traffic social media
March 02, 2015 | Shares:

The Surprising Reason You Aren’t Getting Traffic From Social Media

A 2014, a Gallup study shook fear into the hearts of e-tailers everywhere when it boldly announced:

For the majority of American consumers, social media has little influence on buying decisions.

The study reported that only 5% of Americans say social media has a great deal of influence on their purchasing decisions, and 94% said their primary goal on social media is to connect with friends, not look for products to buy.

As more and more news claimed that social wasn’t selling, many online businesses began to worry.

Could it really be true that all their social efforts were useless?

First off, before you start panicking about not getting traffic from social media, let’s get to the bottom line:

Social does drive traffic and sales. The Gallup study wasn’t wrong, but the data didn’t tell the whole story.

(It’s a bit like that time when Millennials shocked everyone by saying content doesn’t influence them, but then we realized that they just need a different kind of content.)

In a similar way, when it comes to social and eCommerce sales, it’s necessary to look deeper to understand the full impact of social.

Traffic from social media isn’t the same as traffic from other sources, so let’s understand why.

You have more traffic from social media than you think

It’s likely social drives many more sales than you realize. This is partially because social media’s biggest strength is for building awareness and word-of-mouth sharing.

Google’s research reports in the increasingly complex consumer journey towards purchasing, social media is primarily important for awareness building, not necessarily for driving purchases.

Additionally, social is mobile’s best friend, and mobile accounts for nearly half of all eCommerce traffic.

However, mobile, like social, is primarily used for the researching and awareness phases of the purchase journey.

Because of this, an enormous amount of traffic that results in sales is not properly attributed.

Saying that social media is best for awareness building by no means means that social doesn’t drive purchases, it only means that there’s a whole lot more traffic social is driving to your store that isn’t showing up in your analytics.

Most social traffic is invisible traffic

The modern customer’s journey to purchase is much more complex than it used to be. Accessing from multiple devices and pages means that traffic from social media is largely left out of the equation.

It’s not as if today’s consumer sees a great product on Facebook and goes immediately to purchase it.

Instead, the customer journey plays out more like this:

A girl is standing in line at the grocery store. She updates her Timeline and scrolls through it to kill time.

She sees a few interesting updates from friends that she likes, a few boring updates she passes over, some trending news articles, and an ad for a bracelet 126 of her friends have liked. She reaches the register at the grocery store, so she closes her phone and checks out.

Later that day, she sees the ad for the bracelets again, this time announcing a limited-time sale.

She probably doesn’t click on the ad, but maybe she checks to see which of her friends liked it.

She continues on with her week, and her mom mentions she wants to buy a bracelet for her sister’s birthday.

She remembers her friends recently shared a bracelet brand that looked cute somewhere, but she can’t recall the name of the brand.

That night, as she’s checking her Facebook before bed, she sees the ad again. Now, she texts her mom the name of the brand and says, “This is the brand I was telling you about!”

Her mom purchases a bracelet.

In this typical scenario, it is difficult to track social’s direct effect on traffic, but the role is clear.

So how do you maximize social’s impact on traffic the right way?

As the Gallup study found, people are on social networks to see what’s up with their friends and contacts.

And when people are trying to socialize, they’re not necessarily the most apt to follow brand advertisements and stop their social browsing experience.

Of course, it does happen, which is exactly why advertising on social networks is so effective.

But more importantly, those advertisements have impressions, which can be far more valuable than clicks. As Gilt’s Susan Lyne sums up, trying to sell on Facebook is like trying to sell at a bar.

Trying to sell where you’re not wanted is ineffective, and understanding this is the key to effective selling through social networks.

Just as you wouldn’t barge into a bar and try to sell a hair straightener, so too should you not intrude on a social browsing experience with unrelated and unwanted offers. Instead, ease your way in and always ensure your ads are targeted and relevant.

The real value of social traffic comes from getting seen by your target audience, not necessarily always driving them to your site right away. 

While social definitely has valuable, visible effects on sales, if you’re only worrying about the direct metrics, you’re missing out on a lot of the benefit.

Take advantage of social referrals

Referrals are one of the fastest growing sources of traffic for eCommerce stores. Next Web’s graph of growth of America’s top eCommerce sites between 2013 and 2014 shows the growth of social referrals grew faster than most sites’ overall traffic.

Leverage the power of social referrals by offering incentives to loyal customers to spread the word.

Not only will you bring customers back to your store to redeem coupons or rewards, but you will also spread awareness among a naturally targeted new audience.

Why are social referrals so effective?

  • Social referrals have word-of-mouth steam both online and off.  Just as your friend could tell you about a great new shampoo and you’re reminded to buy it next time you’re at the store, seeing that many friends like a certain brand online gives social proof and builds your trust in a brand, even before your first interaction.
  • Consumers who buy a product or sign up for a service as a result of a referral are stronger customers. A study of a German bank revealed that referred members had 16 percent higher lifetime value and 18 percent less churn than other customers.
  • Referrals are profitable. On average, referred customers are 4.5 cents more profitable every day, which is why companies like Uber and Dropbox offer rewards as an incentive to invite friends. Additionally, referrals are viral. One friend tells a friend who tells another friend – and you’ve got a crowd of new customers from your target audience without having to spend a penny.
Not all traffic is created equally.
Not all traffic is created equally. Make sure you're getting the traffic that matters. Get my free download

Utilize user-generated content to boost word-of-mouth ripples

We know the secret to gaining exposure on social media is by igniting the fire under user sharing.

While adding an incentive for users to share can be useful for generating individual shares, it’s not a long-term strategy for really gaining momentum.

One of the hardest parts about harnessing social media is that users don’t want to be forced to share or like brand content.

Too many people become caught up in trying to figure out “how” to market on social media without spending enough time considering the why. Social media is the hub of user-generated content – from status updates, to shares, to Tweets.

Why did social media become so popular? As a way to connect.What has continued to make it relevant? The need to communicate.

Today’s consumers are increasingly wary of brand advertising and generally avoid participating unless there is an incentive for them.

So what’s a brand to do?

Create content they actually genuinely want to share, without any poking or prodding from you.

Campaigns that use user-generated content (UGC) are key in achieving this. First of all, the user is already engage, because they are choosing to create content.

Secondly, they want to share what they created because they believe in it. In our selfie world, users want to be heard.

Let your customers do the talking – how and about what they want – and you’ll see that the word-of-mouth ripples naturally begin to form.

Take a look at the effect of including customer-written reviews on business social media pages.

Yotpo Data collected from over 100,000 eCommerce stores found adding user-generated reviews to social media marketing increases Twitter traffic by 26% and Facebook traffic by nearly 10%.

Customer content not only increases traffic, but it increases the traffic that matters. Tapping into user’s social networks creates ripple effects that naturally target an audience most likely to buy.


Social media traffic is much less concrete than what your analytics are showing.

Shares and likes are definitely ways to measure who is seeing and connecting with your content, but the real value is largely invisible.

It’s the brand awareness and visibility from trusted sources, like their friends on social media, that leverage truly high-quality traffic.

Get The Right Traffic Learn how to get traffic that brings results.Get your free copyNot all traffic is created equal.
Aimee Millwood
Aimee Millwood, Director of Content at Yotpo
Aimee loves hummus and hates misplaced commas.

@aimeemillwood – Follow me

No account? Sign Up

Interested in Yotpo?

Schedule a call with one of our marketing consultants to learn more.

Let's make the most
of our time

More info helps us prepare the best
and most personalized call for you.

Thank you.
We'll be in touch ASAP.
In the meantime, enjoy these: