Posted April 13, 2011 5:59 pm by with 23 comments

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What are you hoping to gain out of your social media efforts? If it’s a rise in traffic to your website, you better come up with a new plan.

According to a new report from ForeSee Results, fewer than 1% of website visits came directly from a social media URL.

Their report also says that 18% of site visitors reported being influenced by social media, which would mean that 17% of those folks visited the site in some way other than clicking on a social media link. This plays into the idea that social media is best used for brand awareness, but still, 18% isn’t that great.

In yet another attempt to measure social media ROI, ForeSee developed their “Social Media Value Benchmark,” which ranks web visitors based on how the customer came to the site, how much they spent, how they felt about the experience and whether they’re likely to return.

ForeSee’s initial results, after surveying nearly 300,000 consumers, is that people who were influenced by social media spend more and are more satisfied and loyal customers than those who aren’t influenced by social media.

This is all well and good until you go back to the top and the stat that says only 18% of visitors were influenced by social media and only 1% came in on a direct link.

Even if those customers spend more money than the average customer, is that worth the time and effort invested in social media? Could be, is the wishy-washy answer. Many small business users see social media as a “free” source of marketing. That’s true and false. It may not cost you a monthly fee but it costs you time and time is money, right?

ForeSee admits that some companies pull in as much as 5% of their customers from social media, but email is known to influence 32% of customers. Hmm. . maybe it’s time to go back to basics?

The bottom line is that there isn’t a clear answer. Sorry. But that doesn’t mean this report and others like it aren’t useful. They are if they make you think.

Here’s the takeaway I want you to get from all of this. Remember when your mother used to say, “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump off, too?” Well, listen to her. Just because Facebook works for a ticket company doesn’t mean it will work for a lingerie store. Email may work for a company with an older customer base but if you’re after teens, mobile is going to knock email out of the water.

Think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Figure out metrics that define your success, then go from there. It won’t matter if only 1% of people follow your link from Facebook to your website, if you can sell them that music download from Facebook itself.

ETA: Because you asked, here is more information about how the study was conducted.

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, including websites for Department of Defense,, General Mills, ESPN, Express, Kellogg’s, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Ticketmaster, Sears, and Suntrust, among others.

  • Brian Vickery

    Interesting stats, and I never would have guessed those low percentages. However, investment in social media goes beyond defining a branded presence on Facebook and Twitter to drive website traffic. These only really support “pushing” content to your fans/followers. But what about maintaining, building and recovering relationships wherever your customer is talking about you? A lot of the social media investment should focus on an overall strategy around the customer relationship that may include monitoring non-branded sites (YouTube videos, personal Facebook walls, blog and review sites) and responding in near real-time. I’ll leave it to you to research the monitoring tool options, but I have a favorite 😉

  • It’s also possible that the users and companies surveyed were just doing it wrong.

    If they only approached high end, established companies, that right away would start to devalue the results. Their markets are typically fairly established – A brand like Redbull probably won’t see magical numbers because of their new Facebook page.

    The report mentions that often these larger companies have teams of marketers working on their social profiles – that doesn’t mean that the decision makers are allowing the team the freedom they need to do it correctly. With most major companies, if there isn’t an established method, it needs to pass through a number of busy hands in order to stamp the approval before going live, and by that time it’s usually too late.

    It’s also important to consider the weight or importance search engines put into reading social signals. I think it’s a bad idea to abandon the potential importance of social media done right.

    • Cynthia Boris

      “It’s also possible that the users and companies surveyed were just doing it wrong.”

      Ah, so true of so many things. Which is why the true value of stats like these is to make you think about your efforts and how they’re going.

  • Those stats are much lower I’m sure than a lot of folks would have anticipated. As mentioned it is also important to look at how the traffic from social media is engaging a website. The numbers might be lower than other sources but their might be a higher conversion rate. Referral sources and social media traffic are trackable by setting up goals and funnels with Google Analytics, then creating a custom report with the goal conversion in the dimension tab, and sources in the metric tab. This has been helpful in seeing exactly what sales, email sign ups, and other conversions have come from social media.

  • I’d like to know what variables these people used to measure these results. I’m not saying that they are wrong, but it seems very difficult to me, almost impossible, to come up with accurate figures.

  • In reading the report you referenced(c.2010) it said “Some companies are spending millions in advertising their social media presence and staffing a team to oversee it, only to discover that social media is influencing 1% of all purchases.” So shouldn’t your headline read “Company X discovers that SM only influences 1% of THEIR customers”. Its disappointing to see MP use such a shameless tactic to attract visitors.

