There was interesting news buried in a report from Parse.ly on the changing nature of tags in digital media. Between May and July, Facebook surpassed Google as a top referring site to the publishers in Parse.ly’s network.
Parse.ly provides web analytics and content optimization software to online publishers.
So this is a significant data point, given Parse.ly's audience of 400 major news and media outlets — including Reuters, Wired, Business Insider, Mashable and CMSWire.
Social media referrals accounted for 43 percent of the traffic to the Parse.ly network, with Facebook clocking in at just under 40 percent of the referrals. Google accounted for 38 percent of the digital traffic during the same period.
Facebook Rocks Search, News
The shift is noteworthy, but not surprising.
Indeed, it was only a matter of time, thanks to Facebook's relentless push to become the de facto home page for the Internet.
Consider these two other data points that spell out Facebook's dominance on all things Internet and marketing:
Consumers prefer to get their news from their Facebook feeds now, than the actual news outlets, according to a recent report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Facebook' score of 75 on the ACSI scale was higher than the general category of online news.
As for search, Facebook has made significant strides here too. At the end of last year, the social media site quietly stopped including Microsoft Bing search results.
Instead, it began promoting its own search offering that had been revamped with a tool to allow users to filter and search through comments and other information from friends.
Seven months or so later, CEO Mark Zuckerberg drops this bombshell after releasing the company's Q2 2015 earnings: there are 1.5 billion search queries made on Facebook per day.
An Industry Breakdown
That said, these statistics do not automatically translate into a "let's thrown everything we have into marketing on Facebook" mindset. Or rather, they shouldn’t.
The "best" online referral sources can vary greatly depending on the industry and the company in question.
Whether it is a B2B or B2C provider, in fact, can and should send the company to entirely new channels. Consider, for example, Twitter's ongoing decline in its social referral traffic numbers.
The Parse.ly report puts its share at 8 percent for its network. Other social media bean counters report similar findings.
At the start of this year, for instance, Shareaholic reported Facebook's social media referral growth was eye-popping. During the 13 months ending in January 2015, Facebook's share of social referrals rose by 59.58 percent, peaking at 25.06 percent in October 2014.
During that same time, Twitter's share of social media traffic referrals dropped a dismal 27.03 percent.
B2B is Different
Now back to B2B.
Without a doubt B2B is a different world than B2C -- a world where word of mouth dominates the referral scene and social media platforms with highly segmented users, such as Twitter, are still competitive.
A recent survey by Implisit of some 500 clients, who used Salesforce.com as their CRM system, found word of mouth referrals from employees and customers generated 3.63 percent of leads resulting in a sale -- more than 2 percentage points above the lead-to-deal conversion rate for websites (1.55 percent) and social networks (1.47 percent).
In this arena Twitter becomes competitive with Facebook. Indeed, Implisit doesn’t even bother to break out their referral traffic.
New Twitter Tools
None of this, of course, is lost on Twitter, which has watched with dismay as its waning social referral influence over the years. The company has been trying to reposition itself with new ad and marketing tools that could lead to an uptick in referrals.
"In addition to pages, we’re also beginning to test new ways for people and brands to create and share Twitter collections of products and places. You’ll be able to browse rich collections from influencers you care about and get more information about the products or places you find interesting."
Title image by Michael Coghlan.