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.

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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.