Which Social Platform Really Drives the Most Traffic?

Posted on July 28th 2012

Which Social Platform Really Drives the Most Traffic?

In preparing for our morning show we were doing some research and came across an old story that showed that StumbleUpon was actually driving more traffic than Facebook in January of 2011 and we wondered two things about that - firstly, is it still true, and secondly what would that mean for internet marketing and social media experts who stake their companies social media results on traffic from just Facebook and Twitter?

So we went back to the source of the original data, StatCounter.com for an update for the last 12 months:

Social Media Traffic Trends 2012

Social Media Traffic Trends 2012


StatCounter Global Stats - Social Media Market Share

In this graph it clearly shows that Facebook has regained domination for traffic driving over StumbleUpon, in fact, StumbleUpon seems to have dropped off quite dramatically this past year, but despite that fact, it still comes in as the number two traffic driver in social media well ahead of Twitter and edging out both Youtube and Pinterest. With the tremendous buzz that Pinterest has been generating over the past few months and the fact that it was recently recognized that Pinterest drives up to 4x as much retail buying traffic as Facebook, the fact that StumbleUpon still drives more traffic than Pinterest is a big deal.

Then you look to YouTube, arguably the world's largest search engine, and it comes inbelow StumbleUpon as well, but just a hair ahead of Pinterest for the third place spot in real traffic driving among the major social media.

In fifth place, then, we have a big drop to Reddit that has managed a slow but fairly steady climb up in the ranks of both traffic driving and credibility among major social media. And now dropping to 6th place is Twitter. Digg seems to be producing consistent if sub-par results compared to the sum of other networks, but is still a player in the market as a standalone service.

But the big surprise is how much traffic businesses that are only concentrating on FaceBook and Twitter are missing out on.

Considering that the volume of traffic on Twitter empowered things like The Arab Spring, since Reddit now has surpassed it for traffic generation, businesses, governments, and organizations that ignore it do so at their peril.

And that really is true of all of these top 7 social networks - they each have tremendous influence over huge numbers of highly engaged users, and this graph clearly shows what some of us have been saying all along, which is unless you are paying attention to more than Facebook and Twitter, your social media strategy is horrifically flawed.

StumbleUpon in 2011 was far more powerful at driving traffic than Facebook, now Facebook is the more powerful of the two, but those roles can reverse again just as quickly as users change their minds about where they want to spend their time. With Facebook's recent stock declines and underperforming advertising revenues, it would not be surprising to see StumbleUpon or any of the others leap up and wrestle the number one spot away from Facebook again next year, so basing your strategy on the thought that Facebook is King might not be the best idea for managing your overall social media brand.

That's not to say I think Facebook is going away, but these year-on-year statistics prove you can't count on any one social network to be your 'silver bullet' for social media traffic generation any more, and you truly need a much broader social media strategy that recognizes that social traffic is social and behaves in social patterns. It's a little fickle and moves sometimes in very sudden and powerful directions and any business that is looking to engage them needs to be engaged where they are, not the other way around.

 The Morning Charge with Chris Cayer


Chris Cayer

COO, Reyactive LLC

Chris Cayer is a Social Media and Competitive Intelligence expert with accounts on more than 600 different social networks, and more than 2650 accounts under the management of his company, Reyactive LLC, which engages in social media mass distribution for brand protection and brand engagement strategies on behalf of its global clients. Mr. Cayer is one of the Top 50 Most Connected Marketing and Advertising Professionals on LinkedIn.

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Posted on July 28th 2012 at 12:23PM

One of the most interesting conclusions I might take away from this article (and maybe I am jumping to conclusions here), is that we can't just look at traffic in isolation (re: your point about pinterest retail success). It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I like to think that in the future we will have many social networks that drive different types of traffic for different purposes. This will make the total volume numbers less important.

Posted on July 28th 2012 at 4:34PM

In some respects that is one of the key points here - we are already in that situation where different networks drive different kinds of traffic, but many social media professionals and business owners alike have crowned Facebook and Twitter as the only social media worth engaging in, even when the overwhelming number of statistics that come out show that the value of other networks to their specific industry is probably much higher. Numbers of viewers will always be important, but relevancy of viewers combined with number of viewers is a better measure of strategic relevance in any media, most especially social media.

