A number of people have asked me to share the math behind something I said last week: that social users are much more valuable than users from search.
As some of you will recall, I was referring to the most powerful use of social: to build loyal audience relationships. It’s worth far more than a chance at a viral hit, a millionth fan, or even a social comment or like. That’s because the social networks are really “relationship platforms.” The currency of social networks is the data describing what users like. And with that data, anyone can serve an audience – and build a branded relationship with users – far better than a blue link in Google can do.
In the interest of proof, I’ll share some of my company’s data with you. We’ve been tracking the long-term value of users from various sources for some time – about 7 months and counting now. And the results couldn’t be more conclusive:
Users from social visit more often and stay longer.
How much more often? Our Facebook users come 70% more often over the course of our dataset.
And each time, they stay on average 50% longer – consuming more content, pageviews, and advertising.
Put that together, and each Facebook user brings us 2.5x the revenue of a search user. And that’s without yet even adding in the value of engagement and viral referral to drive even more audience!
You may be wondering why that is. Well it’s not just pure luck. The reasons are twofold:
First, social users are in a branded relationship. When your property shows up in a Facebook or Twitter feed, you can be identified with your logo and brand name. One better is when someone Likes or Follows you. When that happens, you’re now talking about the chance to build a relationship many times a day – with each and every post. From a brand building standpoint, this is nirvana – and it’s probably the most important reason why advertisers will spend billions of dollars to get into the social news feed this year. But even better for content publishers: if you do it right, you can get in for free.
Second, the social relationship platform actually doubles as a data platform. It gives publishers real-time feedback data about what works, when. If you watch and measure carefully, you can tune the content, packaging and timing with real-time feedback so you can give the audience exactly what they want, when and how they want it.
So while social users are outperforming search today, the good news is that next week, if you use all that data to improve what you do, they’ll do even better. The chart above is an average value over the last seven months, and what it doesn’t show you is that social users have been increasing in value over time. Take a look:
In January, the average user who came from Facebook looked at 9 pages – that’s more than double the number we were seeing just 5 months ago.
I’m actually not surprised that not every publisher is seeing this kind of loyalty and engagement from social users. After all, it didn’t come without effort – I credit the dramatic increase in social user engagement in the chart above to our advanced technology helping the Wetpaint team understand and serve our audience.
But that doesn’t mean that every publisher can’t get more loyalty from social users than they’re getting today. It just makes sense: social users should be more engaged and brand-loyal. They have a strong incentive to read and watch what their friends are talking about, to be included in the conversation. The only reason that many brands aren’t seeing the full value of social is that they’re blind to the opportunity of rich connections and data – and ultimately, they’re the ones who will be left out of the conversation.