By Thomas J. Armitage at Social Media Today:
Social media has many benefits for a brand. Raising awareness, generating buzz around events or news, keeping your name or products top of mind, managing customer service, gathering consumer-generated content, market research, and the list goes on. But for some reason, many of us get hung up on the fact that social media has to have an immediate, short term return on investment. Many social strategies are long term investments, so when looking at a tight time frame, we migrate towards metrics that try and allow us to justify our efforts. Enter: referral traffic.
Referral traffic is a very important thing to measure within a social media campaign. For many companies, bringing visitors to your website helps them learn about your products and services and establishes one more touchpoint in that very important buying process. It gets the user away from all the chaos on social media and lets them solely focus on one thing…you. And that’s valuable stuff. So after using many social media channels over the past few years, I’ve learned which ones generate the highest return on investment, based on time/cost vs referral traffic. Of course numbers will very based on your industry and the content you’re producing, but for the most part, this will give you a simple indication of which channels are best for driving traffic back to your website.
The only one with 5 stars in terms of referral traffic is blogging. Are you surprised? If on a subdomain, blogging can be tremendously helpful to sending traffic to your website, if using links properly. If housed on the company site itself, blogs will generate organic traffic from search and attain visitors from referral links from any sites or bloggers who re-run your material or cite your writing. A misconception is that this effort is free but it is one of the biggest investments your company can make in the social space. The best blogging companies invest tons of time and resources into blogging efforts. Beyond time for writing, you will want to budget money for stock photography or time for your design team to create custom graphics, infographics, charts or visuals to supplement your material within the post and/or for social media when distributing. It makes the world of a difference in getting people to read, react and share your content. It's also helpful to promote your blog articles on social using ad dollars to "light the fire" and get the traction rolling.
Email marketing may not be the best approach to reach your teen audience (most do not use email with the exception of using it for registration purposes) but email is still widely used among most working professionals. It’s a great way to reinforce messages, introduce the latest news to a loyal audience, and keep them coming back to your site. Carefully design a layout – don’t have too much information there – and drive people deep into your site on specific landing pages, not just the homepage. Tell them what you want them to be looking at. Costs here are associated with monthly software fees (MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc), stock photography, design costs, and the time it takes to prepare and distribute. Your list is critical. Always be conscience about growing this – whether it’s through other social channels, events, contests with registration walls, etc. Your list is powerful in bringing visitors to your site.
Many of us know how great this tool can be at luring traffic to your site. But this audience is very cautious what it clicks on – simply because we are being bombarded with hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of tweets each day. Because of this, be strategic when you include a link to your own site. Always use the old adage “What’s In It For Them?” Push them to an educational blog posts, a cool new product, a fun contest going on, etc. Be creative and straightforward in your limited description too, because you have to convince them to click in less than 100 characters or so. Costs here are related to stock photos or designs you’ll want to use to pair with your content. Also, do not overlook Twitter advertising. It’s a great way to get new users in front of your material and you can select the type of person that is most appealing to your business, so it works well.
Of all the promoted post-style advertising on social media, LinkedIn can often times be the most expensive. But it’s a great way to get highly targeted people in front of your content and lead them to your site. The filters available through LinkedIn are extraordinary, allowing you to target by age, geography, profession, industry, hierarchy, group, and more. Naturally, you’ll pay for this luxury in your higher cost per clicks. But regardless, it can be effective. LinkedIn readers love tips on how to do their jobs better, motivational articles, and the inside scoop on new jobs available in their fields. Keep this in mind when sharing material that refers back to your website. You don’t want them to be disappointed when they go for that click. So make sure it’s meaningful and in line with the type of professional readers that are here.
I have YouTube listed as the most expensive of all the tactics. Because quite frankly, video production ain’t cheap. Sure, you can get away with haphazardly winging some videos together and throwing them up online. You might get a few views. But ever notice the ones that we gravitate towards every week (if they are a regular series) or the ones you pull to use in presentations or demonstrations. You and I both are using the ones that look professional, are in high definition, boast great audio quality, and subtly use visuals as examples to support the verbal discussions. You’ll need lights, microphones, a great camera (preferably two), lots of time and research, a personable and lively spokesperson, and more. But here’s the bright side. Of all the types of content available to you, in my opinion, videos are the one type that is most likely to really take off if done right. You can include links in your description area or within the videos themselves. And finally, you can expose your messages to more people through advertising (which again, costs money on this platform). But think about all the embeds and shares you can get if your videos are valuable to your target audience. In all, YouTube can be one of the biggest spends in your social media budget but can also see one of the greatest returns on investment, especially in terms of referral traffic.
Social media has a variety of benefits. Gaining visitors to your website is only one – though an important one if it matches your goals. Share content that is worthwhile and carefully select the channels that you wish to invest in to see high levels of return. Keep in mind that you don’t want to *just* share content about yourself – social media is all about sharing the wealth and getting involved in conversations that are out there on the web. But being selfish every now and again to impact the bottom line is a no-brainer.
Which channels, in your experience, have you seen bring about the highest levels of referral traffic?
Thomas J. Armitage
Thomas J. Armitage is a digital marketer and PR professional with a concentration on social and new media. He helps lead the social and content efforts at Site-Seeker Inc and has a track record of researching, interpreting and executing the latest and best tools/techniques available to clients. He is also an adjunct professor at Utica College where he teaches on PR and social media.