Posted on July 28th 2012 at 9:04PM

I noticed the same trend regarding Stumbleupon's decline. I agree with your points but I also think that smaller companies and organizations have to realize that it's better to do one, two or three platforms very well, rather than try to do everything. If I've only got one full-time online producer, I'm going to concentrate on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and then maybe add a Pinterest, LinkedIn or Tumblr, depending on which of the three is a better fit with my audience. The other point about Twitter is that no one would should measure Twitter's value based on the traffic it drives to your website. I consider that gravy with our priorities on engagement and branding.

Posted on July 29th 2012 at 12:23PM

That really is true - smaller companies need to pick their battles based on available resources and real alignment to their company's customers. What these traffic statistics show is that in this cycle Facebook has started a traffic decline as well as of about March, while others are revving up, so if you are a smaller organization you will want to pay a lot more attention to make sure your social media spend in time and cash is going to the social media that will have the most impact for your business. It also shows that maybe the social media that small and large businesses think are important may not be nearly as important as others, but should not necessarily be ignored.

Most importantly though, this is a very serious flag for corporations and organizations in the $25 million per year revenue band and up, that their social media strategies need a serious wake up call. I've chatted with a number of the directors of social media for top technology firms in the $10-40 billion range, and they have no insight deeper than Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, and they all have said they have not had the reach or penetration they were looking for. These statistics help show that perhaps the main driving reason is they are concentrating the bulk of their multimillion dollar social media efforts on the wrong social media.

Kent Ong
Posted on July 29th 2012 at 1:00AM

Hi Chris, just curious..what to do the declining in Facebook stock to human behaviour and to traffic to our website.

I believe Facebook users won't stop using Facebook even its stock price declicine.


Posted on July 29th 2012 at 3:00AM

As I mentioned in the article, I don't think Facebook is going away, but the reason the stock price is declining is because the advertising revenues are declining very rapidly for Facebook based on the realized results of advertisers and the declining faith that advertisers have in Facebook's ability to continue to drive traffic to them. Since advertisers are already showing their experience in the declining levels and value of traffic they are receiving from Facebook, the likelihood is that the statistics of overall traffic will likely follow suit. It's not carved in stone, but it is the more likely trend based on those numbers.

Kent Ong
Posted on July 29th 2012 at 5:02AM

I disagree with you. The relatonship between traffic, advertisers, advertising revenue and facebook stock price is like this:

When Facebook traffic drops or high percentage of fake profile and click fraud, advertisers not able to generate revenue, advertisers leave, Facebook advertising revenue drops, Facebook stock price drops.

But your theory is reverse and not related at all. Facebook stock price drops doesn't related to traffic drops or increases at all.

You ASSUME "the LIKEHOOD is that the statistics of overall traffic will "LIKELY" follow suit.

Most important thing is, even Facebook stock price drops, some companies still able to drive huge amount of traffic to their websites.

The key point here is how each individual company drive traffic, what content to post, how to engage. Facebook stock price drops has nothing to do with a company traffic from Facebook.


Posted on July 29th 2012 at 12:39PM

You make some really great points here, Kent. Yes, the revenue drops at Facebook have a complex mixture of causality, however traffic is in the mix of causes and as a causal metric does match quite well to the performance over time of Facebook's revenues. Their revenues for the last few months have dropped and similarly so has their traffic since March. I don't wish to make the case that traffic is the only measure of performance for Facebook, or for any social media for that matter, but to say that it has nothing to do with it clearly does not correlate to available data or to the trends shown in the chart from StatCounter.

