Being able to analyse social media is undoubtedly one of the indispensable tools in the modern marketer’s toolkit and creating content to drive website traffic and sales forms the heart of any campaign.
But to be able to do this and be effective you have to understand the mindset of your potential website visitors. You need to develop a way to effectively analyse social media, your results, and understand how your visitors respond to your marketing.
Doing this allows you to craft better messages and create content which convinces people to engage with your brand and click through to your website.
Once visitors land on your pages, you then need to look at how they behave and what drives their interactions on the website. You need to understand your visitors’ mindset before they even view your online content, to preempt and best serve them.
This article looks at some of the key pointers for how to discover this mindset and what you can do with your content to harness the power of social media to improve the customer experience from social post to sale.


Nobody should need telling why this is important – social media and online advertising is big business.
The figures from 2017 confirm this:

  • Google’s ad revenue was a whopping $73.8 billion
  • Facebook’s ad revenue was $36.3 billion
  • Twitter’s ad revenue was *only* $3.26 billion

So what exactly does this mean for those who work in the digital arena?
We’re spending so much on social media marketing, not just paid ads but on employees, planning marketing campaigns, designing creatives, managing and measuring the results. More than half of us don’t REALLY have a clue how effective it all is.

And that’s a big problem when we don’t know the mindset of our social media visitors – what are they looking for? Why they’ve landed on our website? What makes them convert?

Setting The Scene

As part of a talk we gave at the renowned Leeds Digital Festival, we asked a number of Leeds-based businesses and social media marketers their main objective for using social for business, and how they measure success.

The three key takeaways were:

  1. More than 60% of people used social media just for building brand awareness and increasing followers
  2. 44% don’t measure very much or only track follower count or reach
  3. 27% analysed individual social posts and knew how much website traffic they were getting

The respondents consistently identified analysis and reporting as a top challenge, due to the large amounts of data available and this being spread across various platforms. As a consequence, many said they simply didn’t bother.

Where does your traffic come from?

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The above chart details the monthly share of website traffic from the top 13 social media networks and six Search engines based on activity which was aggregated from 250,000 sites and more than 400 million unique monthly visitors.
The green line is website traffic from social, the blue line is traffic via search.
It shows the huge increase in website traffic from social media made between 2012-2014 to reach a point where there was more website traffic generated from all social media than all search engines towards the end of 2014. It also demonstrates that search is making a comeback, last year it retook the lead for the first time since 2014 driving 34.8% of site visits, while social dropped down to 25.6%.

Google has reclaimed their spot as the number one overall traffic referrer, with Facebook keeping its title as the number one social media network traffic referrer – it is worth noting that the average clickthrough rate for Facebook ads is 0.9% and conversion rate is 9.21% source.

We also need to be mindful of platforms other than Google and Facebook that may be sending traffic your way, for example 50% of millennials use Pinterest every month! Where do we go from here then in understanding our visitors and our traffic and working out what we need to do to monitor, measure, and improve those important metrics and KPIs?

We Need To Understand The Brain

Before we understand the social visitor, let’s have a crash course in neurosciences to understand how the human brain works! Evolution has resulted in three distinctive sections of the brain identified in the image below:

  1. Reptilian brain – responsible for governing basic survival. It’s highly visual and largely governed by fear – making it extremely selfish.
  2. Mammalian brain – responsible for our feelings, hormones and moods.
  3. Human brain – this is the most evolved part of our brain and deals with language and reason. It gives us the capability of reason, logic and evaluation.

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk believes that “attention is the single most important asset in digital marketing”. Something which applies very much to social media, where you only have a second to catch the eye as people scroll past.

To grab conscious audience attention, you’ve got to go through both the reptilian and mammalian brain first. Only then will you reach the human part of the brain which decides what it wants to do with the content presented to it.

This basically means that to get engagement, you need to speak directly to the selfish and emotional parts of the brain, and then -if needed- use logic, attributes and reason. And by selfish, we don’t mean that you need to be evil and exploitative; simply understand that your potential customers have a need, and you need to turn that into a desire so they engage with your content.
You’ve likely heard of the AIDA model, which you should understand and apply to all your social media marketing.

Create AWARENESS > Peak INTEREST > Develop DESIRE > Generate ACTION
This applies to more than just a social post. We have to consider these four steps for every connection point our potential customers have with us, whether that’s the original post, the landing page on the website and anywhere they may visit beyond their initial stop.
Alongside analysing the results of your social marketing, it is incredibly valuable to describe your ideal customer, by creating customer personas so you can tailor content and messaging to your target audience.

Do visitors from social media behave differently?

Is there a difference between the behaviour of people who visit your website from social media or those who come elsewhere like via a search engine or direct link? Well, yes, there is.
Although it’s not as straightforward as two uniquely distinct types, there will be overlap in all your customer personas. Website visitors from social can also come from search and vice versa but we’re talking about trying to understand the interactions and engagement a visitor has in specific distinct situations.
There are certain assumptions we can logically make based on how a visitor landed on our website and they generally hold true but with the caveat that nothing is 100% certain and you must allow for variables in all your data and metrics.
Visitors from social media may be:

  • More likely to be passively browsing
  • More likely to engage with brands they follow
  • More likely to click the link as shared by someone they follow
  • Expect the website content to be extremely relevant to the social post they just clicked on

Visitors from search may be:

  • More likely to be less passive, more active and goal oriented
  • More likely to know what they want to achieve and have a clear path
  • Expect the website content to be extremely relevant to their search terms

Interestingly back in 2015 one of the statistics in a report about Twitter use released by Brandwatch showed that 96% of the people that discussed a particular brand online didn’t follow that brand’s owned profiles. In addition, 96% of online conversation was unbranded and didn’t feature mention of any companies or brands.
What was surprising though, was that a brand agnostic research project for retail giant ASOS showed more people were talking about brands than they were about music, celebrities or even the news.

