“That wouldn’t apply to us because… [wait for it] we’re in a regulated industry.”
There’s an underlying current in asset management marketing that trends that affect other industries don’t apply here. It’s an illusion that is almost never true online—what’s affecting other Web sites is probably affecting your mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) site, too.
We’ve written about how Facebook and other social networking sites are gaining at the expense of asset manager and other destination Web sites.
But there was a report this week about Facebook’s influence in driving Web site traffic that merits attention. Compete.com data cited by the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday suggests that Facebook is now a more important traffic driver than Google.
“Facebook has passed search-engine giant Google to become the top source for traffic to major portals like Yahoo and MSN, and is among the leaders for other types of sites,” the Chronicle reported.
Other types of sites even including investment manager sites? Yes, according to Compete.
Here’s what we found when we took a look at the Compete referrer data for the top 30 (based on assets under management) mutual fund and ETF sites for January 2010.
The sites experience very different total traffic levels. Given the Davis Funds' site relatively low traffic and few (24) sites referring traffic to it, Facebook's appearance as a top referrer in a given month might be easy to understand.
But Fidelity and American Funds are industry behemoths and, try as we might to produce alternative explanations, there’s no denying Facebook’s breakthrough as a top referrer. Fidelity.com is the 157th largest site, according to Compete. More than 12,000 sites refer traffic to it and yet Facebook catapulted over those to rank as the fifth top referrer in January? Fidelity's self-directed investors could help explain the popularity and influence of Facebook. But a heavy retail bias doesn't help explain Facebook traffic to American Funds, sold exclusively through financial advisors.
The implications of Facebook supplanting Google as a top traffic driver is being contemplated across all industries this week. We invite you to provide your own interpretation and comments below. Here are a few of our thoughts:
Your Referrer Data
The San Francisco Chronicle report was based on a single month's data (December 2009), and this post is based on one month, as well. One month is what Compete makes available at no charge. In fact, if you follow the links included in the table above to the Compete profiles after the January 2010 data rolls off, you may see a different result.
It's possible that other fund companies are getting more Facebook traffic in absolute numbers but, because their other referrers are more dominant, Facebook is lower on their list of referrers.
Site traffic is reported using multiple measurement methods. Compete reports clickstream data based on a 2 million-member panel of U.S. Internet users. It’s common for Compete, comScore and Experian Hitwise and Quantcast data to be at odds.
Bottomline: The availability of the Compete data makes this comparative analysis possible. If you’re responsible for digital strategy at your firm, you need to dig into your own Web analytics to better understand where your Facebook traffic is coming from, where it’s going and its quality.
Facebook Links To Investment Sites
Of the five firms, Fidelity has a Facebook page with little more than 1,000 fans, and American Funds has a page for members of its Web group only. We couldn’t determine whether advertising links from Facebook count as referred traffic by Compete. Even if it is, our guess is that only Fidelity would be a likely aggressive Facebook advertiser of these five.
In the absence of robust Facebook pages or ads, that must mean that the Facebook traffic is coming from links posted in the Notes areas. Amazing, almost incredible. Congratulations to these companies for producing content that others think enough to link to. To get a sense of it, do a dfaus site:facebook.com search on Google and see the links from Facebook pages of advisory firms. Institutional firms that have thought that social media is just for retail investors might want to think again.
Forget Search To Focus on Facebook Optimization?
Some have interpreted the ascent of Facebook as a traffic driver, often accompanied by a decline in Google-referred traffic, to mean that people are no longer searching and increasingly prefer to discover content socially. Such a shift in Web user behavior would have significant implications for search engine optimization (SEO) and search marketing. That’s true in particular for digital strategy planning in this business, where much SEO remains to be done.
We agree with this post on Search Engine Land that aims to put the Facebook findings in context. The work involved in thinking about how searchers frame their information requests and the measurement and analysis of the effectiveness of various keyword phrases can result in deeper customer and prospect understanding. Please don’t think that you can skip the work now that Facebook users are recommending investment site content—especially if these recommendations are not as a result of a deliberate strategy of yours.
Facebook—and its 400 million users—is awesome. But maintaining a Facebook presence requires a well-considered strategy and ongoing resources. In an October 2009 post, Facebook: Don’t Expect A Lot of Warm And Fuzzy, we noted a certain crankiness toward investment companies by Facebook commenters. (We saw the same early this month in the early reactions to Fidelity’s Be The Green Line YouTube contest.)
But while your Facebook page may be on a backburner pending strategy, policy and resources, we suggest you take this January 2010 referrer data as inspiration to learn more about Facebook. Your firm doesn’t need a fan page in order for you to explore more about how investors are interacting with your content and how they may want to interact with you.