The Cannibalization Of Your Traffic Or Not?

by · August 31, 201212 comments

An interesting question was posed at a corporate event I was involved in earlier this week. I wasn’t the person asked the question, but it intrigued me enough that I gave it some thought and wanted to share. While talking about a relatively conservative company launching more holistically into a digital marketing strategy that included social channel activation, an employee of the company asked, “Don’t these social channels cannibalize traffic to our website?”

It’s a natural question and, frankly, makes a lot of sense to ask. Why would we route and send people to Facebook or LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube if we could send them to our website? So here are some thoughts if I were to answer the question:

There’s a good chance your website is a static brochure for your product or service. It serves a valuable purpose for people who are investigating or looking for more information about what you offer. But that doesn’t describe every audience member you have. In fact, most people aren’t looking for more information about what you have to offer. Your job is to find the ones that are and direct them to your website where they can make that purchase decision.

Priorities in Digital MarketingWhere do you find those people? According to some pretty reliable research about consumer behavior on social media, on social networks.

Your website is a destination place — preferably a series of destination pages built for each type of customer or product/service you have — for you to route people when they’re ready. Social media sites are where you enjoy being part of your audience’s experiences in the meantime. And where you seek those who might need you, or your site.

Yes, you can incorporate social media functionality and activations on your website. I’m a staunch believer in corporate blogs because they drive search engine results and traffic. You can serve current customers well there with awesome live chat software. You can even have a forum or community element that helps customers or prospects engage with you or fellow audience members and build a bit of community on your site. But unless you’re business is primarily focused on building said community (i.e. you’re a social network), most people are going to spend time on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like because that’s where their friends are.

It’s not a matter of cannibalization of your website traffic. Social media is about finding the people who are the most appropriate audience members to visit your website and inviting or funneling them there when they need it. That may be through your connectivity with those audience members on social channels. It may be through search engine results your blog has earned that help people who don’t know you find solutions to their problems. Either way, social media makes your website traffic more relevant which probably also makes it more efficient.

Your turn. How would you answer that question? Does your social channel activity and focal point cannibalize your website traffic? What is the role of a website in the social era? The comments are yours.

Note: Links go to the Social Habit and Velaro — one a project I’m involved with, the other a client. Just disclosing. Oh, and I made the picture on my iPhone with MadeWithOver.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Stephan Hovnanian

    Agreed on all points. Having said that, today’s website has to be more thought-out and focused than the ones of even a couple years ago, because of this very situation. Your audience isn’t just coming to your site from search queries, direct links and AdWords. They’re prequalifying themselves through the social channels and have already made a connection with your brand before coming to the site.

    Think of it this way: when you buy a car, the social networks are like the sales guy you spend 3 hours dealing with, only to eventually head to “my business manager” (the website) to close the deal a few minutes later.

  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    is no doubt that the internet has forever changed the world in which we live.
    So it can only be expected that it would change the way we sell and marketing
    our businesses globally. Thanks for sharing this article at this time where
    websites talk about your business….

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  • Barry Feldman

    Love the article, Jason’s thoughts and Stephan’s analogy. I make this analogy…

    You can think of the website as your store, even if many visits aren’t going to result in a sale. Let’s say it’s a bakery. Well, there, you’ll offer free cookies. When it comes time the customer needs a cake, she’ll be back, with her credit card. 

    Social media is definitely not sabotaging the site (store. It’s media, so it’s advertising it, creating buzz about it, branding it, shaking hands and handing out invitations. 

  • Douglas Karr

    Not at all. A status update, a retweet or even an image can’t paint as clear a picture as the detail my blog can provide.

  • Aimee Joseph

    Driving people away from your website to your social networks is actually a way to convert your website visitors into actual sales. 

    For example, say I visit the Topshop website, have a browse, then click on their Facebook link and become a fan on Facebook. 

    Then, over the next week, month, whatever, I go on Facebook and see Topshop in my newsfeed. 

    I will either be driven to their website because I need a new dress, and seeing Topshop in my feed inspired me to look at their website, or Topshop post a dress that I like, so I click on it and get taken to the product page.  

    If I had not been a fan on Facebook, I may have bypassed Topshop altogether and gone to a competitor website to buy a dress.

    • JasonFalls

      Great use case, Aimee. Thanks for sharing!

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  • Domainwright

    Thanks for the post, you have looked into this and show how negatives can be turned into posatives

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