Buffer is losing traffic so what hope is there for other businesses. It makes ou want to cry.

Wow! Even Buffer is Losing Traffic From Social Media

Buffer, the service that distributes your content to social media networks to help drive traffic to your website, recently revealed that it had lost nearly half its traffic from social media over the course of 12 months.

Why is this shocking? Because if Buffer can’t attract visitors — and that’s their sole business focus — what hope is there for the rest of us whose blogs and websites are competing for readers and customers? It’s enough to make you cry.

What’s Going On?

I give all due credit to Kevan Lee, who creates the content for Buffer’s blog, for freely admitting his dilemma. He doesn’t have all the answers but he makes a compelling analysis of what might be going wrong in his post and this PowerPoint presentation.

Take a look and then I’ll chime in with my two cents.

Drowning in Content

Social networks are drowning in content, as Kevan states. As I reported in a post I wrote a little over a year ago, social networks can’t possibly show you all the content they receive.

I quoted Facebook’s Brian Boland at the time, “Rather than showing people all possible content, News Feed is designed to show each person on Facebook the content that’s most relevant to them.

“Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300. To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person.”

Facebook and, increasingly other networks, are showing you what they think you should be seeing. So when Buffer (or Hootsuite, or Tweetdeck, et al) distributes your content to social media, chances are that no one will see it. All that work, and nothing to show for it.

If your strategy is to sell from your website, you are potentially missing out on many buyers.

What’s Next?

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I think social media is being oversold to entrepreneurs as a source of business. Note that consumer products companies are still advertising, mounting major PR campaigns and sponsoring events.

They’ve invested in social media for sure, but it is but one tool in their communications arsenal.

I’ve certainly seen a drop in social media network referrals. When I first starting blogging almost seven years ago, LinkedIn was my primary source for all traffic, not search. Now LinkedIn, like the other networks, keeps changing the rules on us, and it accounts for a tiny fraction of my traffic.

What a brouhaha LinkedIn stirred up when they changed how Groups operate. Even the network’s new design makes it difficult to locate the groups you belong to. More drop down menus.

I find myself less active than ever in my groups. LinkedIn also eliminated the Promotions tab making it more difficult to promote your business.

The reality is that all the social media networks are moving to “pay to play.” The free rent option is disappearing or becoming more difficult to leverage.

What to do? Social proof will continue to be important to your business. But it will be risky to rely on social media to drive potential customers to your site.

I believe that entrepreneurs will need to harness the power of advertising, networking, public relations, direct response and personal/client referrals to build their business. It’s old-fashioned, but it still works.

Try Other Tools

There are other communications tools you can use to reach your target audiences. Sure, it requires a financial investment but you may find that’s it’s less expensive than you think. For example:

  • Have you tried Google AdWords? You can slice your audience into tiny segments by geography and bring the cost way down.
  • Google AdSense works similarly, in that you bid for ad space on an owner’s website instead of on Google’s search pages.
  • Both large and small businesses have had success using matte press release services, such as NewsUSA, that guarantees 1,000 placements for your release. You can also combine the traditional print distribution with social syndication to expand your universe.

You may think I’ve soured on social media. I haven’t. Social proof is important to your business because potential clients want to know that you’re active and getting noticed on social media. Social proof gives you credibility. You can also identify potential clients and start to engage them in conversations.

We’ve learned that social media isn’t the magic bullet. It never was, but we’ve been seduced by the hype. Buffer’s experience was a clear signal to me that while we can try harder to get our content read on social media, we don’t have control over what Facebook and other networks actually use, and that’s a dilemma.

Have you experienced a drop in your traffic from social media sites? What are you doing about it? Please share your thoughts in the comment box.

