Benchmarking the Impact of Social Media on Tourism Websites

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

Three of the biggest trends, and headaches, for tourism marketing departments the world over.

More fans or more activity?

Quality or quantity?

Traffic or tweets?

Popular assumption says that gains made in our social campaigns will translate into higher visitation on our DMO, CVB or NTO websites.

I have even heard some colleagues claim that a majority of their website traffic was now coming directly from Facebook.

Justification for their social efforts.

But before you adopt a social-only strategy, let’s check the numbers.

As with our look at the average DMO website visitor, all statistics have been calculated using our mark Benchmarking Report.

How much visitation is driven by social media?

Let’s start at the top. How much of the average DMO’s website traffic is generated by social media?

Some, but not a lot.

As a general statement, most social media traffic comes from four sources: Facebook, TripAdvisor, Twitter and Pinterest. Yes, there are other sources, and yes, specific DMOs may receive a disproportional amount of traffic from YouTube, but on average, your social traffic is coming from one of those four sources.

As for TripAdvisor, it could be argued that it is not a true social network, but in terms of Google Analytics categorization, it is included in this group.

Back to traffic from social media. On average, 2-7% of total website visits are generated directly from social media. Meaning the click came from a social post, tweet or link to your website.

mark - Traffic from Social

Typically, Facebook (1.8%) provides the most social traffic, followed by TripAdvisor (1.4%) and then a virtual tie between Twitter (.77%) and Pinterest (.74%). Although, it should be noted that traffic from Pinterest is growing at a faster rate than Twitter.

From an overall perspective, social media sites make up a small percentage of your website’s traffic.

But, is the quality better than the quantity?

How engaged is the social visitor?

For most, the goal of a social media campaign is not to drive direct traffic to a website. Although, it must be said, far too many of our peers are actively using this justification. Rather, our goal is to engage the social consumer within the social site.

But what happens when they do visit your site? Are they more engaged?

Yes and no.

Visitors who come to the DMO site from a social source appear to be more focused. Spending less time and visiting fewer pages, but with more successful sessions (a close, if not lower bounce rate on average).

mark - Social Visitation (w/o TripAdvisor)

In theory, this should be expected. Content that directs social users away from the social network is often specific, rather than general, promising additional information as the reward for venturing outside the walls of the social castle.

Then, there is TripAdvisor.

As we mentioned above, the travel review site is not a true social network, even with its social aspects, and this can be seen within the Avg. Visit Duration and Pages / Visit stats.

mark - Social Visitation (w/ TripAdvisor)

While most social visitors are focused at the task at hand, visitors from TripAdvisor are still searching for information.

Which provides an interesting perspective. Setting Facebook and Twitter aside due to their relatively closed ecosystems, look at the difference between Pinterest and TripAdvisor.

Yes, both sites have substantially different roles within the travel planning process…Pinterest leaning towards inspiration, TripAdvisor toward planning…but look at the difference in engagement from those sites.

Considering the recent hype surrounding Pinterest (guilty), particularly as a traffic-driver (not-guilty), one would assume that the pin-craze would translate into engaged visitation.

Instead, it is TripAdvisor that drives more consumers (on average), who spend more time and view more pages.

If you are limited by resources, consider which of these sites, Pinterest or TripAdvisor, would deliver the more relevant and valuable visitor for your tourism organization.

Is social traffic local or national?

As it turns out, pretty local.

Take the circle diagram below. Move the center point over your city (imagine it) and the corresponding location of your social media traffic will likely fall within those rings. The majority, within the first ring, etc, etc.

mark - Social Location

Large or small, rural or urban, the trend is the same.

And, this corresponds nicely with some of the anecdotal evidence available via Facebook’s Insights pages. For example, the most popular city for the Facebook pages of Sydney, Vancouver, Daytona Beach and Athens?

Sydney, Vancouver, Daytona Beach and Athens.

The majority of the social consumers coming to your website are within 200 miles of your destination.

Next Steps

Is social media a major traffic source for your website? No, likely not. And that means that website traffic is likely not a good KPI to measure social success.

What social media can tell you is what and where to optimize on your site. What content is most popular. Where consumers are losing interest. And which content is most likely to be shared within social channels.

Forcing your social community into your website is a difficult and unpopular tactic, instead use the insights provided by your social users to increase the social sharing of your content.

After all, they are on Facebook for a reason.

Benchmarking Your Data

Want to receive benchmarking insights on a daily basis? mark Free is now available to all DMOs, CVBs and NTOs.

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