Recently, people have noticed an important milestone. The top traffic referral site is …. Google? Nope. Yahoo? Nope. It is Facebook.
What? That's crazy talk! Apparently not. And not only is it tops in terms of numbers, according to Mashable, it is also tops in terms of quality. People coming to your site through Facebook are more frequent "loyal" visitors, according to one study.
Well, think about it. Web sites are great, right? I mean they can be really beautiful and packed with information. But they make us go out and find them. And to find them, one uses search, but one also uses other people. Other people who tweet about the site. Other people who talk about the site on Facebook. Web sites are static and rely on drivers. Web sites do not talk to us and do not engage us. Twitter and Facebook are drivers. And Twitter and Facebook are all about people connecting and sharing information.
The emergence of Facebook as a driver of traffic signals an important shift in the way that people are getting and consuming information. More than ever, the idea of referral from a contact is taking up a huge proportion of the spectrum. That means that for any message – whether it is product related, or public health related – to gain traction, you have to do more than build a Web site and wait for people to discover it. You have to have a Facebook presence.
Not long ago, I wrote a posting that suggested that FDA should have a Facebook page. That is becoming an imperative. There are now more than 350 million people on Facebook, with 75 million logging in each and every day. Facebook is no longer just about finding out what people look like today who you wanted to date in high school. There are cause based pages. There are brand pages. There are disease awareness pages. And each of them as fans and followers – people who want to carry the messages of that cause, brand or awareness campaign each and every time the page is updated with new information.
A Web site simply cannot accomplish that. And relying on a Web site alone to carry the burden and momentum of a campaign simply will not work in this ever-changing environment. Without the currency of a Facebook page, or its equivalent, a Web site is just a big shopping mall, with no roads or public transportation bringing people in.
And so as FDA slowly grapples with its increasingly complex task of developing some guidance around social media – an environment that is constantly evolving at breakneck speed – the agency needs to consider how people are in fact communicating today and companies need to decide if they can afford to wait for the agency to issue any parameters for operating in this environment or they forge ahead and hope for the best. At this point, you must decide if you shape the environment, or you let it shape you.