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Comments

  1. Wow, Jeannette, it’s like you’ve read my mind! Or maybe I’m just not alone in experiencing this phenomenon. It got so bad that in the month of December I stopped looking at my numbers altogether! I agree with the theory that people are just overloaded with content, but I haven’t figured out how to deal with that for my tiny little content-heavy blog. I just keep coming back to “Be yourself” and if people like what you do, they’ll keep visiting. We’ll see how that pans out in 2016…

    • Meredith — you’re not alone is seeing a reduction in traffic. It’s happening to companies both large and small. That’s why it’s important, if you’re actually selling from your site. to use other channels to reach your targets.

  2. Great post! I haven’t heard about Buffer announcement. I use Hootsuite and don’t really follow Buffer. I have noticed that I do not get as much traffic from social media sites besides Pinterest in recent years. But for me, in the last year, since I have been involved in more groups on Facebook and Linkedin, it has helped with the traffic from Facebook and LinkedIn. I was grateful that LinkedIn finally created an app for groups. That helped a lot since the regular LinkedIn app really didn’t do well for groups. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sabrina — I’m glad that Facebook and LinkedIn Groups are driving more traffic to your website. That’s very heartening to learn!

  3. I read about Buffer and it’s not surprising that many others are wringing their hands trying to figure out what to do next. I agree with your points about LinkedIn and now that you mention it I just realized I’ve only visited one of the groups I belong to since they made the changes. Facebook, well I’ve never been a huge fan but I cannot deny that’s where I get most of my traffic. I have a page, but I think groups is the best thing they have going. I just finished an article about Twitter referrals and the solution they came up with is to share the same content more frequently. So for example instead of sharing this post on Twitter 2 or 3 times you would share it 6 or 8 times. I’m certainly not an expert in social media but to me this seems like little more than contributing to the noise and clutter already out there. Anyway, I’m still basking in the glow of my first week off in 2 year so very little will get me stirred up at this point, another couple of weeks and we’ll see. Thanks for the advice and great info!

    • Marquita — I know about the advice of sharing content more frequently on Twitter. I don’t do that enough. The reality is that unless you’re on someone’s Twitter list or included in one of their Hootsuite streams to follow, most people won’t see your first tweet. It’s like advertising, where repetition will cast a wider net of readers.

  4. ​Nice post, Jeannette, makes you think, doesn’t it?! I think if one uses social media to sell, they’ll be in trouble. If, on the other hand, they use it to connect with interested parties (paying for products or services, or not), only then they could truly reap the benefits of social media marketing. It’s not about the business, it’s about the user…

    • Diana — I agree that social media is about engaging in conversations. It’s also a tool to draw readers to your website but how many of them will become customers? Unless you have a huge following, that’s not likely to happen.

      • But I disagree. It’s true that the more followers you have, the higher the *statistical* chance to convert any of them into paying customers. But let me ask you – which would you rather have: 100K followers who don’t really know who you are and what you do, or 100 highly targeted followers who think of you every time they need a service you offer? I know I want the latter. And that is possible only through networking and relationship building. It just so happens that social media is perfect grounds for that.

        I am not trying to say it’s not a good idea to have a huge following. If you can manage it, by all means – do it, it can boost your smm success for sure. But too many businesses are building huge followings for the sake of numbers, and that’s not a good idea. No following is worth the time, money and effort to build, unless it’s targeted, is all I am saying 🙂

        ~Diana

        • Diana — I don’t think we disagree. I agree that social networks are excellent forums for making connections that can lead to new business. But I think social media is being oversold as a channel for direct sales from your website unless you are a mega company and can also put a lot of money into advertising on these sites.

  5. I used to use Buffer and HootSuite a lot more to curate content to disperse to my business page, but I stopped bothering so much months ago and content shared that way was getting fewer views. It’s had an upside though. Now I am only posting one post from an outside source a day, but engagement and views has gone up. The tendency to often for me has just been to fill my page with content. I am making more of an effort in 2016 to make my FB page more personal. That always spikes views and engagement. Even posing a question or observation with something posted via Buffer will help a little bit.

    • Jeri — I actually use Buffer quite a bit to post to my social media networks. I haven’t seen a lot of clicks to my website but I feel if someone (maybe a potential client)is looking at my feeds they will see that I’m active and current. I do get some retweets, too.

