The Rising Power Of Social Media As A Traffic Driver

I have been looking over the referrer logs of our portfolio companies and have been paying special attention to social media (facebook and twitter in particular) and I've been noticing that both services are making significant moves up in most every referrer log. I can't reveal the specifics due to confidentiality, but there are some companies that count facebook and twitter as the second and third most important sources of traffic after the big daddy google.

Mike Arrington posted TechCrunch's twitter traffic trends today and I figured I'd do the same here and also show facebook traffic trends.

Here's the past six months of Twitter traffic to this blog:
Twitter traffic to avc

The traffic to this blog from twitter has tripled in the past six months, from around 600 visits per week to over 2,000 visits per week.

And here's the past six months of Facebook traffic to this blog:
Traffic to avc from facebook

The traffic to this blog from facebook has gone up 5x in the past six months, from around 50 visits per week to over 250 visits per week.

I send all of my twitter posts to facebook via the twitter facebook app so I am publishing the same number of links to both services. But the interesting thing is that on twitter, my posts are only responsible for about 4,000 of the 28,000 visits in the past six months. The vast majority of the visits are coming from others either posting links to this blog or retweeting my posts. I don't think that happens very much on facebook (yet). You can see that in action because the twitter traffic comes from 952 accounts and the facebook traffic comes from only 55 accounts.

I expect that these numbers will continue to rise as twitter's user base grows and the new users become more sophisticated about sending links and retweeting. I also expect facebook's numbers to increase as the changes they are making to facebook encourage more of the same kind of activity on facebook.

Links are the currency of the web and traffic is money so these are important trends for our portfolio companies and for everyone who does business on the web.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Jon Myers

    Great post. These two specific observations FB and Twitter as a traffic driver have weighted heavily into the design and development choices on my new projects.

  2. Robert Seidman

    I think you’re wrong if you think organic posting of links to isn’t occurring on Facebook. When you see the stories about now getting more traffic from Facebook thant Google, almost all of the linking seems to be organic rather than anything he worked hard to orchestrate.Clearly there is value in the social linking, but I think Arrington’s post demonstrates very well that it’s probably not worth investing much effort on Twitter *if* your primary goal is traffic generation. it’s very easy to send links to Twitter without investing very much time, but based on Arrington’s post, even as one of the biggest accounts on Twitter, Techcrunch is probably only getting around 2% of its traffic from it.Fortunately, I think most publishers (including TechCrunch) are in the space of prioritizing content creation over investing lots of energy trying to drive traffic from social networks. Ultimately, it seems that focus still results in increasing traffic from social networks.

  3. Ben Watson

    I agree completely…Twitter has consistently shown in our top referrers for several months now and for some videos and apps it is the top traffic driver. (on Overlay.TV)

  4. Julie Poplawski

    totally depends on your business I suppose; my business lifeline is Facebook. Twitter is our community glue – but my clients are age 20-45 dieters. My husbands business sells mostly to age 50-70 and he hasnt gotten any play from FB or twitter…

    1. Adarsh Pallian

      true – my new site ( is based off twitter and as expected, 90% of traffic i get is from twitter RT’s…. which I’ve begun to realize is the ultimate link baiting tool. One tweet from mashable with your link and you’ve got about 2000 hits in 30 minutes and about 200 re-tweets… amazing how many ppl enjoy that.

    2. fredwilson

      Yes, it is important to understand what services get traffic from socialmedia and what do not

  5. Jay Jamison

    Based on a focus group of myself, I’ve observed the following nuance. A link that is posted by a friend who’s got taste I trust is a link I’ll take time to stop and read. For whatever reason–I’d hypothesize it has to do with the known network of friends I have on FBK–those links come with a strong correlation to something I’d find useful.Twitter posts are much more ‘over the transom’–there’s a river of them flowing by at any point in time. On twitter it has much more to do with the quality of the link, less the referrer.Nevertheless, I’d agree that both (and social media in general) are going to be big (and low cost) drivers of traffic going forward.

