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With a $200 billion market cap and an active user base that rivals the entire population of China, Facebook has significant staying power.

For publishers, marketers and site owners, this is especially important because Facebook is the leading driver of social referrals to sites across the web. Also, surprisingly, over the last year, Pinterest has been giving Zuckerberg and company a run for their money as the #2 source of social referrals.

In the 3rd Quarter 2014 edition of the Shareaholic Social Media Traffic Report, we take a look at how much traffic each of the 8 most popular social networks sent publishers’ way. The data reveals “share of visits,” a percentage of overall traffic — direct traffic, social referrals, organic search, paid search, etc. — sites received, for Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Google Plus, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

This June, Facebook delivered nearly a quarter of the total visits sites around the web received. While its share of traffic has marginally shrunk since then, the ubiquitous social network still drives 4x more traffic than Pinterest.

Our Q3 report, which aggregates data from Shareaholic’s network of sites*, is broken up into two main parts:

  • Section I: Social referrals over Q3 2014 (June – September 2014) — A brief look at four months of data collected from 300,000+ websites reaching a global audience of more than 400 million unique monthly visitors.**
  • Section II: Social referrals year-over-year (September 2013-2014) — A deeper analysis of thirteen months of data collected from 200,000+ websites reaching a global audience of more than 250 million unique monthly visitors.**

Let’s take a dive into the numbers.

Section I: Social Referrals Over Q3 2014

Our first chart observes “share of visits” for each social network over the months of June, July, August, and September 2014. The final column quantifies how much each social platform’s share has changed from June (end of Q2) through September (end of Q3).

Social Media Traffic Trends Report Q3 October 2014 chart

Of the eight social networks tracked, only two — LinkedIn and Google Plus — drove a greater share of traffic at the end of Q3 than they did at the end of Q2. The other six each saw their share of traffic decrease slightly, between 1.03 – 0.01 percentage points.

Social Media Traffic Referrals Report Q3 Oct 2014 graph

With a fairly flat quarter, it’s worth asking: Has social media plateaued? 

Section II: Social Referrals Year-Over-Year

A quick glance at historical data tells us that over the past 13 months, both Facebook and Pinterest have demonstrated the powerful potential of their respective platforms to marketers, publishers and site owners.

Social Media Traffic Trends Report October 2014 chart

(click above image to enlarge)

Collectively, the 8 largest sources of social referrals drove 29.49% of overall traffic sites received last month. Compare that to 16.44% during the same time last year.

Year-over-year, only 3 social networks (Facebook, Pinterest and Google Plus) saw their “share of traffic” grow. Each experienced at least a 50% bump in share of visits over the past 13 months. The remaining 5 (Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, YouTube, and LinkedIn) saw their shares decline by more than 24%.

Social Media Traffic Referrals Report Oct 2014 graph

Below are four key takeaways from this report:

1. Facebook leads the pack, driving 4 times as much traffic to sites as Pinterest does

  • For businesses, Facebook is a gold mine of audience data and content distribution. For users, it is a highly personalized window into the things/topics/news they care about. In sum, Facebook is everything.
  • Driving 22.36% of overall traffic to sites, Facebook’s share of traffic has exploded in the last year. Since September 2013, its share has increased 115.63% (11.99 percentage points) from 10.37%. While it didn’t experience significant gains over Q3, there is still plenty of room for growth.

2. Pinterest is coming for Facebook’s throne

  • Pinterest, while wildly popular among American women, hasn’t yet scaled to the size of its competitors. Even still, with an estimated 70 million users, it has firmly secured its position as the 2nd largest referrer of social traffic.
  • In September, Pinterest delivered 5.52% of total visits sites received. Over the past year, its share of traffic has grown 50.07% (up 1.84 percentage points), giving it a noticeable lead over Twitter, StumbleUpon and Reddit.

3. Twitter is losing influence and clout

  • On a mission to be more like Facebook, Twitter may have lost its way.
  • Since September 2013, Twitter’s share has steadily declined from 1.17% (its 13-month high) to 0.88% (its 13-month low) last month. This is a loss of 0.29 percentage points (down 24.97%).

4. StumbleUpon, Reddit, Google Plus, YouTube, and LinkedIn are in a category all their own

  • For most publishers, marketers and site owners, the five remaining social networks are forgettable sources of traffic. Collectively, they contributed 0.74% of overall traffic sites received last month, which is less than the number of visits Twitter alone sent.
  • Over the past 13 months, StumbleUpon’s share of traffic peaked at 0.99%, in March 2014, and last month sunk to a low of 0.41%. Year-over-year, its share decreased 26.49% (a loss of 0.15 percentage points) down from 0.56%.
  • Comparing September 2013 to September 2014, Reddit’s share went from 0.26% to 0.18%. Shrinking 30.56%, Reddit lost 0.08 percentage points.
  • Google Plus may still live on. In fact, in the last year, it saw modest gains, increasing its share of traffic 57.02% (0.03 percentage points) to 0.07% last month, up from 0.04% during the same time last year.
  • YouTube was the biggest loser. Shedding 87.27% of its weight (0.25 percentage points), it once claimed 5th place above Reddit but now ties for 7th with LinkedIn. In September 2013, YouTube drove 0.29% of overall traffic to sites. Last month, it only drove 0.04%.
  • While LinkedIn has become a publishing powerhouse, it sends a comparatively low number of social referrals to sites across the web. In September 2014, LinkedIn accounted for 0.04% of overall traffic to sites, down 47.37% (0.03 percentage points) from the same time last year.

Which social network drove more or less traffic to your site over the past year? Let us know what numbers you dig up in the comments below.

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* Shareaholic sources data from a network of opt-in websites that utilize its content marketing and publishing tools. Our sites are fairly diverse, spread across tens of different head categories (e.g. food, tech, design, fashion and beauty, marketing, sports, parenting, religion, general news, and many, many more), with sites ranging from independent lifestyle blogs to publishing companies to commerce sites. Furthermore, the size of websites participating in this study varies. Some receive less than 1,000 unique visitors each month while others pull in millions.

** Our methodology is unique in that we utilize a proprietary network of opt-in websites that continues to grow. Rather than working solely with a static list, we take advantage of an expanding data set which is why our sample size for Q3 (300k+ sites reaching 400M+ users) is larger than that for our year-over-year analysis (200k+ sites reaching 250M+ users).

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