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    27 May 2008

    Social Media Limitations

    I’m an active user of social media, and sites like StumbleUpon, Delicious, and Digg have been incredibly valuable for helping me to grow my blog for almost a year now. Many other bloggers, like me, have seen the power of social media, and it’s very easy to get sucked in and focus the majority of your efforts catering to the social media audience.

    While I am certainly an advocate of social media marketing, I also think it is critical to understand the limitations of social media. If your primary goal in blogging is to generate traffic through social media you’ll probably be left with some impressive stats and not much else. Stats alone really don’t mean anything, so it’s important to get what you can out of social media, but rely on a balanced plan for long-term blogging growth.

    Social media sites can be a tremendous source of exposure and they’ll help you to build links and indirectly search engine traffic, but the visitors you will get from social media marketing will have some limitations that you’ll need to be prepared for.


    If you’re hoping to drive traffic to your site in attempt to sell a product, social media is not going to be your best source of traffic. The percentage of social media visitors that will buy anything from you will be ridiculously small.

    However, this doesn’t mean that social media marketing is a waste of time if you’re trying to sell products. My approach in this situation would be to set up a blog on the site and post articles that would be of interest to those who might actually buy your product, but cater the posts to social media audiences. Don’t try to sell anything to them, just get their attention.

    A big hit like this with social media can produce a lot of inbound links to the site, which can help to improve your search engine rankings and indirectly increase your sales.

    Ad Clicks

    Much like product sales, social media visitors are unlikely to click on ads. If you’re monetizing your website or blog by some type of advertising like AdSense where you’re earning money for each click, you probably will make very little from social media traffic.

    This horrendously low click-through rate can actually wind up costing you money because some programs will drop the amount of money you make from each click if your click-through rate goes down. You may want to try a different type of advertising, or remove the ads altogether.

    Long-Term Traffic

    Most visitors that you get through social media sites will never return. Ultimately, social media is a great source of traffic for a few days, but it will eventually fade away unless you can keep publishing new content that draws results.

    Although social media traffic is typically very short-term, there are some powerful long-term results if you have a solid plan. You can use social media as a way to build links to your pages and increase search engine traffic, which is long-term (usually). Additionally, it’s possible to gain subscribers through social media, which will also help to increase your long-term traffic.

    Can’t Eliminate the Need for SEO

    Social Media Optimization (SMO) should not be a replacement for SEO. The two should work hand-in-hand. Because search engines send targeted traffic and because they tend to be more consistent and stable than social media, you should never ignore the need to maximize your search engine traffic.

    Some bloggers get a few thousand visitors per day from social media and maybe a few hundred from search engines, so they spend much more time and energy optimizing for social media. While I do think it is a good idea to target social media, that traffic will often be very fickle. Search engine traffic is generally more stable, so your SEO efforts today could have an impact for years to come.

    Can’t Provide Balanced Traffic

    Even if you are having some success from a variety of different social media sites, well-balanced traffic is always important. Having balance is critical because many other sources will be more responsive than social media, plus it’s just much safer. Social media traffic can dry up any time, so if you have no balance you will be out of luck. Regardless of what type of traffic you are after, balance will always provide some safety.

    It’s Difficult to Convert into Subscribers

    The rate at which your visitors will become subscribers will generally be lower with social media, but from my experience it’s not as bad as you might think. All of my best days in terms of gaining new subscribers have been the days when I had a big success with social media. Of course, those are also the days when I had the most traffic to my blog. While your conversion rate my be lower with these visitors, the volume of traffic can still help you to achieve a nice boost in your subscriber count.

    If you hope to gain subscribers through social media, you’ll need to give these visitors a very strong reason to subscribe. One of my favorite approaches is to target the same social media sites repeatedly. If visitors see your site consistently in the “popular” section, they’ll start to see that there’s something worth paying attention to.

    Another approach that can work very well is to mention an upcoming post on a related topic. Some visitors will subscribe in order to be sure that they don’t miss the post. For a more detailed look at the subject, see my article Gaining Subscribers Through Social Media: Is It Possible?

    Social Media Marketing Isn’t an Entire Marketing Plan in Itself

    I mentioned earlier that drawing traffic from a balanced variety of sources is ideal. In order to achieve this you’ll need a more complete plan than just using social media. Don’t ignore other priorities like building a search engine friendly website, building links, developing repeat traffic, etc. Social media should be one aspect of the complete marketing plan.

    Repeat Traffic is Limited

    One of the most difficult things to do with social media is to get visitors to actually come back to your site at some point in the future. Ideally, visitors will become subscribers and regular visitors, but that’s not going to be the case with the majority of your visitors, so you’ll also need to focus on giving visitors a reason to come back for a second visit.

