Clearing Something Up

If you search my name on twitter, you'll see a gazillion tweets that say something like this:

Fred Wilson predicts Twitter will be a bigger traffic source than Google for many websites within the year

But, of course, that's not what I said. It's what Erick Schonfeld says I said at the 140conference yesterday in a post on TechCrunch. Now I know that we aren't supposed to believe what is written on TechCrunch and I certainly don't but I fear that many people still do.

So let me be perfectly clear about this. I said social media, led by Facebook and Twitter, will surpass Google in driving traffic to many websites sometime in the next year. The tweets in this stream validate that. Erick was in the audience but so were most of those twitterers.

Or we could just look at Jonny Goldstein's wonderful notes he took during my talk.


Ok, now that I've gotten that off my chest, I'll return to the regularly scheduled programming.

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#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Jonathan Deamer

    Let’s see if they print a correction / retraction…It always makes me laugh in newspapers when the “corrections” section is a tiny bit hidden away at the back, while the original story probably had a massive headline.

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t want a correction or a retraction. they should let the error reside permanently on their website as proof of the quality of their work.

      1. Mark Essel

        ha!well it’ll be cached out there somewhere. At the very least it’s documented here even if they do change it.

      2. Erick Schonfeld

        Fred, I’ve updated the post to reflect that you were also talking about Facebook. Since I didn’t get to ask you in person, what is the breakdown between Twitter and Facebook traffic for the sites that you measured?

        1. fredwilson

          Thanks erikFor some sites, like perezhilton (which I don’t have access to the logs) facebook is way more importantFor some (like techcrunch), twitter is more importantFor some, like etsy, its about 50/50Across our portfolio, it about averages out to be even

  2. Caspar Aremi

    I wish all conference notes came illustrated like that!

    1. fredwilson

      me too!

  3. paulhart

    Looks like Erick was being… selective, as he doesn’t quote any particular services that (to reuse the exact same quote he pulls) “will surpass Google [as a source of traffic] for many websites in the next year.”For all the context the quoted segment provides, he could precede it with anything. My preferred choice is “Mr. T”.

  4. Carl Rahn Griffith

    New Media is often no different to Old Media in many (usually negative) respects ….

    1. Jon Yongfook

      In the days of Old Media you’d write a letter into the editor and gamble on being heard in a future publication (when no one will remember what the fuss was about anyway).The benefit in this generation is that Fred has his own platform to clarify things. Which keeps everything balanced and open… but also drives traffic back to offending site… effectively encouraging bad journalism… meaning we’re all part of the problem… *unplugs computer and goes to live in a straw hut by the beach*

  5. currentdraft

    You have to ask though – does Google care?The main problem is the links on twitter are largely news, which is largely unmonetizable from the point of the social network, or inane fluff. Oh, look, dolphins!Google is making their fortune on directed link hunting. If I want a dentist on a Saturday I’m not going to be searching twitter. Meanwhile Google is happily pocketing a few bucks per click from a bunch of dentists that want to get my attention, multiplied by millions of queries.Facebook has literally left billions on the ground because it has failed to become the place to connect with friends AND search for stuff.

    1. Mark Essel

      What if you wanted to find the most highly recommended dentist in the last month within your zip code Mike? Social media will have strengths until Google catches up with real time/meta data extraction.

      1. currentdraft

        Ah ha – sure – but here’s the catch: twitter doesn’t make a dime when you recommend me a dentist. And most advertisers are too impatient to simply wait for word of mouth to spread. They want to get in front of you right this instant – because you typed “dentist” into a search box. You want to buy something, and you have your credit card on the table.If the proverbial dentist has to pay cash to social media in order to be “highly recommended” then it defeats the purpose of being recommended in the first place.Don’t get me wrong – social media is a wonderful means of find “stuff”, but directed search is, as Google has proved, the most lucrative business model on the web. It’s just a classic phone book with an improved cost structure.The day twitter becomes just another search box – “who can recommend a dentist” – “where can I find a cheap Canon camera” – “i want to buy sex toys” – is the day I’ll probably stop using it. (Edit: although maybe Facebook could pull this off. Twitter on the other hand has potential to monetize long term relationships with companies.)

