Is social the new Google?

During one of our recent projects, we noticed something odd. The website at hand, a shop/blog selling organic products, had over 50% of all page views coming from Google Pinterest.

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Social traffic from pinterest larger than google analytics referrals

Is this really as odd as we felt it was? When you think about it, social search has been stealing ground from Google search for years, which gave us Google+. A platform we didn’t embrace because we had already gotten used to Twitter and Facebook.

When I was at a camping site in France this summer, I asked some kids whether they still used Facebook. These boys and girls must have been around 10 to 14 years old, and none of them were using it. They all used Instagram instead. Now I know that Facebook’s age policy is to allow ‘children’ from 13 years up, but we all know this age requirement is not always abided by. Tons of younger people already use the network, but there seems to be an ongoing shift (of teenagers) towards Instagram.

Somehow it seems that photos are the new blog posts. Of course, we need text to explain things and start discussions, like in this article. But the ease of taking a picture and posting it, with the main goal to get ‘props’ or comments, seems to be more attractive for these youngsters.

Read more: Images for blogs »

Social engagement and communication

Social networks could be considered ‘extensions’ for your website. Where a website is usually about sending information, the social platforms are used as marketing tools for that website. Besides that, these also allow for support and discussion. A lot of people browse Facebook and see your posts in their timelines on a daily, if not hourly basis. Where the frequency of visits to your website is most probably much lower. It’s an easy way to connect and communicate with your target audience.

With the rise of social networks like Facebook and Twitter (who remembers Myspace?) the question arises whether it’s possible to build that social network solely around your website as well. So without the use of social platforms like Twitter and Instagram. I think only a few sites have been able to do so sofar. IMDB for example seems to have a solid base of frequent visitors. Several online news sites have, and perhaps a number of technology and gossip blogs.

The future is engagement

With the expected ongoing growth of social networks as a whole, the entire internet is becoming more and more personal. And as a result of that, so should websites. Some websites are able to make that happen on the site itself. But the majority of websites simply need social networks to take their site to the next, user-focused level.

My gut feeling tells me it all depends on if you’re able to find kindred spirits among those that comment. Or just having a huge audience so coffee table chats involve topics discussed on your website. Perhaps articles are discussed at WordPress conventions, WP Meetups or WordCamps. We surely hope so.

Social engagement seems to grow as we up our blogging frequency, send out weekly newsletters and actively engage in conversations on social platforms. Social engagement for your website is just not necessarily (or only) built in comments. It involves all other communication platforms as well.

Just the other day, I was discussing some general online marketing issues with online friends, only to realize after 15 minutes we were using the in-game chat for Clash of Clans for that…

Building an audience

Social communication or social marketing is still gaining importance next to, or perhaps as a part of search engine optimization. We will do a series of posts with our thoughts about social marketing over the next months.

We have thought of a number of subjects to address. But if you feel there is a subject we must discuss, please let us know in the comments. Or reach out to me on Twitter, @michielheijmans. If we pick your subject (and you were the first to mention it), you’ll receive a free copy of our new ebook!

Keep reading: Social Media Strategy: where to begin? »