Farewell Social Media Traffic, It Was Nice Knowing You

Are the days of using social media as a way of deliv­er­ing sig­nif­i­cant web traf­fic over? Is “con­tent shock” now tru­ly with us?

Andrew Smith By Andrew Smith from Escherman. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Gen­er­at­ing rel­e­vant traf­fic to a web­site still remains one of the key goals of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing. The basic chan­nels of search (organ­ic and paid), dis­play adver­tis­ing, and email con­tin­ue to occu­py the minds of most dig­i­tal mar­keters. Social media is also assumed to act as a pow­er­ful traf­fic dri­ver. But are the days of social as a way of deliv­er­ing sig­nif­i­cant web traf­fic over? Is “con­tent shock” now tru­ly with us?

I’ve been fail­ing at social media mar­ket­ing.” That’s how Buffer’s Kevan Lee intro­duced his recent blog post, We’ve Lost Near­ly Half Of Our Social Refer­ral Traf­fic in the last 12 months. This would be a bold admis­sion for any social media mar­keter. But for one of the lead­ing providers of social media tools, and no slouch­es at pro­mot­ing con­tent via social, it was a rather extra­or­di­nary con­fes­sion. The num­bers speak for them­selves. Com­pared to the pre­vi­ous 12 months, social refer­ral traf­fic to the Buffer blog dropped across the board:

  • Twit­ter down 43 per­cent.
  • Face­book down 53 per­cent.
  • LinkedIn down 45 per­cent.
  • Google+ down 72 per­cent.

Year on year, the Buffer blog is receiv­ing around 100,000 less vis­its via social.

Why Has There Been Such A Social Traffic Decline?

As Lee right­ly points out, there could be a whole host of rea­sons why social media traf­fic is drop­ping. The one pos­si­bil­i­ty that clear­ly presents the biggest chal­lenge is that social media itself is chang­ing and Buffer sim­ply has­n’t yet fig­ured out how to address the appar­ent­ly chang­ing behav­ior of social media users (or the chang­ing nature of the main social media plat­forms them­selves). One obvi­ous sus­pect for Buffer (and other’s) social media traf­fic decline is the fact that Twit­ter, Face­book, and LinkedIn are all to some degree attempt­ing to keep peo­ple with­in the plat­forms rather than direct­ing them else­where. For exam­ple:

But Is This Necessarily A Bad Thing?

Is it sim­ply a case of accept­ing that social media isn’t going to send refer­ral traf­fic in the way it has in the past and mak­ing sure that brand expo­sure and engage­ment is achieved on the social plat­forms them­selves via great con­tent? This begs the ques­tion whether even great con­tent is good enough these days. This is part­ly down to the ever increas­ing amount of con­tent being pub­lished every­where today. Promi­nent social media blog­ger Mark Scha­ef­fer pre­dict­ed back in Jan­u­ary 2014 we would soon see the immi­nent arrival of “con­tent shock” – the emerg­ing mar­ket­ing epoch when expone­tial­ly increas­ing vol­umes of con­tent inter­sect our lim­it­ed human capac­i­ty to con­sume it. And as the recent the recent Moz/Buzzsumo sur­vey showed, the vast major­i­ty of con­tent cre­at­ed gets nei­ther shared nor linked to.

It Isn’t Just Social Media That Has Problems

Blog­ging isn’t what it used to be either. Pro­lif­ic blog­ger Mitch Joel recent­ly post­ed an arti­cle, The End Of Blog­ging? His con­clu­sion, how­ev­er, didn’t mean he was giv­ing up cre­at­ing con­tent. He was sim­ply acknowl­edg­ing that con­tent has to go where the audi­ence is – name­ly, on the social plat­forms them­selves.

What Does This Mean For Digital Marketers?

There are a cou­ple things to con­sid­er.

  • Keep a close eye on refer­ral traf­fic via social. If Buffer’s expe­ri­ence is any­thing to go by, then it would be fool­ish to auto­mat­i­cal­ly assume that social can be count­ed on to dri­ve ever increas­ing lev­els of site traf­fic.
  • Good con­tent alone is prob­a­bly not enough to gain atten­tion and engage­ment direct­ly on social plat­forms them­selves. Not least of which is the fact that brand con­tent now has to com­pete with native­ly pub­lished mate­r­i­al from Pre­mier League con­tent cre­ators in the shape of major media out­lets.

As Moz’s Rand Fishkin has already point­ed out, good unique con­tent needs to die. Con­tent today has to be at least 10x bet­ter than every­thing else it con­ceiv­ably com­petes with.

Andrew Smith

Written by Andrew Smith

Director, Escherman

Andrew Bruce Smith is the founder and Managing Director of digital communications consultancy Escherman. With a career spanning 29 years, Andrew has implemented many successful marketing communications programmes for brands such as IBM, MySQL, and Apple. He is co-author of two best-selling social media books - Share This: a practical handbook to the biggest changes taking place in the media and its professions (Wiley 2012). And Share This Too: More Social Media Solutions for PR Professionals (Wiley 2013). Andrew is also a trainer in measurement, evaluation, social media, analytics and SEO for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), a member of the CIPR Social Media panel and a guest lecturer at the University of Leeds Business School.

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