        1. Mark Essel

          I agree the contextual advertising isn’t there yet. But imagine if you will updating your status on any social media you frequent. Now imagine a small box off to the side with pertinent advertising targeting the semantic meaning of your status update.For an analogy, I can lookup up dentists on Google and find one locally without every looking at their ads (above or on the side). The same can be done within social media, I can search for a preferred dentist and ignore any ads they may have (above or on the side), plus I can get first person descriptions and feedback. The technology is rapidly developing and Google, twitter, facebook amongst other businesses are doing their best to match the semantic meaning of your searches or status updates to an appropriate advertisement/business.See my comment about where pageviews are coming from to my blog, they’re almost all (95-100%) social media sourced referrers. Advertising dollars will follow the link passers: http://www.victusspiritus.c

  6. Mark Essel

    As a small time blogger, social media counts for 95-100% of my page views. As an author hungry for eyes and ideas, social media, crowd sourcing are much much much more important than search. I’m not alone.Next time you have to give the talk, just show the picture and stand quietly Fred 😉

  7. kidmercury

    i agree with your point. i am actually betting on social media disrupting search, in the sense that the search engine that disrupts google is created and distributed via social media sites. while i don’t really think twitter fits the paradigm, i think it is showing some signs on how social media can disrupt search.and of course TC is a bit disreputable in quite a few ways, this post illustrating just one of them. i stopped reading TC a while ago, i would encourage all in the technology community to do the same. demand the truth and you will get it.

  8. Pete

    RT @fredwilson u can’t believe everything u read on techrunch… i’ve got a blog 2 clear sh*t up. not everyone does.

  9. kenberger

    It’s somewhat interesting if one had compared the results via the link above (searching on “Fred Wilson”), to the result set from…The latter naturally yields tweets from those who know you, or at least know your thinking, much better. Thus, the quotes are much truer.Of course, this study is tougher to run now because references to this post now dominate the results.

  10. Ivan Kirigin

    I mentioned this in a @reply, but you should ask your portfolio for stats on conversions percentage per referrer. It just puts together two things you said: more referrers from social media, and those referrers convert better.For site owner, hits to the front page shouldn’t matter nearly as much those that engage and convert.You should be open about the stats, and plot a trend. This bring up an idea I had while watching your talk. You said your portfolio is open with stats. If they were anonymized so 3rd parties don’t get all the details, I’d be willing to put my stats into an aggregator to show trends like referrers and conversions from referrers.With Google Analytics opening up an API, there could be a roll for a trusted 3rd party to get the data and aggregate it to everyone’s benefit.

    1. fredwilson

      The issue is collecting the data and analyzing it. I’ve been doing this as a side project and not in the most sophisticated way either

  11. juandissimo

    “Fred Wilson Can Divide By Zero!”Amazing – serve it up in a computerized format and some people will buy it everytime. Thirty years ago I started working for a large oil company headquarted on the West Coast (I won’t name names) but I can still hear the managers and users refrains of: “Well I got these numbers from the computer – it has to be right”. It’s a good thing that you have this blog…perhaps we haven’t become quite as technologically suave and urbane as we might like to believe.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes I am

  12. Busy Man Fitness

    Very interesting!I predicted this same thing as I have already noticed that Twitter alone has surpassed my SEO efforts in driving traffic.That + 1,000% less headaches from Google changing their algorithm all the time.

  13. Barrett

    So Google has to buy Twitter or FB to stay competitive.

    1. fredwilson

      I’m not saying that google/search will go away as a source of traffic. I think it will remain a very important and significant source of itIts just going to have share the market power with othersI don’t think google should buy either of them. I think all three should co-exist as important functions in the internet operating system

      1. bojanbabic

        Totally agree. I think that we need more Gs in term on moving large amount of money from existing sources to internet backbone. We have billion dollar search backbone, SaaS backbone … and social media should stand alone. Thats why I think that fb and tweeter should not be bought, since money these days is so centralized. but I guess you now more about it 😉

        1. fredwilson

          I’m with you

  14. paramendra

    “Ok, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I’ll return to the regularly scheduled programming.”Ha Ha Ha!

    1. fredwilson

      I’m glad you liked thatI was venting and I wanted everyone to know that I know I was venting

  15. Ibod Catooga

    Fucking fuck Facebook and Twitter! I hate social bullshit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

    1. fredwilson

      Clearly because that’s an anti-social comment

  16. rustedrobot

    Hey Fred, I didn’t know you don’t have arms!

    1. fredwilson

      It took me a second to figure out what you were referencing

  17. Adrian Palacios

    Fred,Could you also clarify Goldstein’s note that “passed links convert better than search generated links”?To be blunt, I find that rather hard to believe… maybe for certain categories of sites the conversions are better?? On many of the sites we manage (organic) search traffic consistently outperforms…

    1. fredwilson

      I am sure it depends on the site and the category of product or serviceI suppose I should have qualified thatBut we do see passed links converting better on many sites

  18. Christian 

    Hi Fred, tomorrow i will publish on it for italian, check it out, I fully report the truth and your brillant speech.Would like to republish Jonny Goldstein’s note, is that possible- copyrighted?