    From my experience I’ve found that Delicious is a good site to target if you want to build repeat traffic. As users bookmark your pages they’ll be one step closer to coming back later. One my slower days I usually still have a small, steady flow of visitors from their old bookmarks at Delicious.

    It’s not an Easy Fix

    Some bloggers and marketers see social media as a way to quickly get a flood of traffic, rather than working hard for a longer time to build that traffic. While it’s true that social media can produce large volumes of traffic much faster than just about any other source, you can’t just submit anything and experience success. In order to have a really popular item with a major social media site you’ll have to out perform thousands of others that are competing for that traffic.

    You Can’t Create Positive Results Without Great Content

    There are really two basic elements that can lead to success with social media: 1) the content itself, and 2) your network of friends. If you have a large number of friends or contacts that will be willing to vote for your submission (or if you’re willing and able to game the system) it is certainly possible to get loads of traffic to a post that’s not that great.

    However, if this is the case the long-term results won’t be there. You won’t get much of an increase in subscribers, repeat traffic, or links. With high quality content you will be able to achieve those things. If you’re going to target social media, take the time to create the best content you possibly can, and the results will follow.

    What’s Your Experience?

    Do you market your blog with social media? What limitations have you seen?

    45 Responses to The Limitations of Social Media

    1. Matt Jones May 27, 2008 at 9:40 am #

      Good points. It is also very time consuming and easy to get sucked into without actually getting anything out of it.

      • deberah November 15, 2012 at 9:44 am #

        I think its rotting there brains and the people that create the websites should get them of the internet and creat books instead.

    2. Andrea J. Stenberg May 27, 2008 at 11:32 am #

      I consider Social Media to be much more than StumbleUpon, Delicious, and Digg. I’d also include networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.

      If you add those sites to the mix, I’ve found using them has been a great advantage for me – it’s increased traffic, increased subscribers and increased sales.


    3. Tom - May 27, 2008 at 12:22 pm #

      Just when I was looking at getting into social networking a little more :D. Great post though!

    4. Web Success Diva May 27, 2008 at 3:07 pm #

      I agree with Andrea, I’ve actually seen quite a huge jump in subscribers, sales, and quality traffic from the entire scope of social media — beyond the standard sites you mentioned.

      I definitely do believe there are limitations to social media traffic and those limitations just need to be worked around :-)

      Great, insightful post!

      Maria Reyes-McDavis

    5. Steven May 27, 2008 at 9:55 pm #

      I agree. I didn’t mean to imply that I wasn’t including those types of sites, but I should have been more clear.

    6. chris hooley May 29, 2008 at 2:19 am #

      Good read. Well written for easy consumption and extremely accurate!

    7. Noobpreneur May 29, 2008 at 11:47 am #


      You rite about it – traffic from social media crave for great contents – if they were good enough, they will return often and eventually subscribe to feed. If they were not good enough, they don’t even bother to come back.

      In my experience, they do respond to an accolade or two of our blog – My blog experience a spike of consistent traffic since I post about the inclusion of one of my blog post in Evan Carmichaels’ Top 50 Franchising Blog Posts.

      To me, social media expose your site better, like you mention about better SERPs – But not directly means more money for you :)


    8. Pat Howlett May 29, 2008 at 12:06 pm #

      Great share! I think that no matter what medium one engages it’s still about finding and connecting with your ‘niche’. Stay on-point with your content… target matching social media platforms available and you will connect to like minded folks who will; read, subscribe, re-revisit, share, contribute and buy.

    9. Kevin Trudeau May 29, 2008 at 1:27 pm #

      Great Post. However, if you sell regular advertising on your site, social traffic is a great way to boost your stats in order to show advertisers the value of advertising on your site.

    10. LaPrentiss Sampson May 29, 2008 at 5:42 pm #

      Wow! This is an awesome post! And im sure it will open the minds of newbies who believe social media traffic is everything to marketing!

    11. houston payday loans May 29, 2008 at 5:51 pm #

      I only mess with social bookmarking right now but this article is very well written and definitely a “bookmark” :)

    12. Internet Marketing Joy May 29, 2008 at 10:02 pm #

      Interesting insights on the limitations of social media..and also thanks for the tips on how to overcome it in a way..^^

    13. adnan May 29, 2008 at 11:16 pm #

      Great post as usual Steven.

      I think you’re right, in that social media isn’t a marketing plan in itself. Whilst many blogs have taken off hugely with the help of social media, it has more been their steady production of solid content that has catapulted them to successes.

