Corporate Eye

Facebook Rules Social Referrals

mouse click web trafficWhere does traffic to your branded website come from? Check your analytics data and it’s highly likely that Facebook will be near the top of the referrer list. That’s because Facebook now accounts for nearly a quarter (23.9%) of all traffic to websites. In other words, social referrals, particularly social referrals from Facebook, are getting more important every day.

This data comes from the 2nd Quarter 2014 Shareaholic Social Media Traffic Report. The study was developed through an analysis of trends between the first and second quarters of 2014 as well as a year-over-year analysis to determine how social referrals have changed since mid-2013.

The final data was developed by analyzing the eight most popular social media platforms to determine the amount of traffic each platform referred to Shareaholic’s network of sites during each of the study periods (quarterly and yearly).

The Data

Between the first and second quarters of 2014, changes in social referral traffic were very small. Facebook increased its share of social media traffic referrals from 21.25% to 13.39%. During the same period, the other seven social media platforms lost some of their share of social media traffic referrals. Collectively, those seven platforms lost nearly the same amount of social media traffic referrals that Facebook gained. It’s quite possible that Facebook simply stole some share from the other platforms.

In June 2014, Facebook had the biggest social referral share (23.39%) followed by Pinterest (5.72%), Twitter (1.03%), and StumbleUpon (0.60%). LinkedIn had the smallest social referral share (0.02%) followed by Google+ (0.06%), YouTube (0,06%), and Reddit (0.19%).

Looking at the year-over-year results is far more interesting. Here are some key statistics identified in the study:

  • Social media referrals doubled between mid-2013 and mid-2014, increasing from 15.55% to 31.07%.
  • Three social networks gained share of social media referrals year-over-year—Facebook (+150.49%), Pinterest (+69.53%), and StumbleUpon (+13.33%). All other social media platforms tracked in this study lost some of their share of social media referrals—YouTube (-82.66%), LinkedIn (-77.41%), Reddit (-65.54%), Google+ (-19.81%), and Twitter (-18.12%).
  • Facebook’s share of social media referral traffic (23.39%) is five times greater than the next closest social media platform in terms of referral traffic, Pinterest (5.72%).
  • The amount of traffic that Facebook sends to all websites increased by 150.49% between mid-2013 and mid-2014.

The Lesson for Brand Marketers

The message for brand marketers is in the data. Social referrals should be an important part of your KPIs. You should focus your marketing efforts on the networks that not only drive conversions but also support your efforts to drive traffic back to your website through the sharing and conversations that they do online, particularly on Facebook.

Are you tracking social referrals? What referral trends are you seeing for your brand website? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Image: Christoph Kurtzmann

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.