Monday, October 5, 2009...9:30 am

Social media is key for traffic referral

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Some interesting new stats from online market analyst Hitwise on visitor behaviour on the web show that web users visit social media sites more than any other kind of content. (I had trouble downloading the actual data, though, so this is not backed up with first-hand research).

Social_networking[UPDATE: the nice people at Hitwise sent me the PDF, so here it is if you fancy downloading it.]

Perhaps more significantly, social media is a terrific referral mechanism. Site owners still get most of their traffic from search, but social media is in second place when it comes to referring users to other content.

The crucial difference is that search engines are often used to look for things to buy, whereas social media referrals tend to be to web content (videos, stories, pictures, whatever). The key problem for brands is how to exploit this.

Market analyst Experian explores this in a post on its Hitwise Intelligence blog. Apparently financial services brand Capital One has moved a chunk of its budget online, including Facebook, which is now a big source of traffic for the brand in the UK.

Expect to see this as a trend. When Facebook is eclipsed by another kind of online experience, watch the advertising money go there, too.

Lessons for journalism? Be the kind of content that social media users send traffic to…

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