Back in November of last year, I was reading one of my favorite marketing blogs The Future Buzz and got an idea from one of Adam’s most popular posts. The post was 50 Inspirational Images From Flickr Under Creative Commons and it seemed like a great format for potentially getting viral traffic from social media.
I borrowed the format from Adam and created a post of my own at Free Pursuits called 50 Photos to Inspire Life as a Digital Nomad. The images in the post were all from Flickr, and all licensed for use under Creative Commons. It took me about two days to collect the images and format the post.
I choose what I thought might be a catchy title, published the post, “discovered” it on StumbleUpon myself and tweeted it. Then I asked a few friends to stumble and tweet it if they liked it before I went to bed.
The next morning I woke up to a big surprise.
The post had been tweeted over 100 times by 9 in the morning, it was doing really well on reddit, and more importantly StumbleUpon had already sent me over 4,000 visitors.
As the day went by, StumbleUpon (SU) kept sending me hundreds or thousands of new visitors each hour. By the end of the day SU had sent over 18,000 visitors. Twitter (for comparison) sent about 2,200 visitors that day.
What a ride! I had more visitors that day than in the entire previous month. It was a rush, and I was glued to the laptop all day checking stats.
And the surge of visitors didn’t end on that first day, either. Over the following two weeks, StumbleUpon continued to send me thousands of visitors every day. In total, SU sent 83,025 visits in 15 days. Amazing. The post continues to receive between 5k and 30k visits from StumbleUpon each month.
I’m really happy for the traffic and became a big believer in the power of StumbleUpon after that. The only problem is, the visitors don’t stick around long or convert readily to subscribers.
The StumbleUpon visitors spent just 15 seconds on the site on average and checked out 1.14 pages per visit. I had heard visitors from sites like Digg, Mixx, SU, etc. didn’t spend much time on the sites they visited, so I wasn’t too surprised.
Subscriber conversion wasn’t much better, either. In the two weeks I experienced the initial “StumbleUpon wave,” I added 116 new RSS subscribers, which wasn’t significantly more than I was adding in the months prior.
Lessons To Learn…
Your experience with social media visitors (especially those from voting or bookmarking sites like SU) might vary. Your content could convert visitors into subscribers or customers better, and the visitors might stick around a little longer.
But you shouldn’t expect wildly different results from what I had. It’s true, social media can send you a huge wave of visitors, but unless they are coming from a topical site (sites like Sphinn or Tip’d that is focused on a particular niche), only a small percentage will become regular visitors.
I’m not telling you this to convince you to stop relying on social media traffic altogether. Some sites are much more likely to send you people who will stick around. Twitter for instance can be a great investment in time.
However, if you were hoping that hitting the front page of Digg or getting 100k visitors from SU would single-handedly propel your site to rockstardom, you will be sadly mistaken.
A Comprehensive Traffic Strategy is Best
A rush of visitors from any social media is always a welcome experience. Getting broad exposure is usually a good thing, even if those visitors don’t convert.
When planning your traffic strategy though, you’d be better off with a comprehensive strategy that relies on a mix of traffic sources instead of focusing on one source or hoping to hit the social media jackpot.
Just because social media is a hot topic doesn’t necessarily mean it should be the cornerstone of your traffic plans. Also consider how email, RSS, other blogs, press, PR, advertising, search, forums, directories and affiliates should play into building your audience.
If you do hit the social media jackpot and those visitors become customers or regular readers, congratulations. If not, you’ll be glad you diversified your traffic building efforts.
What is your experience with social media traffic? Do the visitors usually convert to subscribers or customers? Please share in the comments!