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Five Shocking Facts That Will Change Your Entire Approach to Social Media

Social media is fraught with legend, hysteria, and mass confusion. Because of its intensely personal nature, we tend to approach social media with a lot of strong feelings about its effectiveness, lack thereof, best practices, and how things should be done.

Since most of us use Facebook, we think we know how effective it will be, or what kind of posts garner the most attention and interaction. Since we have a Twitter account, we have a sense of knowledge about how it works, and what a business should do (or not do) on Twitter.

All that is great, but how much of our social media behavior is founded upon fact? I decided to dig into the data and do some research. What I’ve extracted below are five surprising data points that will have a profound effect on how you approach social media.

1. Email marketing has an ROI of 4,300%.

Source: Search Engine Journal

What? A statistic about email? You thought this was about social media, right?

My title is “Five Shocking Facts That Will Change Your Entire Approach to Social Media.” This statistic qualifies as shocking, and it impacts the way we approach on social media.

The basic fact is this: Email marketing has a huge ROI — way better than any social media marketing ROI can ever dream of achieving. Compare 4,300% that with the ROI of social media, which is crawling around on the floor. Is there even a comparison?

Take a look at this chart, released by Custora in 2013. They surveyed the owners of ecommerce sites to find out where these sites got their customers. Here are the top six sources:

acquisition by channel

Paid and organic search have the highest customer acquisition percentages. The next biggest contender is email. Based on its ROI — higher than paid and organic search — it’s a no brainer. Email marketing is awesome.

According to the chart above, the fascinating thing about email marketing is that its acquisition rates are rising dramatically. It has quadrupled over the past four years. Email marketing’s effectiveness far outranks any social media platform, and its growth outstrips them.

Even the customer lifetime value (CLV) of social media is hardly worth a second glance. Again, email marketing crushes social media by a huge margin:

customer lifetime value by channel

Simply put, email marketing is way more effective than social media marketing. It has greater effectiveness, better ROI, and higher CLV.

Learn this lesson: Spend more time and money on email marketing than on social media marketing.

2. YouTube has the highest engagement and lowest bounce rate.

Source: Shareaholic

Whenever we think of “social media,” we automatically think of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

What about YouTube? Check out these engagement stats!

  • Average time on site: 227 seconds
  • Average pages per visit: 2.99
  • Average bounce rate: 43.19%

How does this stack up against the rest of the social media landscape? Decide for yourself:

social media post click engagement

The Shareaholic analysis is based on post-click behavior, which refers to clicking on a link that a friend shares socially. As the Shareaholic analysis stated, “YouTube is the undisputed champion. YT drives the most engaged traffic.”

YouTube deserves more of your social media time and effort. You can’t afford not to put more work into creating and adding videos. The more YouTube content, the more you’ll engage your potential customers.

Learn this lesson: If you want engaged traffic, spend time optimizing YouTube.

3. Facebook drives more referrals than any other social platform.

Source: Shareaholic

Want to know which social media site sends you the most amount of traffic? It’s Facebook — by far.

Shareaholic analyzed metrics taken over four months, measuring the effectiveness of social media platforms. There was no contest. Facebook crushed the competition, asserting itself as the most powerful social media referral engine on the planet.

social media traffic referrals

Companies gripe and complain over the way that Pages have been squashed in the Facebook algorithm. I get that. Facebook wants more ad revenue.

But even though page interaction is shrinking, there’s nothing shrinking about the number of referrals that Facebook continues to drive. Simply stated, Facebook still drives more traffic than any other social media site, soaring way above its nearest referral competition, Pinterest.

social media traffic referrals

The reason why I’ve included this in my list of facts is because many marketers have become disillusioned with Facebook.

Kevan Lee of Buffer writes:

Nowadays, when I endeavor to check my Facebook statistics, I do so with the window open, birds singing, a pint of ice cream at my desk, and party jams playing on my jambox….Checking Facebook statistics has been bad news for a lot of us lately as we wrestle with declining numbers and shrinking reach.

While Kevan is staving off Facebook depression with ice cream parties and fresh air, Eat24 just decided to end the relationship with a “How dare you!”

6 how dare you

The super long breakup letter that went into overtime with a P.P.P.S.S.S. was full of foodie talk and hurt feelings. But they were gone from Facebook for good.