      Like you say too, most of the time, this social media spotlight has given them traffic (and at times a steady influx of RSS subscribers), but what the top marketers manage to do, is to turn these visitors around into things like subscribing to a mailing list, or purchasing one of their own eBooks (think Darren Rowse or Leo Babauta here).

    14. Greg from Make Money Online May 30, 2008 at 7:41 am #

      I make good off of adsense. I don’t make enough to retire but I do make the gas money. Which is klling most people. We fill up twice per week and have one large SUV.

    15. Flimjo May 30, 2008 at 3:01 pm #

      Social media is good but not great. I get some traffic from Digg, but it’s really not helpful. I’m considering just ditching that effort altogether.

    16. diy help May 31, 2008 at 5:17 am #

      Informative post. Social media to me, is a reli good way to get traffic but I’m also looking for other ways in getting more traffic. Tnx 4 sharing

    17. Jim Ontos June 1, 2008 at 6:53 pm #

      You are so right about traffic to our Adsense sites. Social marketing has at the most increased our CTR by 2 percent. Going back to the basics.

    18. Stefanie June 2, 2008 at 5:22 pm #

      You’ve made a lot of great points. Every once in a while, I’ll find myself talking to someone who knows just a little about social media, and they’re always really curious about how to drive traffic through those channels. It’s like they think it’s some kind of magic bullet for fortune and fame. They should definitely check out this article.

    19. Mike Tieden June 3, 2008 at 5:26 am #

      I think social media can be a successful way to market your business, but of course you shouldn’t rely solely on this form of marketing. If you create a group on Facebook and invite your friends and others to join it, then you have an easy mailing list to inform your customers about new website posts and other things your business offers.


    20. ChiQ June 3, 2008 at 11:27 am #

      i simply rely on social media sites for traffic..

    21. Mike Michalowicz June 3, 2008 at 9:55 pm #

      I used to have a link to my website in my signature and now have changed it to my blog. I think this is a better way to get long term traffic.

    22. Puneet June 12, 2008 at 5:22 am #

      I too think traffic from SB sites are not much stable or useful … for the time being … but still its somewhere beneficial for few bloggers as per their theme and regular updates …

    23. ZaggedEdge August 17, 2008 at 4:23 am #

      i love the name of your blog.

      my experience is that you can’t use them all, but focusing on your niche is most important. SU, twitter, LinkedIN, are my bread and butter

    24. Joel Drapper October 15, 2008 at 7:43 pm #

      I have had a great response from twitter, and also stumble upon has sent me quite a lot of good, converting traffic. I have yet to try LinkedIN.

    25. Blogs about everything January 17, 2009 at 9:16 pm #

      I agree it is very difficult to convert sales or adsense revenue from social media traffic but it can help overall when combined with seo marketing.

    26. DIY Forums January 29, 2009 at 8:51 am #

      I always try social media, because it does provide a little trickle of traffic – but never as much as I’d like!

    27. DIY June 4, 2009 at 8:46 am #

      I will be honest, I don’t bother with social networking sites. I just don’t have the time.

      If the vistors won’t return, then it seems like a lot of resources to keep them coming back again and again.

    28. Infomercial Guy July 17, 2009 at 7:09 am #

      I think the value of social media traffic really depends on your business model. It’s great for drawing people into your site. Then if your content is good and you build a relationship with readers, you can convince them to do anything…like buy your stuff. Works great for informational products like PDF ebooks.

    29. Nancy Neckline February 22, 2010 at 8:35 am #

      I’ve found that it’s really hard to convert social media traffic. I’ve started focusing on getting my friends on twitter over to my blog to opt-in to my list as quickly as possible. Then I can sell to them :)

    30. Jennifer January 6, 2011 at 3:13 am #

      Social media marketing mix is like a turbocharger in a car, you still need a roof, windshield and tires, but you can get there faster turbocharger, such as social media.

    31. Steve January 31, 2011 at 12:40 am #

      Our company invested in Social Media advertising and were quite disappointed with the results. The pay-per-click ads on these sites do not seem to attract the same type of clicks that the search engines are getting.

    32. Cover Home August 18, 2011 at 8:26 am #

      Would be interesting to revisit this post now, what with the changes that have taken place in the industry since.

    33. Battery2b November 17, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

      Today, with all of Googles changes, social media can definitely give you a boost in ranking. But i agree that converting social to sales is a major challenge. But also, its a whole other entity to manage and maintain. But again, you have to have a active presents because in years to come, it might just be the most important element in your SEO ranking.

    34. Harry March 8, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

      Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your content seem to be running off the screen in Ie.
      I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you
      know. The style and design look great though!
      Hope you get the problem solved soon. Kudos

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