Report Looks at Impact of Social Media on Web Traffic

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A new research report shows that social media has little direct impact on most website traffic.

The ForeSee report suggests that fewer than 1 percent of website visits, on average, come directly from a social media URL. This finding suggests that the direct impact of social media is minimal, but also that the true value of social media cannot be quantified only by examining the traffic coming directly from a social media URL.

While only 1 percent of site visitors come from a social media URL, 18 percent of site visitors report being influenced by social media to visit a website. These numbers represent benchmark averages; individual companies show a wide range of direct and indirect influence.

"What this tells us is that traditional clickstream metrics don't give us a full picture of what value social media efforts are bringing to our business," said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results.

"Companies have long been able to count how many Facebook fans, how many Tweets, and how many people click through ads on social sites, but they haven't had a way to calculate a tangible return on investment for social media efforts, not to mention other marketing initiatives. Now they can."

By linking which visitors were influenced by social media with how much those visitors spent, companies are able to quantify the direct impact of their social media marketing efforts on revenue and goes far beyond traditional social media metrics such as referring URLs or raw counts of tweets and Facebook followers.

"The benchmark gives our clients a way to see whether their visitors are more or less influenced by social media than the average, which can provide a fresh perspective on directing social media investments," Freed said.  

The Social Media Value Benchmark also shows that people who are influenced by social media have a higher average order size, have higher customer satisfaction, and have higher loyalty than those who aren't influenced by social media.

The Social Media Value Benchmark includes nearly 300,000 completed consumer surveys on more than 180 websites across a dozen private and public sector industries.