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A reminder that vanity metrics – counting brand followers or likes as a metric for determining visibility or success – aren’t enough and are fraught with complications.

Understanding the visitor’s mindset at the various stages of their customer journey can help us to better tailor our social media activity and help increase engagement with them.

Bridging The Gap

It’s great seeing all those social media follower numbers, likes and shares, especially if they’re always slowly climbing, but these vanity metrics only tell one part of the customer journey.

Vanity metrics aren’t enough!
While it’s great to know your numbers of likes, shares and clicks, these aren’t really important if the ultimate goal is to drive traffic to your website. You’ll need more knowledge about your social visitors’ journey from the post to your landing page and beyond.
You want to know what happened after someone clicked a link in a social post and the various actions which resulted from that click. You should know how engaged your visitors are they arrived on the website from a social post. Using Google Analytics gives us some idea of how your social media is performing as a whole, but it doesn’t reveal exactly which social post is driving traffic to your site, and it doesn’t show you how engaged these visitors are.
The social networks themselves don’t readily measure, or report, on what happens when visitors click through to a website. By default, social networks may tell you the number of link clicks a social post have have received, but there is no easy way to tell if these are genuine human visitors or bots, and neither Facebook or Twitter tell you anything about the visitor’s interaction with your website after they leave the platform and access your site – unless you spend a lot of time setting up Facebook pixels (remember these only work on paid posts) or spending hours setting up UTM codes to track and cross reference things in programs like Google Analytics.
What did these 6 people do after they clicked the link in our Tweet?

Measuring The Visits

We’ve talked about the vanity metrics, the ones which are easy to see, the likes, the shares, post interactions, reach and clicks. But the visitor journey doesn’t end once they’ve clicked a link in your social post, and neither should your analytics. So to understand the whole journey from social post to sale, you really need to measure and understand the following:

  • Real clicks versus bot clicks – what percentage of my link clicks are by real people?
  • Tracking visitors from a specific social post – which social post is driving the most traffic?
  • Number of pages visited per session – do my visitors navigate to other pages on my site?
  • Bounce Rates (hard and soft) – do my visitors bounce off immediately, or do they click and scroll around?
  • Average time on site – how long do my visitors dwell on my site, are they interested in the content?
  • Returning visitors – how many of my visitors from social are new, and how many have returned?
  • Scroll depth per page – how engaged in my content are my visitors?
  • On-page clicks and actions – exactly how do my visitors behave on my site?
  • Conversions (sales, from submissions etc) – did a social post directly result in a sale?
  • The entire customer journey – can I piece this all together to understand my website traffic from social?

Do visitors from social posts behave differently than visitors from search?
Yes – they do!
We found that search sends more traffic visitors than social does. Social however, sends more traffic which is engaged, visitors who are more likely to spend longer on site and more likely to click onto other pages.
Social visitors are less likely to bounce; but search visitors who stay are more likely to spend time looking around the site.
Returning visitors are more likely to come from social, which indicates social media is better for visitor retention that search.
Now, on the face of it, this isn’t a huge difference between visitors from search and visitors from social but these subtle differences can, and will, add up over time and affect your marketing efforts and your budget.
Is there any difference in visitor behaviour between organic and paid social posts?
Yes – there is!
By analysing hundreds of social posts using Beacon Analytics, we found that while promoted posts generally result in more traffic, visitors who clicked the link spent less time on site and were less likely to navigate to other pages than visitors who accessed the site organically.
However, organic visitors, while they were fewer in number, appeared to be more engaged with website content which ties in with our earlier findings that social visitors were more likely to engage with brands they followed and more likely to click a link shared by someone they already follow.
Whilst promoted posts increase reach and impressions, it is not guaranteed that to result in clicks or website traffic. This is also reflected in the simple fact that lots of likes doesn’t equate to lots of website visits. A post with zero social engagement (vanity metrics such as likes) can often be a successful post in sending actual website traffic – and potentially result in a conversion.
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To Conclude

This article only scratches the surface of how to make the most of social media, but it’s a good place to start your own research.
If you stick to these five key takeaways, you’ll be starting on the right foot and working from a solid base of information:

  1. Look beyond likes and shares – measure these by all means, but analysing the traffic your social media is driving to your site as this will undoubtably effect your businesses bottom line.
  2. Even the small numbers count – you can learn a great deal from a handful of website visitors from a social post. By examining their average time on site and bounce rates you can quickly gauge how engaging your content is and whether or not your social posts are driving the right traffic that speaks to your target audience.
  3. You can pay for traffic, but you should value your organic social visitors – your organic visitors are your groupies, your supporters, and you will always get the most out of them. So nurture them!
  4. You can’t buy love – know the limits of promoted social posts, driving spikes in transient traffic is a short term tactic that doesn’t guarantee sustainable results.
  5. Good content is good content – however your visitors find you, good quality content will always perform better, so focus on the quality of your content first, and how to drive traffic to it second.

We hope you found this article insightful and that it underscored the need to understand how your visitors from social media behave and engage with your website. So stop posting in the dark and get incredible insights on your social media today!
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