    • Shameless tactic? Where does the sentence you pulled from the report imply that only one company is the subject of that stat? This isn’t shameless, it’s just accurate.

      • Um . . . its the only reference to 1% in the whole report.

        “Preliminary research done using this model is showing us that the right amount of investment in social media varies vastly from company to company. Some companies are spending millions in advertising their social media presence and staffing a team to oversee it, only to discover that social media is influencing 1% of all purchases. Meanwhile, promotional emails have been neglected in favor of social media, and emails were influencing 32% of purchases. Other companies are seeing social media as a primary influencer of 5-6% of all revenue with a relatively modest investment.”

        Sorry but the headline is total spin. IMO.

        • Fortunately we are all entitled to opinions so you can certainly have yours. Thanks for stopping in and adding to the conversation.

    • Carla G

      I don’t agree at all, anyone read the Social Media Marketing Industry report? May have fresher data…

  • I think it’s definitely valuable to know what type of business websites were surveyed because im in the media/entertainment platform we are getting on average for a year 47% visits from social media and our bounce rate is very good. Facebook is definitely 3 x times more traffic vs Twitter but our top 10 traffic directors are all from social media. Our monthly average is 150K. i know thats not the millions but data is data. I know of quite a few other media sites which also are averaging over 35% traffic from social media. So really what type of websites were surveyed/sampled?

  • I would like to say that it is possible to get more than 1% of traffic to a website from social media. The most important task for an online marketer is to build social media strategy properly. Also, it may take a lot of time before you will begin to have high ammounts of traffic to a website from social media resources.

  • As mentioned, there is no indication as to what companies and what strategies were implemented. Can’t agree with the author’s takeaway. Social media can be successfully used by all businesses since all businesses require interaction/engagement with people. How you use it is the key.

  • Cynthia,

    thanks for posting this. I have felt for some time now that social media is all bark and no bite – for the most part. There is so much marketing hype around it, that it blows my mind. I’ve yet to successfully run a social media campaign. I guess now that I’ve read your post… I could understand why.

  • Nataliya Yakushev

    I am not surprised at all – what’s the point for a consumer to hop to company’s website after he/she checked all the latest and greatest on its Facebook fan page? If you execute your Facebook startegy right, your customer should be able to take every possible call to action staying within your facebook page. And the power of “like” is stronger than email subscription anyway.

  • Robespierre

    Hahahaha! So, social media influence is not all it’s cracked up to be, eh? It’s not the be all, end all that every PR webinar tries pitch? Apparently, a fusion of communication methods is now the suggestion for success. Well, duh! Let’s also not forget that people are very wary of links and URLs, and it’s hard to decipher safe ones in social media. They worry that these links will take them to a hacking or virus delivery system.

  • If we post intersting post will be better

  • This only matters if we know who was surveyed and what business they have. My business would not be beneficial from social media because it is a very niche product. Nobody is going to by my companies product because someone mentions it on Facebook, but If it was a restaurant, then maybe their stats would be worth the social media work.

    – If the types of businesses surveyed are not included in the study, it really means nothing. It depends on who was surveyed, or it’s too general.

  • I am sorry, I really just do not see this being accurate information. I am from the media industry as well and I can look at my stats and the stats of my clients and see the direct effect of social media marketing. Now I will say this, we also own and operate an nonw emergency medical transportation company. We have little to know social media marketing on that brand b/c our clients are over the age of 70 for the most part. Do we know what companies or what industries were surveyed?

    • Cynthia Boris

      From the press release on the study:

      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, including websites for Department of Defense,, General Mills, ESPN, Express, Kellogg’s, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Ticketmaster, Sears, and Suntrust, among others.

  • Cynthia Boris

    Interesting comments everyone.

    What these stats point out most of all is the fact that we don’t have a good, universal measure for the success of social media. Not everyone is driving traffic from a Tweet to their website. I follow a lot of products on Facebook like Wheat Thins and places to eat like Del Taco. Those entities aren’t trying to get me to go to their websites, they want me to buy their food.

    To them, this 1% is meaningless. They don’t care as long as I remember the brand and buy. But how do you measure that? That’s the problem.

  • May be interesting stats but it just highlights to business that social media isnt a gtd. way to make money unless you actually use it properly to promote your business.

  • Does not surprise me. First, that email is the most effective way to get immediate traction means that goal #1 for most websites should be to build an effective opt-in email list (even more so than a Facebook pages), and second that one’s social media strategy should focus on building customer relationships and not on generating new inbound leads. SEO, PPC, and email are all better at that first contact.