Be it their improved algorithms or the development of advanced posting skills, whatever the reason, Facebook referral traffic is dominating other social media platforms.
For 13 months, starting in September 2012, Shareaholic gathered data about how people are getting to media websites. The consensus was that Facebook was the primary referring social media site.
In all, Facebook referral traffic saw an increase of about 59 percent in those 13 months. The average spike in referral traffic on media sites was 170 percent.
But, they weren’t finished.
Stories to Share
In late October 2013, Facebook rolled out a beta version of a new tool that was available to a number of page managers for media sites.
This new feature, called Stories to Share, gives suggestions to page managers on what stories to post. The suggestions are based on the popularity of stories that haven’t been shared by its own page.
As a means to increase the number of clicks, Facebook will recommend that the page’s admin share that popular story.
Facebook is not only the best for referral traffic, it continues to improve on its own stats. Researchers are seeing constant increases of referral traffic from Facebook, quarter by quarter.
This is not a trend, however, that other social media platforms are seeing. Twitter saw a slight decrease from quarter one to quarter three in 2013, as did StumbleUpon and other platforms.Facebook is currently driving more than half of all traffic from social media sites. If their trends continue, that number could be almost 75 percent at the end of the first quarter in 2014.
Facebook’s Inside Research
Facebook even did its own research. They worked with 29 media sites over just seven days to see if increasing the frequency of posts increased overall referral traffic. It did.
Not only did it increase outbound clicks by 89 percent, but the amount of likes per post increased by over 10 percent and the number of fans per page went up by 49 percent.
There’s no magical formula to know how many posts one page should put out there, because each Facebook user interacts with a page differently than the next. But Facebook encourages page managers, of media sites in particular, to experiment with the number of posts per day and per week to see what best suits their organization.
There is, however, a post limit that one should take note of. There is always a chance of annoying readers to the point that they even “unlike” a page. So, using caution when employing Facebook as a vehicle to post every story on a website is a good practice.
Not only does the frequency of posts, and where posts are put matter when trying to increase traffic to a website, the content of those posts is critical.
Headlines alone can dictate the number of clicks. Writing headlines for Facebook to increase traffic is not an exact science. Many disagree on what should be in a headline and what shouldn’t.
Making headlines short, sweet and to the point is a well-agreed upon practice. Using digits instead of spelling out numbers, and making posts less than 80 characters has shown to increase the number of engaged readers. This, in turn, will increase referral traffic.
Many sites that see a lot of referral traffic coming from Facebook use a lot of action words in their headlines, and less nouns.
Getting people to do something, or to think about doing something can increase their engagement with a post, and increase the likelihood that they’ll click on whatever their reading.
Questions are also a factor worth mentioning in the content of posts discussion. Overall, questions drive more traffic and engage more readers more often than just text and links. The engagement comes with comments. Question posts receive 100 percent more comments, but fewer shares and likes.
The type of question matters as well. “How” and “Why” questions rank lower than “Should” and “Would” questions.
Perhaps one reason why Facebook has a lot of referral traffic is its multimedia advantage.
Photos appear pretty large on Facebook newsfeeds, whereas Twitter pictures, at least on a mobile phone, appear as a link first.
Posts with photos, on Facebook, get 53 percent more likes, 104 percent more comments and 84 percent more click-throughs.
But, blind photo-posting has its drawbacks.
Photos on Facebook need to stand on their own without a lot of text accompanying them. Posts with photos shouldn’t need much explanation. If a story doesn’t have a photo, don’t fish for a bad one just to have a graphic. Sometimes, no photo is better than a bland one.
Timing matters too
Increasing traffic to a website can be done with Facebook, and it’s sometimes all a matter of timing.
Choosing the best time of day to post and the best days out of the week can vary per page. Testing traffic rates with posting times can be a useful tool to increase referrals.
Some studies show that engagement rates are higher when the week draws closer to the weekend, on Thursday and Friday. But what’s the best time of day to post to increase referral traffic? It’s still a highly contentious debate, but most agree that before work, at lunch and right after work are still the best times.
However, one study showed that engagement was highest on weekends. But it will vary depending on the type of page that’s sharing content.
Some Facebook pages treat their posts like a beautifully orchestrated symphony, with everything harmoniously syncing together to create more virtual traffic.
In a showcase by Facebook, Upworthy is revealed as a prime example of impeccable timing, superb headline writing and excellent engagement.
Not only does Upworthy drive traffic to their website from Facebook, they then employ those viewers to do the same, with “share” and “like” buttons in easily accessible locations.
Their crafty recipe for headline writing is actually the result of well-thought out, tested and analyzed content.
“Upworthy has learned that a good headline can be the difference between 1,000 or 1,000,000 people reading or viewing a story,” the Facebook showcase says. “When it tests headlines, Upworthy sees a 20 percent, 50 percent, and even 500 percent difference between headlines for the same story.”
Upworthy social media managers probably spend more time on their Facebook page than on their website’s homepage.
The main takeaways from this are that testing content is important, timing can vary, and experimenting is a good start. Not every company has the time or the know-how to sit down and analyze their Facebook page.
But, knowing what works for one’s organization can be an excellent base to launch from into the social media world.
It’s clear that Facebook is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to referral traffic. Using their tools and tricks to create an advantage in this messy world of digital content can be, no doubt, an irrevocable skill.
Getting onto the social media bandwagon is one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways for companies and organizations to stay in tune with their customers and readers. Facebook has proved its continued dominance and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon.
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