Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher
 

More LinkedIn, Please

While it might be the buttoned-down collar of , still retains the right reputation for getting business done. And our year-long test prove it.

About a year ago, we started a little experiment. Which social networking activities – blogging, , LinkedIn and Twitter – drove the most traffic to our website? And which sent stickier visitors, interacting the most or longest with our content?

We watched two metrics from our traffic tool (Visistat): Total visitors (unique and repeat) and duration (time spent) on the site. We kept it simple, focusing entirely on “social” sources of traffic.

So here are the results for the last 12 months:

Twitter didn’t rank in the top 5, although our blog posts are automatically tweeted to about 750 followers. Number five was an email source, reminding us that email alerts can still be effective traffic drivers, at least with Baby Boomer prospects. Number four was our friends at Keeping Current Matters blog which has a lot of traffic itself. They graciously added us to their blog roll, showing the value of the blogosphere itself. Then, good old Google indexed our blog nicely, sending traffic without payment on hot topics of the day.

The heavyweights of social media took the top spots, but we admit to having a shock: LinkedIn drove nearly twice as much traffic as Facebook. Yet it wasn’t simply the volume that surprised us:

It was that we hardly spend any time on LinkedIn!

It’s no stretch to say we spend hours on Facebook daily, monitoring news and comments and sharing web links on our company page. Facebook is also easier to watch from my Android smartphone. Since I use Facebook for personal reasons as well, it was natural to spend more time there daily than LinkedIn.

In fact, the total extent of our LinkedIn activity this year was incredibly minimal. It involved three activities: First, we connected our blog to the LinkedIn website/RSS feed, so it automatically updated new posts to my profile (total recurring time: zero). Next, we shared our blogs to specifically targeted groups with members likely to be influencers or consumers of our services (total time: one minute each time a blog is posted). And finally, I’d conduct a weekly connection-spree to adding and accepting invitations to my sphere of influence. Total time: one hour weekly.

So, whereas Facebook consumed hours daily, every day, it drove half as many visitors to our website as LinkedIn did in about 1 hour and 1 minute a week.

More Linkedin, please!

This doesn’t mean Facebook wasn’t helpful; different tools have different investment requirements. It’s ROI that matters: We tracked similar revenue dollars from both networks last year. Both returned about the same dollars, from slightly different products. Yet the time and effort must also be accounted for in total returns, and there was a huge difference.

As for engagement, our tracking was too inaccurate: Many visitors read a blog entry then “bounced” offsite entirely, so we couldn’t track durations accurately. Anecdotally, if measured by responses themselves, there could be a difference: Most Facebook interactions were “likes” or short comments. On LinkedIn, most interactions were replies to in discussion groups. These tended to be longer – a few sentences to a paragraph – similar to comments our blog itself.

That doesn’t necessarily mean LinkedIn visitors were “more” engaged than Facebook. Each site lends itself to different kinds of feedback. Yet some discussions on our posting on LinkedIn took on lives of their own. One provocative posting (about open houses) in the LinkedIn NAR Group created such virulent discussion between members – more than 65 responses at one count- that it got us kicked out of the group (but that’s another story).

So what’s our plan for 2011? Numbers don’t lie. Both sources generated similar dollar volume, but operational costs cannot be ignored, especially in a frugal business climate. We’ll be adding a second, third, and fourth helping of LinkedIn to our marketing menu next year. And while we won’t be dumping our Facebook presence any time soon, we just might watch the clock a little more closely in the future.