If you have a fan base below 10,000 (that’s most of us), and only 28 interactions per post, please don’t be discouraged, don’t binge eat, and don’t write a breakup letter. You’re right where you ought to be, as ranked by Social Baker’s average interaction chart.

average interactions by page size

And if you’re in an unsexy industry like finance or telecom, you can expect your average post interaction to be lower, than say, an alcohol or fashion site.

average post interaction by industry

In spite of the apparent downward spiral of Facebook metrics, I suggest not giving up on Facebook. Though it is fickle, and though your page isn’t featured at the top of everyone’s news feed, and though you may have to turn up your party music while you check your stats, Facebook is still giving you referrals.

As Kevan’s brilliant article concluded — “A counterintuitive way to combat Facebook reach: Stop caring about it.”

Learn this lesson: Stick it out with Facebook.

4. Pinterest pins are worth 78 cents each.

Source: Fast Company

First off, a Pinterest disclaimer (or two), and then a Pinterest happy dance.

The first disclaimer is this — Pinterest has high bounce rate (53%) and low engagement. Disclaimer number two: Pinterest doesn’t work for everyone. If you are into food, crafts, photography, weddings, design, fitness, humor, travel, fashion, and inspirational quotes, then Pinterest is killer. It holds promise for some, but not for all.

The happy dance is this — Pinterest is the second biggest social media referral platform. Though it trails Facebook distantly, it still beats out Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn by a sizeable margin.

Now, let’s talk about ROI. Pinterest, as it turns out, does have one. But it’s a delayed reaction. When a pinner curates his or her pinboard, it takes a while for there to be social buildup, let alone revenue. Unlike Twitter, which has a short half-life, Pinterest visits increase as time goes on. It’s like wine. The older, the better.

cumulative visits from sites oldest pins

As it turns out, the revenue doesn’t start happening until more than two months after pinning. Pinners spend more time exploring other people’s pinboards then they do searching for stuff offsite to pin. The average Pinterest pin gets 10 repins, but it takes time for those pinners to start repinning pins. This leads to a corresponding delay in revenue.

cumulative revenes and orders from sites oldest pins

Pinterest is money, but it’s slow money. It’s like investing in a CD or a bond. The egg just takes a little while to hatch.

Learn this lesson: Use Pinterest. And be patient.

5. 65% of Twitter users expect a response in under two hours.

Source: Lithium

Customers use Twitter like a company hotline. If you don’t respond within minutes, you’re toast. Here are the lofty chronological expectations of Twitter users, in all their statistical glory:

twitter response times and customer happiness

The Lithium study that produced this statistic had the headline, “Consumers Will Punish Brands that Fail to Respond on Twitter Quickly.” The flip side, “consumers will reward brands that harness Twitter’s power to meet their rising expectations.”

What kind of punishment are we talking about?

  • “38% feel more negative about the brand.” As a result, they may no longer purchase from the company.
  • “60% will take unpleasant actions to express their dissatisfaction…publicly shaming the brand on social media” In other words, they may spread their grief further on Twitter. It’s easy to tweet off a 140-character-or-less gripe about the company. “74 percent of customers who take to social media to shame brands believe it leads to better service.”

What’s in it for brands who are on the ball, and who respond to Tweets instantaneously?

  • 34 percent are likely to buy more from that company;
  • 43 percent are likely to encourage friends and family to buy their products;
  • 38 percent are more receptive to their advertisements;
  • 42 percent are willing to praise or recommend the brand through social media.

There’s a lot to gain by a quick response, and a lot to lose if you don’t. So if you get that Twitter notification on lunch break, don’t wait. Step on it, respond right away, and please your customers’ socks off.

Learn this lesson: If you’re going to use Twitter, stay on top of it.


Here are the five lessons we need to learn

  1. For right now, spend more time and money on email marketing than on social media marketing.
  2. If you want engaged traffic, spend time optimizing YouTube.
  3. Stick with Facebook.
  4. Use Pinterest. And be patient.
  5. If you’re going to use Twitter, stay on top of it.

Facts are indisputable, and the action points are obvious. Let’s not get lost in the romance and novelty of social media. Let’s stay clear headed, smart, and engaged. There’s power in social media, and we need to handle it in the right way.

What are some of the most compelling social media statistics that you’ve heard?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

  1. The interesting thing about the email stat is that email is a channel that you have complete control over. Spending time on things you have control over is probably always going to be your best bet ;).

