Why Facebook matters for public relations

The Influence of Facebook

Three percent doesn’t sound like a lot.

That’s the amount of traffic to news sites that comes via Facebook, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

It seems particularly small when compared to the 30 percent of traffic referred by Google – though still larger than the less than 1 percent directed through Twitter.

But what is noteworthy about Facebook’s referrals is that they indicate visitors are coming to the news site because of a link shared by a personal connection. This is very different from pure search with Google or Bing – instead, this kind of site traffic is driven by recommendations through an online social circle.

The study points out that at five of the top 25 sites studied, Facebook is the second or third most important driver of traffic, getting 6 percent to 8 percent of their readers from Facebook. Again, a small percentage compared to search engines, but a growing and influential one.

It underscores the growing significance of Facebook as an important component in public relations. Facebook is becoming – and in many cases, is already – a crucial venue for dispersing information. If a Facebook connection (either a person or business) has made the effort to curate that link and share it with their network, then users seem to be more likely to click through and read that story.

As the study points out, “[Facebook’s] role has evolved from a network for friends to share personal information to a way for people to share, recommend and link together all kinds of information, including news. If searching for news was the most important development of the last decade, sharing news may be among the most important of the next.”

As a consumer-facing business you can’t afford not to have a Facebook presence, whether it’s sharing news about your company or simply observing the spread of information in your personal connections.

Do you agree? Do you see the influence of Facebook on news sites continuing to rise?