out of touch when he called Twitter for the “poor man’s e-mail system.”

    Read Michael S. Malone’s opinion piece, The Twitter Tug of War: Can Google Win?

  12. Martin Lindeskog

    Oops, the Adjix didn’t work for some reason. Here is a new one:

    Or if you search on Google! 😉 Or go to ABC News site.

  13. Great thread continuing here. From my perspective, and many here, it is all connected and that’s the point. You cannot neglect services like Twitter or Google or even the phone in your effort to grow business. In fact, I just had two interviews with clients that talked about the fact that you rarely convert a prospect by the web or email directly — you have to pick up the phone or meet in person. I wrote about this over at my Fast Company blog on Pre-Marketing. What’s the ultimate reason we “play” with these tools? It is the hope that we will drive new business.

    And that’s back to my point about its all interconnected. You can’t do one. What’s that potato chip motto — you can’t eat just one.. You have to “eat” Google, SEO, PPC, Twitter/FB/LI, StumbleUpon, Phone, Email…

    Happy Marketing and Sales!

  14. Martin Lindeskog

    TJ: I agree with you on this. It is a mix of stuff. That’s why my vision of a new type of physical meeting place for entrepreneurs and business minded individuals still will be valid in the future. A great start of a business relationship will start with a handshake over a cup of coffee… 🙂

  15. Martin Lindeskog


    Have you invited Drew Carey to your Cleveland Social Media Club? He sings: “Cleveland Rocks!” 🙂

    I am more of a social media enthusiast instead of a rock star… 😉

  16. Martin,
    Indeed. One often needs to meet in person, but at the very least, I don’t know of any significant service offering that begins without in person or phone. Yes, I buy books, products, even low cost services ($200 and “under) without ever talking to someone live. That’s why we need to plan an integrated effort.

    Jumping back to one of Anita’s original points:

    “Consequently, Twitter and Facebook are becoming sources for finding information — and driving traffic.”

    Yes, I find information — market-savvy and competitive and just good ideas that help me find profitable ideas that drive new traffic to my sites and, in the case of LI, FB, and other networks, prospective customers. And the only way i can reach them is to learn about them, participate where they are present, and build connections and relationships. But my marketing efforts, and those of clients, extend beyond the social networks. But we may find that the social network becomes the anchor, the centerpoint, of our online engagement and marketing versus just search alone.

    There is a lot happening and shifting, as John Battelle points out.

  17. Not email. Not search. But Twitter, Facebook and StumbleUpon were the main reasons that something I wrote made it to Digg’s homepage.

    While search will always be important, colleagues/associates/friends/collaborators will trump search. I kinda like that thought.

  18. Interesting article Anita. Do you know if the Nielsen report or any other report breaks down the data further. For example is it younger people using Facebook more or there a particular segment driving the Twitter growth?

  19. Totally right…
    Social activities are a significant source for website traffic,the social sites offer you the online word-of-mouth. I would describe this great viral invention as a search engine for opinions, discussions and reviews. Twitter and Facebook are big wells of information where you can find and spread even more. If the reviews, opinions and information on your business/website are positive, it is no wonder your website traffic is increasing.

    Google has nothing to worry about; they just need to watch and learn.

    Marketing Eye Digital

  20. Efforts to increase web traffic truly entails hardwork,time and efforts. I agree that investing time in social sites like twitter and facebook can bring in generous traffic.

  21. Thanks Anita. I’m reading so much about social media these days (on all fronts) that I’m going to have to invest the time to explore and participate.

  22. Very interesting post, Anita. There was a fascinating story on the New York Times about a Korean Taco van in LA that has mastered the use of Twitter to create hype and attract customers. It will be really interesting to see whether Twitter becomes essential, or if it is overtaken by some new, yet to be imagined social media application, as our web tastes evolve.

  23. Very insightful post and things are definitely changing as you have pointed out. I’ve used Twitter to search specific topics as well and have found it to be especially useful when having done so. You don’t get fluff . . you get real, honest opinions and feelings from others and some great links to useful content.

  24. “But if anyone wants to know what people are REALLY saying and their sentiments, and see what they point out they’re reading, increasingly he or she is likely to turn to Twitter.” — you’re definitely right on this Anita. Even I, find Twitter really good source of direct communication of ideas. You can ask other twitterers’ point of views and in a matter of seconds you will receive their replies and a lot more of insights.

  25. I agree with you.
    Most of my old friends did not really know what I do until I started to link my blog to my Facebook account (you can do that via their notes by uploading your own blog)
    They also comment my articles right on Facebook

  26. GoEverywhere Team

    I am not surprised by this trend at all! I access Twitter and Facebook from my webtop several times a day! It’s how I communicate with friends, family and business partners. It’s how I search for information. It’s also how I help cure a very bad case of writer’s block! I completely agree that if you and your business are not on these social sites, you will regret it down the road.

  27. Google versus Facebook
    Ok people ; first, the facts ;
    I am NOT a tech expert like those you can find at techcrunch, engadget, gizmodo, and others.
    I have been blogging for years ; now on blogger (owned by Google) (GOOG) , and in the past via Geocities.
    Blogging is quite simple ; you open an account via Google’s gmail, then it allows you to create a blog via Blogger. It only takes around 15 minutes. Then ? you can start to set up the “monetize” button by adding ads sold by Google. You get a free blog ; you do all the writing, and Google sells you adspace and makes all the money 🙂
    Advertisers today prefer to see their ads on niche blogs rather than buying key words …..
    It makes sense ….. that is why most of the ads on my blogs relate to finance 🙂
    Now comes Facebook ….. and Twitter ….
    But let’s see how Facebook is quietly taking over ……
    I have been using Facebook for a while now and I finally see what they are REALLY doing.
    A few days ago, they once again changed their format.
    The blog you are reading here can be seen on my Facebook account (seen only by my friends), with ads ONLY belonging to Facebook….
    In the past, the RSS feed into Facebook was only uploading my posts in a simple format.
    Now these posts are available with ads from Facebook.
    I Tweet as well on Twitter ; guess what ? My Tweets go to my profile on Facebook, and you can add your comments on my profile …… you can also comment my Alpha Global posts ….

    Bottom line ?
    The blogger creates the content via Blogger and Twitter
    The content goes straight to Facebook …. and the advertisers know that a person on Facebook spends more time there than on Google search ????

    With all the applications available on Facebook, why do you need to go elsewhere ?

    Like I said, I am not a tech expert, but Google (GOOG) is facing some real challenge here.
    And the blogger ? he/she does not make a penny by driving content to Facebook

    As of today, I STOPPED uploading my contents (Blogger and Twitter) to my Facebook profile.

  28. Just because everyone says does not mean that a business should embrace all the social media tools. first the business needs to chalk out a strategy and then figure out how these tools are going to help their business.

    Without a plan, there is going to be a lot of wasted hours on twitter and facebook…

  29. Franchise Information

    That’s good information,not only do we have Google as a revenue for online advertising now we should also pay attention to social networking sites. There are even more Franchise blogs coming along on twitter and facebook which is bringing in a lot of potential visitors.

  30. You really hit the nail on the head with this post. Social activity has quickly become crucial in pointing people towards your market and business. Also, the Facebook, Twitter, etc. gives the individual searching an invite into your personality that a Google search can’t. Thanks for sharing.