Social Media Referrals, What’s Working for Your Business?


I spend a lot of time everyday building my social media network and pushing content (good content) on my audience. I use every channel (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube) that I can think of. And after all that work I’m not certain if any of the second tier social channels are giving me any love back for my efforts. And if I don’t know, I’m pretty sure you’re not taking the time to dig into the analytics to check, so I thought I’d do a little forenzic analysis and see what’s working for me. Perhaps this will inspire you to do the same, perhaps I it will reveal some activities I can drop, and perhaps some social channels that you might add to your mix.

Here are my primary distribution networks.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google Plus (G+)
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Hacker News (ycombinator)

I also have several secondary distribution networks, where I syndicate some of my written content on other sites.

  • LinkedIn Publishing
  • The Huffington Post
  • News360

So let’s dig into a few of the quick numbers for 2014 and see what generated traction and what might have been a waste of time. Here are my top referrals for 2014. (published in my 2014 review) Looks like I’m going to have to dig a bit deeper for some of these like Reddit and others…

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.18.05 AM

But right up front the big story is this.

#1 Referral source – Organic search on Google accounts for a whopping 43% of my traffic. So, that’s telling me to keep up the content creation, keep tagging and indexing the posts, and keep writing long-tail content. The content is working.

#2 Direct is a bit harder to pin down, but mostly this is people who either clicked on their own bookmark, entered into their browser window, or in the case of (which doesn’t allow internal links) copied and pasted at url into their browser.

Then we’ve got the social channels in order of power

  • Twitter (the king at 12%)
  • Facebook
  • RSS feeds/subscriptions
  • LinkedIn
  • News360
  • Google+
  • Bing Organic
  • Yahoo Organic
  • StumbleUpon

But we’re missing quite a few of our initial networks. So we’re gonna have to deep dive for them and see if they show up at all.

  • YouTube – 16 referrals – CONSIDER (How can I drive this number up?)
  • Reddit – 6 referrals (mainly posting to the Business sub) DROP
  • Pinterest – 38 referrals – CONSIDER (What do I want from Pinterest?)
  • Hacker News – 1 referral – DROP
  • Instagram – 0 referrals – DROP

That was pretty clear. I have a few clients who have content that does quite well on Reddit, so it’s more about what you are posting. Obviously the business channel is dead for me.

Syndicated Content Publishing

Let’s look at our secondary networks to see if they generate any significant traffic.

We’ve already seen

LinkedIn (414 referrals) and News360 (289 referrals). But where are Slideshare or Huffington Post?

Slideshare shows only 2 referrals to, BUT there is more to that story. Slideshare is a bit of a closed network. They don’t allow hard links to the content on your site. Even so, Slideshare generates a lot of views. And now that they have been acquired by LinkedIn, expect to see more integration and cross-linking coming in 2015. They’ve recently opened up their analytics for free as well. Here’s what my year looked like within Slideshare’s site.

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 8.59.44 AM

Okay, so 12k views is good, right. Well worth the effort. And some of those folks, had to have copy and pasted the URL into their browser, right? Also, what Slideshare is doing is generating it’s own kind of authority. You can’t build up an audience on Slideshare overnight. And you can’t buy 12k views, though I’m sure advertising on Slideshare is possible. So what do I get from my Slideshare audience, aside from the views within Slideshare? More reach, even if they are not coming back to my site. When they use one of my decks to demonstrate a point, they will remember me later, if they need support on a project that is related to my content. A direct referral from a Slideshare deck has happened once and it was a pretty lucrative contract.

And The Huffington Post only shows 12 referrals coming back to And while Huffington Post doesn’t offer their stats, it’s fair to say that just having their brand on my site gives some authority, or validity to my content. I need to crack the code and get a few more pieces published on the Business channel and see if I can drive some more referrals from HuffPo.

Well, that was easy. But wait…

If we believe Google is now using all kinds of social signals to give rank and value to our content, who’s to say that my inclusion on Reddit at all, isn’t of benefit? Hmm. And while StumbleUpon continues to drop in value, what about the social signal associated with being Stumbled?

Conclusion: I’m not dropping the bottom 4 just yet. But I do need to find better ways to engage with these sites. And we need some more primary research about Googles social signal influence.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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