Over the last year, some brands have started seeing a reduction in their website traffic from social media. As Chad Pollitt, Co-Founder and VP of Audience for Relevance explains in a Social Business Engine podcast episode, that reduction is going to continue in 2016.
Exactly why this is happening and what to do about it is confounding marketers. Do they need a new social media strategy? A new team? The likely answers to why the reduction is occurring suggest that a shift in thinking may be in order.
Many Social Media Apps Remove Referral Data
Yes, you read that correctly. Many social media mobile apps – including Facebook — strip out the referral data your analytics software seeks. Without the referral data, those referrals appear on your analytics dashboard as direct visitors, not referrals.
This situation came into view for Relevance when they realized that in spite of adding 50,000 subscribers in only 6 months, their social media referrals had dropped by 17%. Several major blogs are reporting similar results. For Moz, Copyblogger, and Buffer, the decline in social media referrals was as high as 50%.
When Chad looked at all the data, he found that the number by which social media referrals had declined was very close to the number by which direct traffic had increased. Clearly, this looked to be an attribution error.
At first glance, it may seem counterintuitive for a social media platform to block that data, but is it working? Much as reducing the organic reach of brand posts has helped Facebook enjoy tremendous growth in ad sales, limiting the available data makes Facebook the only reliable source for quantifying referrals from Facebook. Check out Facebook’s stock price. The more they limit organic reach, and the less data they provide, the higher the stock climbs.
And that explains why other social media platforms are getting into the act. Twitter has said they are going to ratchet down organic reach of tweets, and there are signs that Pinterest is doing it as well.
BuzzSumo investigated and determined that what Mark Schaeffer calls “Content Shock” may be at least partially responsible. The idea behind content shock is that brands now produce more content than humans have the capacity to handle. Perhaps that’s why BuzzSumo found that social shares had dropped for major brands, even as the amount of content they published increased by 78% in the same timeframe.
A Proposed Solution
As Chad explains, the solution is not to produce more content, but to spend more time promoting content and less time creating it. Many brands today spend as much as 90% of their effort creating content, which leaves only 10% to promote it. Chad recommends spending at least 40 – 60% of your time, energy, and effort promoting your content.
Chad’s comments on the decline of social media referrals were just one part of a podcast in which he presented 6 Audacious Digital Marketing Predictions for 2016. Tune in to learn about all 6 predictions and get a head start on what’s coming in 2016.