  6. Nathaniel McNamara

    These are some very interesting statistics. thanks for of the interesting things I have noticed is how boxee is encouraging their users to submit what they are doing to twitter to drive traffic back to the originating source. I would love to know how much traffic Boxee is delivering for their site using this feature. It looks like they are inserting messages into twitter whenever someone views or “likes” a show at a pace of one insert every 1 or 2 minutes.For example:watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Tue, Mar 10, 2009 (s14 | e34) on Boxee. check it out at Family Guy: Family Gay (s7 | e8) on Boxee. check it out at (expand)–Brief Plug–My company, SocialFeet (still in beta), is doing this for multiple sites. We identify ‘social actions’, such as comments, posts, views, rating, etc. and make it possible for sites to empower their users to share their social actions with their friends on Facebook. [twitter coming soon] We see significant value for sites to leverage their users in spreading the word about the interesting activities they are doing throughout the web.

    1. fredwilson

      I think it makes sense to automate this activity via a widget

  7. Divesh Sisodraker

    Fred, love your blog, first time poster.You touch on a feature of Twitter that I don’t hear a lot of people talk about, and that is the concept of message amplification. Between the instant messenger like response times and the Marshall stack like amplification that you get via retweets, the ability to drive traffic via Twitter is unprecedented. In our Twitter based recruiting app, we see employers get 5X amplification on retweets alone, that’s a pretty loud megaphone.

    1. fredwilson

      I left a comment

  8. Joe Lazarus

    Interesting. What portion of your total traffic comes from Twitter, if you don’t mind sharing?My site is almost too small a sample, but a little less than 1.5% of my visits are from Twitter. I don’t link to myself that often, though, aside from my Twitter bio, which points to my blog. Twitter traffic converts about 20% lower than the site average based on page views / visit and time spent. The Twitter visitors are also much more likely to be repeat visitors than people entering my site from a source like Google. I don’t have any data on Facebook since I never link to my blog from there.

    1. fredwilson

      About 8% comes from twitterAlmost half of my traffic is directTen percent is feed reader drivenGoogle search is about 20%Hacker news and techmeme is about 10% combinedThe rest is social media driven (twitter, facebook, and blogs)

      1. awaldstein

        Fred. Your percentages speak to the huge popularity of you as a brand. Most companies with some momentum and a customer base would have Google be the largest percent and direct in the 15-20%.Congrats to you on this. Its a complement

      2. Joe Lazarus

        8% from Twitter is impressive. Clearly, I need need to make some new friends 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          Its not just that I have a lot of followers (I do) but a lot of retweeting is the biggest factor

          1. Joe Lazarus

            I see. So, I need not just more friends, but better friends… ones thatretweet me. Or more likely, I just need to be more interesting.Thanks for sharing the stats. I hope more people follow your lead so we cansee if the trends you’re seeing are consistent across other sites &verticals.

          2. rerollarcoaster

            Can you explain what “retweeting” is? Just getting my feet wet with all this and am still learning. Thanks.

          3. fredwilson

            When you see something on twitter you like, you rebroadcast it to your followers. Copy the tweet and send a message that says RT @whomever “………….”That’s a retweet

      3. RacerRick

        Arrington links TC articles in his twitter. I’m sure a lot of his traffic comes that way.Fred, you should add your RSS feed to your twitter. I would definitely visit AVC more often that way. (I doubt it would increase overall traffic however).

        1. fredwilson

          It feels like spamming twitterI do it manually when it feels right

          1. RacerRick

            It might be a tad Guy Kawaski, but… twitter has replaced my feed reader so I like it when people add their rss feed into their twitter feed.

  9. Alan W Silberberg

    My site, www, is seeing an explosion in traffic coming from Twitter, and secondarily from Facebook. We also get a ton of organic searches, but the Twitter traffic is consistently in the top 3 referrals (Over the last 3 months). Additionally, I have seen personally, that when I post new content with a link on Twitter, there is an immediate jump in traffic, if I post a video, even more so. I also have linked my Twitter updates to Facebook, (but not in notes.) Thanks Fred for some excellent insight.Alan W. SilberbergCEO, You2Gov, LLC@you2gov – Twitter

  10. albert

    Heather Hopkins from Hitwise has an interesting analysis of where traffic flows from Twitter which she compares and contrasts with traffic flows from Google…

  11. maxkalehoff

    Fred, Google is most important driver for us. But a few social media sites, particularly targeted blogs, are second. Important for Traffic, though, is our email marketing to opt-subscribers. Email is still a very big deal.