  6. Jeannette, just when I’m starting – and I mean starting – to learn a bit about social media like Twitter and LinkedIn, you write this post. I feel like Lucy in the Charlie Brown strips – AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH.
    From everything I’ve read and heard, for what I do, Pinterest and Instagram are the sites to use. I am on Pinterest and love it but using it to promote is something I still need to learn. As for Instagram that will have to wait until I know more about Pinterest. And so it goes, around and around – but interesting.

    • Lenie — I didn’t mean to discourage you! I think Pinterest is an excellent site for you because of all the wonderful tips you give your readers. Instagram is really the “hot” channel now although I’m resisting jumping in. Ugh, one more network to manage.

  7. This is a good post Jeannette and a bit disturbing, tho in a way not unexpected. It’s frustrating when I read how FB curates what we see, and while we can’t see everything, I feel sometimes people get kicked off my list and for no reason. Similarly, with a FB author or artist page, where people ‘Like’ the page, it seems impossible to me to know who is actually seeing what I post apart from the faithful few who make a comment. As you say, it’s frustrating to make all that effort and no-one see it. Oh and BTW – Happy New Year!!!

    • A.K. — it is disturbing that the social networks are filtering what we can see based on what their algorithms tell them we can see. That’s why I think it’s so important to have your own website and blog so that people who are really interested can see the real you!

  8. Another great post for someone like me who is having time navigating the ocean which is social media.
    I learn so much from posts like these, they help me so much since I am a new coming to the web.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • My pleasure, William. I’m glad that it helped. Social media has become this big swirling ocean that is getting more difficult to navigate — and leverage — every day.

  9. Didn’t know about Buffer losing traffic. Use it for Twitter only because it’s so easy to attach a picture.

    As I’m sure you understand, I agree with you completely about social media networks moving into paid options. Linkedin’s latest changes bluntly shows that. Have always got most traffic directly and second source Linkedin. That’s still the case and to be honest I am not sure if I get less visitors from Linkedin or not because I focus on the total amount regardless of source.

    You are so right that people have to look at other options for reaching their target groups. How they do it depends on if they work on a local, regional or global level.

    • Catarina — glad you agree. I, too, get most of my traffic from organic search, next direct, and then social media referrals. I’m glad I don’t sell from my website because my traffic has dropped (partly because I’m no blogging twice a month instead of every week) and partly because Google has once again changed its algorithms. So best, to look at other channels.

  10. Like you Jeannette, I am not surprised. I did notice the Buffer drop months ago. But right now, at least, I’m getting a lot of kick from guest posting on higher ranked blogs. That at least, has me maintaining traffic to my blog.

    Technology is for certain changing faster than we comprehend if companies like Buffer can’t really figure it out. So I guess, even we solopreneuers, authors, writers, etc are in good company!

    • Patricia — funny, all the pundits said that Google was downgrading guest posting. Guess we’ve come full circle if you’re having success in attracting viewers.

  11. Hey Jeannette,

    I’m not at all surprised by this actually. So many of these social platforms are making drastic changes and of course they are heading toward the pay to play scenario. We’ve had a great run being able to do things for free for so long but now it comes down to how do you use social media.

    I agree, if you’re a business and you rely solely on social media to make sales then you’re in for a rude awakening. Me personally, I use it to make connections and build relationships so that’s helped me tremendously in getting new readers, subscribers and customers.

    It will be interesting to see where this all goes and how hard everyone will be hit with the constant changes. I’m not excited about them either but what other choice do we have, right!

    Thanks for sharing this with us and if Buffer isn’t doing so good then that can’t be good for the rest of us.

    ~Adrienne

    • Adrienne — I found it shocking and discouraging that Kevan from Buffer would share this bad news. After all, generating traffic from social media is the reason Buffer is in business! I think their experience was a wake-up call for the rest of us that social media is not a silver bullet.