Statistics, it is said, are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital. Earlier this month TNW reported, quoting Statcounter Global stats, that StumbleUpon had surpassed Facebook in the US as the site that created the most social media referrers. The article also reported it was the second most popular traffic-generating site globally after Facebook.
Statcounter’s analysis covered seven social media sites linking to over three million websites with about 15 billion monthly pageviews in 2010. It showed that during the year, Facebook and StumbleUpon are engaged in a merry dance to become the top social media site for link referrers. Twitter came in third place with Reddit, YouTube, Myspace and Digg bringing up the rear.
This, of course, was surprising.How could a site with one of the smallest profiles have passed Twitter and Facebook to become one of the leading sites for link referring online?
To answer this question we took a close look at the value of social media referrers.
Our Analysis of StumbleUpon’s traffic
Our own analysis shows that Statcounter’s results area broadly accurate – Facebook and StumbleUpon commonly sent the most number of impressions to the sites we looked at. But this is only the begnning of the story, we were interested in the value of these users – were StumbleUpon’s users more engaged than those from Facebook or Twitter.
We examined a number of sites over a four month period, October 15th 2010 to January 15 2011, to see how social media users engaged with the sites that the visited. To do this we looked at the most common social media referrers as suggested by Statcounter; Facebook, Twitter and StumbleUpon.
The results we got indicate that StumbleUpon users spend, on average, nine seconds on a website, compared with 78 seconds (1:18 minutes) for Facebook users and a massive 126 seconds (2:06 minutes) for Twitter users.
Looking at the bounce rate, the number of users who visit the site and but don’t click further into the site, 81% of StumbleUpon users bounce, while 77% of Facebook users do the same. Twitter recorded the lowest bounce rate of 70% in our sample survey.
Looking particurarly at these results we removed StumbleUpon from our small sample and we found that our bounce rate was reduced by just over 1%.
So what does this mean for SEM sites?
Getting down to brass tax – revenue – which users are worth the most? You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Facebook users are worth the most, on average they are five times more valuable than StumbleUpon and Twitter users.
In short, StumbleUpon sent more users to the sites we looked at than Twitter and Facebook but these users were far less engaged in the site.
This can mostly be explained by StumbleUpon’s operating model. StumbleUpon users are directed to websites through a “Stumble” in their browser. The button randomly picks websites based on personal information users provide the site, a process the New York Times described as “channel surfing the Internet.”
The social web is not the full story
A final note on referrers, one segment of social media referrers not referred to in the Statcounter statistics were those of email referrers. Our analysis showed us that users from Yahoo! mail, Gmail, Live/hotmail and other email systems, spent the most amount of time on each site, 290 seconds (4:50 minutes), they also returned half has much revenue as the highest earning site, Facebook.
Users referred by email have a similar bounce rate as Twitter users.
Our, by no means scientific, results suggest something which many social media gurus has known for some time, Facebook and Twitter users are the audiences to target – these sites will generate a larger number of users and a greater number of engaged users.
This is a cross-post with Antonie Geerts of Dublin based digital media agency Arekibo (@arekibo), in conjunction with FirstPageOn (@firstpageon), Arekibo’s search engine strategy, marketing and management service.