    1. fredwilson

      For sureI’ve always thought that traffic was customer acqusition and email was customer retention

      1. maxkalehoff

        Email drives customer retention, but it’s amazing how much email actuallydrives site traffic and subsequent acquisition. Most subscribers are notcustomers. Some opt-in subscribers are emailed, become visitors, then becomecustomers. Some subscribers are past customers and see how we’ve matured anddecide to come back as customers again (explaining why traffic and newpassword requests skyrocket after email campaigns). Also, emails thatinclude very valuable information tend to get forwarded on; they have ahigher propensity of generating new subscribers, which then provides newopportunity to communicate and drive traffic again.

        1. fredwilson

          That’s great to hear. Email audience to b2b content converts to custimers over time

  12. Adrian Palacios

    Fred, there’s a possibility that even this report for Twitter traffic is on the low side. If I understand correctly, links clicked on through Twitter apps don’t pass referral information to Analytics (unless the links are tagged with UTM info). See an example here:

    1. fredwilson

      That’s right. I have written posts and tweeted with a link that reports 1000s of clicks and google analytics only sees a couple hundred of themThat’s because a lot of the clicks come from third party twitter clients

      1. Jonathan Strauss

        The post by Joost that brandingme references is a great summary of the specific issue with Twitter referrers. But I think it also represents a broader emerging issue of effectively tracking and understanding traffic driven by social media in general. When I look at my referrers for a link I *only* sent to Twitter, at least 50% of the clicks have no referrer (and I’ve heard of people seeing that as high as 80% for some links). That means in your Google Analytics, all those clicks are counted towards Organic traffic by default and could meaningfully change the numbers you state above.Facebook is a bit better in that all the traffic will have a Facebook URL as a referrer. But this is a far cry from the level of actionable information most publishers have come to expect using referrers and backlinks. For example if someone were to link to a post of mine on their blog, I would see in my Google Analytics (or even my WordPress stats) all the traffic coming from that link and I could easily follow it back myself. By investigating the context of the link, I can better understand the nature of that traffic driver and potentially take action by commenting on the post or contacting the author. However if someone I don’t know drives a ton of traffic to my blog by sharing one of my posts on Facebook, I have no way to understand that traffic driver (beyond the fact that it’s coming from Facebook) let alone take action on it.I believe the combination of social media services as an increasingly important traffic driver and the predominance of dynamic and distributed (via APIs) UIs for those services has effectively broken the utility of conventional referrers/backlinks for traffic measurement. What I think is needed to fix it is essentially Feedburner for links.

        1. fredwilson

          This is part of what twitter plans to address with their services aimed at corporations and businesses who are operating on twitter

  13. loupaglia

    Looks like Jason C.’s putting a price to the Twitter recommended following path is onto something. Very consistent with this referral growth. There will be a new pricing market emerging (perhaps based on ad words) for social media link traffic, already seeing strong signs of social media affiliate linking.

  14. paul

    Arrington and Calacanis don’t use Twitter to communicate they’re only baiting with links and have no interest in what we think..

  15. jstylman

    “Links are the currency of the web and traffic is money so these are important trends for our portfolio companies and for everyone who does business on the web”Indeed, they are Fred. Drawing off that point, it’s also important to consider the critical role search plays in tapping social media sites as a distribution valve. While services like Facebook & Twitter are increasingly becoming content navigation hubs, the social nature of sharing plays extraordinarily well into the Google universe, since they’re facilitating the creation of more quality links that are being counted. This, compounded with the fact that these platforms are cranking out structured, fresh content (read: accessible for sites like Google to crawl and expose) make them a search optimizer’s dream.Obviously, Facebook is closed for many people, however, for some – especially businesses and groups – it’s not. Same goes for Twitter, blogs and the growing popularity of other sites that enable content creation and sharing. Google is still the largest source of eyeballs (by far) for people looking for information, however, an increasing trend is that search results are invariably being dominated by social media sites across all categories. That means more clickstreams are starting to appear as: Google > social media site > destination.Remember though, Google is one of the great ironies in business history… the built their service on the backs of content created by 3rd parties everywhere, but have been notorious for not allowing themselves to be intermediated. It will be interesting to see how they react as social media sites continue to grow in terms of eyeballs and influence.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. Can’t say anymore because you nailed it

  16. matt schulte

    in response to a John Byrnes tweet that mentioned they were finding story ideas by parsing twitter, someone else asked whether they were paying these story generating twitters a royalty…I suggested that the “link” is in a way the new publisher’s royalty, and a system of acknowledging those resources used (tweets, comments, etc.) in a way that generates traffic/interest back to the source would be an interesting service.

