Facebook’s redesigned like and share buttons helped contribute to a 47.44 percent rise in referrals driven by the social network to publishers in November, and Facebook saw its share of referrals skyrocket by 169.88 percent between November 2012 and October 2013, according to an analysis of more than 200,000 publishers reaching more than 250 million unique monthly visitors, by Shareaholic.
Shareaholic said that while publishers using the new like and share buttons are seeing increases in referrals from Facebook, those that have not yet converted are experiencing growth, as well.
Danny Wong, who works in growth and marketing for Shareaholic, speculated in a blog post:
I hypothesize that Facebook users have developed more natural inclinations toward sharing — and interacting with — content for four reasons:
- Facebook’s News Feed is more engaging than ever (thus, more clicks, likes, and shares): Like Google with its mercurial search ranking algorithm, Facebook’s News Feed has seen a couple of noteworthy tweaks that keep users highly engaged with their feeds.
- Active user counts continue to grow: Facebook’s third-quarter announcement revealed that daily active user numbers jumped 25 percent year-over-year to 728 million. Monthly active users grew 18 percent in that same time frame to a staggering 1.19 billion. A growing number of active users increases Facebook’s utility for users, as well as user dependency on Facebook for social interactions — the network effect at its finest.
- The omnipresence of the new like and share buttons impacts behavior: Given the usable nature of the new buttons and their widespread availability — Facebook’s buttons are viewed 22+ billion times a day across 7.5+ million sites around the Web — people have developed a habit of sharing content they enjoy. Although not all share buttons are created equal, share buttons in general are being utilized more often by readers, thus driving more traffic to sites.
- Sharing is now an ego-gratifying activity that’s socially acceptable and universally commonplace: Sites such as BuzzFeed, Thought Catalog, and Elite Daily produce super-viral content that makes sharing such a reflexive activity, and that also injects you with a healthy dose of serotonin when all of your friends like, share, and comment on your post. Effectively, sharing great content is now a no-brainer.
Of course, I can be wrong about all of these points.
In any case, our data suggest that Facebook drives more than one-sixth of an average site’s overall traffic. Given that it is one of millions of possible traffic referral sources, that’s pretty significant.
Readers: What do you think is driving Facebook’s steady gains in referral traffic?