    • Hashim Warren Jul 27, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      Complete control? Not so much. Each email client and spam filter has its own rules

      • marcos peebles Jun 22, 2015 at 4:30 am

        Indeed but you can still test them, hence keeping control. Big email marketers/saas know this and react accordingly (whitelists, a/b testing…).

  2. Email marketing is certainly my fav method of marketing, purely because of its ROI. Businesses should do what they can to capture types of email data based on their customer types (internally & externally). Nice post Neil!

  3. Hi Neil, Excellent Post.
    Great work :)

  4. Amazing facts, it just shows how powerful social media is. Great job Neil on writing this article.

  5. I agree that email is an important part of the mix. That’s why collecting email addresses from your website is a critical component to grow and nurture your list.

    I’ve seen quite of few company Facebook pages omit having a sign up form and rely solely on “likes”. That’s a missed opportunity considering Facebook drives more referrals than any other social platform according to this article.

    Same for YouTube. Putting up videos on the channel is half the equation. Properly keywording the content is what helps get found.

    Bottom line is actually having a cohesive social media marketing strategy, monitoring the metrics and adjusting as necessary! Repeat…

  6. You own your email list and you needn’t spend 2 hours+ a day on it. This means quite a larger ROI than the sometimes fickle social media channels.

  7. The Youtube conclusion is really interesting. Funny how it seems that those brands who have a killer channel of YouTube videos must have found some sort of secret holy grail, but really they’ve just put the time in to get a handle of some basic technology that presents the barrier for the rest of us.

    I suppose that’s the case with most social media, but video has a particularly high *perceived* learning curve I think.

    Knowing that, if you DO end up creating videos, your competitors will drag their feet trying to catch up with you even longer than you dragged your feet to get started with video! It will be the medium with the highest engagement value for a while I think.

    Until holograms become popular anyway :)

  8. Hi Niel Patel

    Thanks for sharing the great email marketing tips and this is one i am always implementing in my website marketing strategy.

    Keep posting

  9. Great post. Still fb is on the top of the list. I wonder if it ever changes??

  10. Scott Tillman Jul 28, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Excellent article! I agree 10000% on the email marketing point. Email marketing simply brings in more customers than social media marketing. Not that using social media is bad, but too many people seem to think that email is out of date and old fashioned! It’s not, and it still produces incredible traffic. Very well done!

  11. Without question, email marketing is currently the most direct. Followed by Facebook

  12. Nice!
    Great article.

  13. Thanks insightful post!
    Great to confirm our email and youtube strategy with FB as a social home base… Pinterest is not for everyone, and low engagement.
    Twitter… anyone getting anything?

  14. Love the email recognition. As a proponent of holistic ecosystems, I do have to say all your channels can have an effect on each other, or at least your brand – and commensurate sales.

    Email marketing may be owned, but remember participation in it must be earned. Consistent brand behavior on all channels and appropriate behavior to each channel will ideally win your brand public favor and prompt people to opt into your email marketing, where, of course, you have to be similarly appropriate to keep their favor.

  15. Hey Neil,

    Nice post! Thats such a savour when you are doing online marketing for a client. Optimising Twiiter like a hotline is a good option I came to know. Keep the good social media optimization blogs coming in!

  16. Am glad am not the only one who thinks email marketing outweighs Social. But if you are a new brand trying to find your feet …. Use Facebook. Great Article!

  17. Thanks a lot for sharing it such an informative article with your readers. It is really pleasure to read and learn something from out of it. Thanks again

  18. Andrew Dowell Jul 29, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Thanks v much for this article – really interesting and insightful. What I can’t help but do is contrast the positivity shown towards email as a marketing tool with the negativity shown towards it as a business tool. As ever, it’s horses for courses.

  19. Niladri Chatterjee Aug 02, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Hey Neil,

    Awesome post buddy! Never imagined a pin could worth 78 cents! The facts have actually shocked my thought about Social Media. Really! Thanks for the information.

  20. Thanks for the interesting post. This post did change my approach. I had lots of misconception, I still can’t believe that email marketing outdid social media. Also, surprised to know that Pinterest has a better ROI than Twitter. This is indeed an eye opener.

  21. Great article Neil! I don’t know why, but Youtube with the lowest bounce rate surprised me.

    What is even more interesting is the difference between the private (one to few, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber) and public sharing (one to many, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn,) in terms of conversion rate. Private sharing has much higher conversion rate, because the shared content comes from a trusted source (from our friends, family, colleagues).

  22. Nice post! s, it shows how powerful social media now is.


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