    1. fredwilson

      You can republish my stuff but I can’t speak for jonny

        1. InhaleExhale

          Christian,Feel free to use the pic. They are licensed with a Creative Commons Attrtibution-Share Alike license, which means that anyone can republish them as long as they give me attribution.

          1. fredwilson

            you rock jonny!

  19. Mikel A.

    The sad thing is that before Erik Shonfeld went to Tech Crunch he was a well respected reporter. Now he just aims for page views. Sad.

  20. Marcel LeBrun

    I was at the #140conf and enjoyed the talk, though we didn’t get a chance to meet.While I think the increased traffic from Twitter that you are seeing is significant, I think there is an even more significant phenomenon taking place with Twitter that makes it even more valuable, but is harder to measure with traditional web analytics alone. In addition to the increased referred traffic that twitter/FB drives relative to Google, Twitter is also a medium where ideas propagate where Google is not. We are used to measuring referred traffic, but the science of measuring how ideas propagate is not as well known, but the value is very real.In my own business, for example, our brand has grown significantly because of the generosity of our customers who recommend us liberally to their network. We can measure the propagation of this on Twitter (and other media like blogs, etc.), but the vast majority do not contain links (see for anecdotal sample comments on Twitter… very few links).So I would argue that the value of Twitter in terms of driving new people to hear about and visit your site (choosing my words carefully vs “referred traffic”) is even higher than you are seeing with your analysis because of the power & role of Twitter in propagating ideas.So what is the value of an idea which propagates on Twitter, which then causes people to “Google” the brand in order to find the site. In this case, Google appears as the referrer, but Twitter is really the medium which propagated the idea. In this scenario, Google is just the white pages directory.Just some more food for thought as you continue your analysis.Regards,MarcelCEO, Radian6

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Good points. The power of the referred URL – whether received by email, FB or Twitter, etc – is that it is in the context of some descriptive text and endorsement from a friend/associate or someone you’ve been following and trust the opinion of. This gives the URL credibility – this is especially important with the ubiquity of URL abbreviators; I won’t go to an ‘anonymous’ abbreviated URL unless it has an endorsement associated with it.

    2. fredwilson

      Hmmm. That’s “food for thought”

  21. tpurves

    Except that passed links convert better than search generated links precisely *because* they aren’t paid right?So how do FB and Twitter integrate paid listings in a way that generates more value than the current (abysmal) CPM of social media ad rates?How do you insert “pay” into passed links without corrupting the trust and value that people perceive in passed links? (which is why they click on them and convert)

    1. fredwilson

      Ah. That’s the 64 thousand dollar question. I think it may be that you don’t insert paid links at at all. There are already discovery modes in twitter like search (pull) and retweet (push). I suspect that modes like that provide opportunities. But I have not totally figured this out. That’s why I talked about it. I’d like to get as many people thinking about this and working on it as possible. As I said in my talk, google didn’t figure out paid search, Bill Gross did. And its certainly possible that facebook and twitter won’t figure out passed links either

  22. skShaD

    What is not tried – I did not understand what is being described! >

  23. Benin (@BeninB)

    Nice, I like that analysis.The links which get passed around on Twitter definitely get my attention much more than the 10 or 20 links that come up on the first page of the Google search results page. For me its the perceived authority factor that if someone is posting that via FB or Twitter that they must know what they are talking about. Of course, we know that this is not always the case, as there are quite a number of hawkers passing links on every single tweet they post to Twitter.Nevertheless, and especially true for my big ticket purchasing decisions, my usage of Twitter search has gone up drastically in the past months.

  24. odednoy

    Fred,It was a pleasure to meet you at the conference. I enjoyed your talk. Sorry some people took it out of context. I do believe that the concept of passed-link is a high growth area. It is human curated – and therefore provide relevancy that is different than Google search (besides the fact that its real time).I hope that you do not go back to the regular scheduled program, since its obviously being disrupted :)Oded

    1. fredwilson

      Very funny

  25. viteb

    I am agree with your comment that social media will draw more traffic to the website but do you think are those visitors relevant? (i am comparing with google or search engine traffic with social media traffic).

    1. fredwilson

      They stay longer and read more according to my google analytics