Website traffic is a universal marketing goal. No matter the brand or industry, there is something, and in many cases a lot, to be gained by driving clicks to a company’s page.
Social media emerged as a strong source of web traffic from its onset, but recent developments have made it even stronger. As advertising platforms have matured and social commerce has become more common, budgets reserved for driving traffic have slowly migrated from search and display ads to social media.
You can see this play out in the 2016 Social Media Marketing Survey, conducted by research firm Clutch, where 19 percent of social marketers called website clicks their favorite metric for measuring success — more than every metric but one. You can see it in the fact that, between March and September 2016, the share of US internet users who purchased products via social media nearly doubled.
No matter what your goals are, driving web traffic can help you get there, and social media can help you drive web traffic. Consider this post your guide to driving traffic on each of the major social networks.
As with most objectives, Facebook’s audience size, targeting capabilities, and optimization tools make it the strongest network for driving link clicks. A cost per click benchmark of $0.50 globally, reported in June 2016 by Nanigans, reinforces the network’s efficiency. Multiple Facebook ad types are tailored specifically to drive web traffic, which makes it a powerful tool at each stage of the sales funnel.
- Link Ads
- Carousel Ads
- Canvas Ads
Link Ads are standard link posts, featuring one piece of creative (image or video) that when clicked drives out to a web page. They can also be accompanied by call-to-action (CTA) buttons such as “Shop Now” or “Sign Up.” Clicking any part of the ad drives to the web page, which makes them superior to image posts with URL links in the caption copy.
Carousel Ads create a more dynamic linking experience, allowing multiple side-to-side panels (up to 10) that feature different creative and can link to different areas of a website. Images and videos are both supported, which enhances the opportunity for storytelling.
Canvas Ads are different than other link ads, because they don’t link directly from the News Feed to a web page. Instead, they become a custom full-screen microsite, operated within Facebook, where links and carousels can be placed around other media. This is best used when web traffic is a secondary objective, or a co-objective alongside engagement.
Facebook’s greatest strength is the size and diversity of its audience. It is used by all ages and demographics, through all stages of the sales funnel, for shopping and interaction and news. No matter what you hope to accomplish by driving link clicks, Facebook will play a big role.
Because of that versatility, our most important recommendation is to maximize success through segmentation. Instead of defining your goal as just “web traffic,” figure out what type of traffic you’re hoping to drive. Separate the brand awareness traffic from the conversion traffic, then target specific audiences based on where they exist in the sales funnel.
Instagram link ads are young, but early results have been promising. The company is owned by Facebook, and its ad platform allows marketers to optimize content across the two networks — often with great success. The cost per click tends to be slightly higher than that of Facebook, but it’s still relatively low, and with user behavior changing and its audience rapidly growing, there’s a good chance that number improves.
- Link Ads
- Carousel Ads
- Instagram Stories
Link Ads are roughly the same as on Facebook, with one significant difference. CTAs such as “Learn More” are mandatory, and clicking on the image or video makes the CTA flash blue rather than driving to the website. This slightly raises the barrier for entry, but also ensures that each click is high-impact.
Carousel Ads also closely mimic those of Facebook. The biggest difference is that on Instagram, only five (as opposed to 10) panels are supported. This technically inhibits the number of entry points, but also encourages more concise storytelling.
Instagram Stories, the Snapchat-like feature that debuted in August 2016, allows verified accounts to drive web traffic. Rather than a clickable link, a prompt to “See More” with an upward-facing arrow is placed on the bottom of the frame. Users who swipe up on the image or video are driven to a mobile web page.
Unlike Facebook, which has an audience for everything, Instagram occupies a narrow space. People come to the network for beautiful photography and visual inspiration: to see, rather than read about, what they like. All creative campaigns must keep that in mind.
Accordingly, we recommend using Instagram for conversion traffic — links to web pages that drive sales — more than blog posts or other non-conversion websites. The goal is to show users something they can’t resist, then link them to a place where they can buy it.
