I came across a report this week which discussed the findings of a study carried out which explored how well social media sites drive traffic to other websites. Apparently, they're not very good at it.
The report suggested that sites such as Twitter and Facebook don't send anywhere near as many visitors to external sites as Google does. I'm not surprised by these results and to be honest, I'm a little more surprised at the reaction the report has got. I thought it was obvious that Google would send more traffic to your site than Twitter or Facebook.
It's obvious because of the following:
(1) What else are you going to do with Google results?
It's very rare that you Google something, and then find yourself not clicking on any of the links shown in the search results. The whole purpose of Google is to find suitable webpages which it feels answers your query. Google doesn't want to keep you onsite, it wants to refer you to an appropriate 3rd party website where you'll find the answer to your question. This is fundamentally different to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, which aim to keep you onsite for as long as possible.
(2) Search engines and 'social media search' are different
Now some of you might be saying, 'yes but social media sites now have search facilities built into them' - and this is true. However, social media search results are different to search engine results in so much as they are based around conversation and opinion of users. Much of the information which get returned via Twitter Search for example, make no reference to external websites through links. Twitter is great for quickly finding out the general opinion relating to some matter, but if you want to find out more, you're probably going to have to Google it.
(3) Social means social
The creators of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter get their kicks off of how long you spend online using their services. Every few months, we get inundated with information and statistics telling us how people in the UK spend X number of hours every day on Facebook. Social media sites don't want you to leave their pages. They want you to interact with others, share information, and make recommendations so that they can learn more about you and how you and your communities interact. They want you to be social and contribute to the greater community. You can even view images and video on Twitter now - and this is just another example of how the social platform is looking to kept you onsite for as long as possible.
With all that said, it's pretty obvious to see why social media sites don't tend to refer as many visitors to your website as Google does. On the other hand, it's important to remember that having a social media presence is essential in business today. Not only should you be using social media to engage with customers, you should also use the channel because social media is now being considered as a ranking factor within the likes of Google.