My point about the likelihood that overall traffic will follow suit to the decline in revenues at Facebook is that given the decline already showing in the chart since March, if the revenues continue to decline then advertisers will do less to promote their Facebook pages, and traffic will tend to trend even less, potentially starting a multiplier effect of decline, similar in arc to StumbleUpon's decline in the previous 6 months. Since StumbleUpon's numbers were much higher 6 months before that, and Facebook's were much lower during that period, it is statistically not supported to conclude anything about the dominance of any social media at all - it is too turbulent to be able to say that Facebook will remain on top of the leaderboard, especially when sites like Pinterest and Youtube are on upward trends and Facebook and StumbleUpon are on downward trends. Still, these are likelihoods - every social media has the opportunity to take corrective measures and adjust the course of traffic on their networks over the next few months, so these charts may only suggest what the future holds - it cannot predict it.

Posted on July 31st 2012 at 1:03PM

Hello Chris,

Thanks for the interesting and insightful article. I do howver wonder why StumbleUpon isn't one of the social media platforms covered on Social Media Today ...


Posted on July 31st 2012 at 1:51PM

That really goes to the point of my article - even true social media experts have a tendency to ignore some of the biggest, most influential, and most powerful social media as they maintain a near-fanatical focus on Facebook and Twitter, largely to the exclusion of almost everything else.

These statistics clearly do not rank other global social networks like Orkut, or some of the networks in Asia and the Pacific-Rim which also drive massive amounts of traffic to businesses all over the world. In a global economy, businesses that ignore those kinds of resources and opportunities are really missing out.

And although I resonate well with the logic behind the 'focus your efforts' approach to social media management for the smallest of small businesses, most companies over $25 million annual sales simply don't have that as a valid excuse, and major social media leaders really need to do more to step up and engage businesses to educate them and keep them from simply following the herd blindly.

I guess that role is going to fall to me and those like me who want to know more about all of the options available to business, so you can look forward to seeing more articles like this one from me on SocialMediaToday about a variety of social networks and how they each have relevance to building businesses both in the US and around the world.

Posted on August 1st 2012 at 2:23AM

Wanted to say what Marie said very well. Traffic is simply traffic. That said, it's a great article and interesting analysis, but we not crown a champ. I like Chris' "horrifically flawed" observation, but again, mastering social media for marketing can trace to a number of measures and differs from co. to co., right?

Posted on August 1st 2012 at 10:24AM

Very well put.

Posted on August 2nd 2012 at 6:10PM

Where's Google Plus on this?

Posted on August 2nd 2012 at 10:32PM

Traffic-wise, it didn't make the cut. It is growing reasonably quickly, but it is still way down on the traffic-generating list right now. Also not on this list are a number of overseas social networks that have very high traffic generating abilities but have very limited or specific markets.

Sarah Hickman
Posted on November 21st 2013 at 12:49AM

Very interesting article. Although I am a year late in reading it, I still am surpised that even as of last year, Stumbleupon had as much traffic as it did. It is not a social media platform that comes to mind, but I do think that the basic idea of Stumbleupon will grow and evolve in the next few years in the form of a new platform. There is plenty of room for a site like this to take off and drive more traffic by finding a new audience.


Nicky Jameson
Posted on November 23rd 2013 at 11:15PM

Also late to this post... It really depends on the type of traffic and whether the traffic converts or not. All traffic is not created equal.

Stumble Upon can drive millions of hits (oddly enough my most popular stumbled post for months - it's still being stumbled years later -  has been one entitled "There's more to Social networking than Facebook, Linked in and Twitter" that I wrote a couple of years ago when I was writing as a social media copywriter. The visits are less than a second each and they don't look at any other pages, they bounce right off. On the other hand traffic from other sources such as Facebook - tends to visit  several pages on my site (my art print site as well as my blog) which means althought lower numbers they actually visit my blog then my Fine Art website, then they look at more pages on my site so they stay longer. They may not immediately convert but they are engaged. They may sign up for my newsletter. So this is the traffic (and that coming from my blog) that I would nurture over the thousands of hits from Stumble Upon. Also Stumble Upon works better if others happen to Stumble your posts... not if you Stumble them. I rarely stumble people's posts, but I do share them on either Facebook or G+. And I have never really considered Stumble Upon as a Social network... not sure why because it probably is.