Twitter has had a rough go of things lately, spawning questions about its long-term viability. But it hasn’t disappeared from short-term relevance, and it still has a passionate audience that loves to share news and consume real-time content. If those are the types of links you plan to publish, Twitter should remain in your plans.
- Website Cards
Website Cards are the Twitter approximation of link ads. The format is roughly the same, supporting one piece of creative that when clicked drives out to a web page. The only difference is that on Twitter, the creative must be an image, not a video.
For brands that want to function like publishers, spreading awareness with entertaining or informative posts, Twitter drives respectable web traffic. A “retweet” has a lower barrier of entry than a Facebook share, so with the right topic, headline, copy, and creative, there’s a chance for organic and viral reach to supplement advertising spend.
It’s probably not the right place to run conversion campaigns, although it did put out a beta of a website conversion objective in September 2016. This should be monitored as the network adjusts its business strategy, but for now it’s hard to trust the ROI.
As a network, LinkedIn’s value varies the most across brands and industries. It has the best career-based targeting of any platform, but its cost per clicks are always a little higher. Assuming you can spare the extra budget to ensure each click and lead are more qualified, there’s value in making LinkedIn part of your strategy.
- Link Shares
- Text Ads
Link Shares are the same as organic link posts, only with ad spend. The format does not support video, but with images wider than 200 pixels, the creative will appear in a large format rather than a thumbnail. Not a lot of LinkedIn posts take advantage of this, so those that do have an advantage in the feed.
Text Ads appear not in the feed but on the side of desktop homepages, profile pages, group pages, and more. Despite their name, they do support images, which helps them stand out and draw attention. With a strong and concise call-to-action, they have potential to drive results.
LinkedIn is a network for professionals, which doesn’t mean there’s no room for fun — just less of it. Save your cheeky tone for other networks, and post content that positions your brand as impactful.
For B2B brands, this can be done to drive traffic throughout the sales funnel, especially with career-specific lead generation. It’s obviously less effective for B2C brands, but can still drive decent traffic to blog posts and thought leadership. Just think twice before advertising something that lacks clear ROI, because the targeting does not come cheap.
Pinterest is at the forefront of social commerce, which makes it an important source of web traffic. A May 2016 study found that 55 percent of US social media users shop on Pinterest, while no more than 12 percent shop on other networks. The only downside to Pinterest is its ad suite, which makes serving content to a targeted audience less efficient.
- Promoted Pins
Promoted Pins are the same as regular Pins, only with ad spend. This gives them more creative flexibility than other networks’ link posts, since Pins can be formatted in multiple sizes and with image or video. Pinterest promotion is also unique because the advertiser pays per click, not per user reached.
Depending on what you sell, Pinterest should be a staple — and maybe even a focus — of your conversion campaigns. The audience skews younger and female, but if your product appeals to that demographic, you can boost sales by driving web traffic through Pins.
Consider this as a supplement to Instagram traffic. As it stands, the Pinterest audience is more ready to click and buy, but Instagram’s ad suite and targeting tools are stronger. Run both campaigns simultaneously, and see which one works better for your goals.
Snapchat’s rapid growth has caught the attention of advertisers, but so far it has proven hard to monetize. The audience is there, but a February 2017 survey found that 69 percent of users “always” or “often” skip ads. Between that and the lack of options for driving web traffic, it’s hard to justify spending money on this objective.
- Vertical Video Ads
Vertical Video Ads play between Snapchat stories, and are customized for users to take an action by swiping up. One of the available actions links out to mobile web, which to date is the only way that Snapchat can drive traffic.
Simply put, the best approach is to look elsewhere. Snapchat claims that its ads drive a “5x [better] swipe up rate vs. average CTR on comparable platforms,” but the only source it cites is confidential internal data, so it’s hard to trust what’s hiding behind the curtain. Everything we have seen and read suggests this is the wrong place to drive web traffic.