April 8, 2011, 3:42 PM

Direct traffic from social media sites is low, but its influence counts, a survey says

Less than 1% of web site traffic comes directly from social media.

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Online marketers should gauge the indirect impacts of their social media efforts rather than rely only on a measurement of direct traffic coming from social media sites, according to a new study from ForeSee Results, a consumer satisfaction research firm.

18% of web site visitors say social media influenced their decision to visit a site, even though they may not have come directly to a web site from social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, the report says. According to the report, less than 1% of all web site visits come directly from a social media web site. 76% of online shoppers say they use social media web sites regularly.

“What this tells us is that traditional clickstream metrics don’t give us a full picture of what value social media efforts are bringing to our business,” says Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results.

The company determined its findings by reviewing nearly 300,000 consumer surveys taken at more than 180 web sites, including Drugstore.com and Sears.com. The Social Media Value Benchmark research also shows consumers who report being influenced by social media spend more, are more satisfied and have higher loyalty than those who say they aren’t influenced by social media. Specific metrics detailing these findings were not immediately available.

5% of consumers cited a social network interaction as the primary influence that drove a web site visit, according to a ForeSee Research report released in February that measured the online behavior of shoppers during the winter holiday season. 38% said their familiarity with a brand drove their visit, followed by promotional e-mail (19%), a word-of-mouth recommendation (8%), with  TV, print, radio and web ads, and search engine recommendation, trailing.

Freed says companies can use the Social Media Value Benchmark findings to determine if their social media investments are paying off. “The benchmark provides a way to see whether visitors are more or less influenced by social media than the average, which can provide a fresh perspective on directing social media investments.”

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