    1. fredwilson

      Links are currency/money for sure

  17. Facebook User

    Are all Twitter links showing up as Twitter in the referral logs?. How do third party applications (Tweetdeck, TwitterFox etc) and mobile traffic showing up in logs. As I understand it and have been seeing some of these are not showing up as Twitter and are showing up as direct traffic. Do you have any further visibility into this this from what you are seeing?

    1. fredwilson

      YupThird party clients show up as direct

  18. Shane

    Interesting…we actually see most of our referrals from MySpace. We have found that MySpace works better because it is far more open than the others. I wonder if anyone else has experienced this?

    1. fredwilson

      I am sure myspace works great if you have the right service for that audienceSocial nets are media like anything else each has its own audience

  19. Annalise

    Social networks are taking over, even for search engines. They aren’t in the lead yet but it is bound to happen because of networks like Twitter and Facebook. is a social network similar to the above mentioned but it gives members rewards for using the site.

  20. joshmchugh

    In the entertainment biz, Twitter is proving to be a hugely effective generator of traffic. Better yet, it’s highly time-specific. For the launch of the second season of one of my company’s web series, Dorm Life, we had widely announced a March 2 date, but subsequently struck a deal with MySpace giving them a 48-hour exclusive head start on posting Dorm Life episodes.On March 1, a day into the MySpace exclusive period, we noticed that traffic was barely trickling into the MySpace channel. So we sent out a tweet on the @dormlife channel, containing a link to the first episode of the season on MySpace.We used to compress the link. The compression is nice, but the real value is in’s tracking and analytics capabilities. An hour later, we could see that 20% of those who had received the tweet had clicked through to the video. 48 hours later, 90% had clicked through. 3 days after the tweet went out, clickthroughs on the link had all but died out, but the final result was that 94% of the Dorm Life fans who got the tweet clicked through.Since we began interacting with our audience via Twitter, we’ve found that the show’s Twitter community has generated a ratio of views per community member (2:1) that is double the ratio (1:1) the show’s Facebook-based community has generated. No doubt there’s a lot of overlap between the two, but the point is that for us, Twitter messages are twice as effective in getting fans to check out episodes.TV Week’s Daisy Whitney mentioned it in a piece yesterday:

  21. dfriedman

    Presumably all of this is true.Facebook needs to do a better job of explaining what it has changed, how everything works, and how these changes will benefit its users than it has done to date. Color me confused.

  22. Anthony Castelli

    you are gettiny way full of yourself tell me something we all don’t know

    1. fredwilson

      I’ll try harder next timeNot every post is a winner

  23. humorplus

    Wow.. great!The traffic to this blog from twitter has tripled, I agree too.

  24. Wendy Gerraty

    Really small numbers Fred.

  25. headlemur

    Bzzzt! Sorry Fred, you are wrong on this one. Unemployment and Recession are the drivers here.Surfing the net is the cheapest entertainment around.

    1. fredwilson

      Then why wouldn’t I see similar growth from refers from google, techmeme, hacker news, etc?

      1. headlemur

        You are not the center of the universe 🙂 Seriously, you are measuring the head and the tail of the same thing. It’s like evil twins, ya can’t have one without the other. As you yourself stated above. Re tweeting is just cross posting in a thong. Good for you as an investor though :)I am saying that surfing across the web is up. Somebody can probably make a case for an inverse correlation between the drop in miles driven and rise of time on web, consumer spending drop and rise in time on web, and so on. An example of this would be Amazon’s sales numbers vs brick and mortar stores this past holiday, techmeme, hacker news, are not your most likely referral engines as they cover entirely too much territory and the chances of a ‘slashdot’ effect is less likely. slashdot can crash a site, the other guys not so much.As far as traffic and exponential growth is concerned, I have to take those numbers with a large bowl of salt. 175 Million Active members? Or 175 Million username passwords issued? AOL played that game for years. See where they are now.

        1. fredwilson

          But google, hacker news, and techmeme have been my top traffic sources for yearsAnd I know I’m not the center of the universeAs I stated in the start of this post, I got this insight from looking at the refer logs of the companies we invest inI only posted my traffic stats because its the only data I feel comfortable sharing