Which social networks can give you organic social traffic in 2020? That’s a question many online marketers are asking themselves right now. Organic traffic from social media sites has dropped a lot and continues to drop to this day – so the question of whether free social media traffic is still worth the effort is important.
Neil Patel has recently published a video about organic social media traffic highlighting the results of a survey he conducted in which he asked over 400 companies for their findings when using the most important social networks for traffic.
You can watch the video along with Neil’s conclusions below. My conclusions, however, are slightly different than his, and I will give them to you in this article.
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Neil comes to the conclusion, that the social networks that are most valuable in terms of traffic are:
Why is organic social traffic an important topic?
When watching the online marketing world and successful online marketers on the internet, it may seem like organic social media traffic is simply not worth it anymore.
People like Sam Ovens and Scott Oldford are almost exclusively working with advertising traffic – and having massive success with it. But organic traffic still is very important for marketers like you and me – because when you are starting out you don’t have the money or the intelligence to work almost exclusively with advertising.
When you work with advertising, you need to make more then what you put in. Or in other words – you need to make more than a dollar for every dollar you pay.
And when you are starting out, you then face two problems:
- You may not have the money to invest upfront into traffic.
- Even when you have the money you may still not have the time to optimize those advertising campaigns quickly enough to make them profitable.
So what you do when starting out is you look for alternative sources of traffic – traffic sources that allow you to easily gain a lot of traffic for free or at least cost-effective.
And there are only two traffic sources with high potential: SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and organic social media traffic.
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Organic social media traffic is what we talk about when we talk about all traffic from social networks that is not based on advertising.
And the amount of organic social media traffic that all networks are giving to its users is dropping:
What the above graph shows is, that the amount of traffic the surveyed companies get from 100 followers each month on average over the most important social networks has been steadily dropping over the last five years.
From roughly 3.5 in 2015 to roughly 2 in 2019. That’s a third of the traffic.
But… It is important that we are not talking about potential web traffic here. This is not the amount of traffic you can get from social networks. This is why it’s important to work on your own personal growth strategy. Because the potential gain from each of these social networks is a lot higher than that.
Why do I rank other networks high for organic social traffic?
In his video, Neil examines the raw data from his survey results and draws his conclusion from there. He does not take other factors into account, like how a specific social network is used – and that is a mistake.
I use the same raw data for comparison – but I also take these other factors into account. For instance – we both rank Pinterest high on our lists – but for completely different reasons.
Here is where Neil, in my opinion, takes his ranking into a completely wrong direction:
Neil bases his conclusions on the visitors generated from the number of followers over the course of a month. And that is a massive mistake – because not all networks are follower based. And even on those that are – how you use them makes a massive difference.
If these numbers would really show the traffic potential for organic social traffic on each of those networks, then I would say stop. Don’t go for free traffic. This would mean that on Pinterest, you would need 100,000 followers to get 4500 monthly unique visitors from this platform.
Luckily, that isn’t the case. That’s why we put so much effort into testing and optimizing social media growth strategies.
Because the truth is: Social Media has long stopped to be just about the number of followers.
Every social network is different in how it works and how you should use it and leaving this out of the equation when talking about the organic social media traffic you can generate by using each platform means you are treating every platform exactly the same way.
Here is another example on how Neil treats every social network the same way: The following graph shows you the impact of the post frequency on the amount of traffic they see per 100 followers over the course of a month:
As you can see, this graph seems to show, that you see the most growth of traffic until you reach 8 posts PER MONTH. Neil Patel attributes this to the fact that the more content you create, the less time you spend on the actual pieces of content you create for each platform.
And there is some truth in that. If your post is a Youtube video, then you can probably not create more than 8 engaging videos per month on a limited budget.
This graph is averaged over all social networks. And that is where this methodology simply doesn’t make any sense.
Posting on Twitter is something completely different if you compare it to Youtube videos. A tweet only takes a couple of seconds – and not every tweet needs to be content at all – a headline and a link will do.
A Facebook or LinkedIn post is somewhere in between. On Instagram, it depends on where your topic and how easy photo subjects are available to you. Pinterest only consists of images that link to content.
And so on.
With all that out of the way, let’s head into which social networks I recommend for organic social traffic in 2020.
The Ranking of the best Social Networks for Organic Social Traffic in 2020
Below I’m going to give you my personal ranking for the best social networks for organic social traffic in 2020. I’ll quickly go over each of these and tell you why I ranked it in this way – and explain the general principle of how they work.
And the winner is: Pinterest.
I knew this day would come – in the past years, I would have ranked Twitter in front all the time. It wouldn’t even have been a fair fight… when used right, Twitter was always lightyears ahead of any other social network.
But, today is the day. Twitter has been declining slightly in prominence over each past year – and Pinterest has been catching up in massive steps.
If I would only rank these on the amount of traffic you can get from each, Twitter might actually still be slightly ahead – but I also took the amount of effort into account you have to put in. And that is where Pinterest is now ahead. Twitter is the classic social network – your followers see what you do in real-time. Which means you need a lot of followers.
Pinterest is different – your followers only matter a small amount. Even with a small number of followers, you can still get massive traffic from Pinterest.
The reason is that Pinterest is highly algorithmic. The “smart feed” (that’s what Pinterest calls its algorithm) decides who is most likely to like which type of content and then shows each user what he wants and is most likely to interact with.
This means that with a strategy presenting your audience what they want, you can achieve success with a relatively small amount of posts and followers.
(This doesn’t mean that Pinterest marketing is always easy. But it’s doable – for everyone.)
Number 2: Twitter
This is where Neil and I differ in our opinions the most. In my experience, Twitter has massive traffic potential.
But, you need two things for that:
- A vast amount of followers.
- A vast amount of tweets.
The good news is: Twitter makes it the easiest to grow your tribe of followers – by interacting with people directly. Which is where Twitter is the most open social network for the new social media marketer.
The good news part two: Twitter allows you to use a massive amount of tools to automate a lot of your activity and still bring value to your audience.
The good news part three: Twitter doesn’t go as far as other networks when it comes to limiting your potential to reach algorithmically. Not by a long shot.
If you get your automation and growth tactics right, if you engage with your audience, you can gain a massive amount of followers while tweeting 10 times or more every day!
And that is where you will gain a lot of traffic!
The reason Twitter ranks low in Neil Patel’s comparison is that most people still don’t understand how you need to use Twitter for growth.
Number 3: Youtube
Another different social network. While on other networks you can get away with posting links (at least part of the time) – Youtube requires original content. And not just that – it requires video content.
For a lot of people the effort you have to put into creating videos will be too much – and in a lot of niches that type of content requires a massive budget to be able to compete and to generate traffic and traction.
But when you can do that – there is no denying that Youtube can get you a massive amount of traffic.
Neil Patel is currently huge on working with video himself – and there is a reason for that. It just works for him. But he has the type of budget that is required for that. If you can only produce videos twice a year or your videos are lacking in quality compared to your niche, then you probably shouldn’t do it.
Number 4: LinkedIn
LinkedIn is still a massive force – if you are looking for true business leads. Everyone who is interested in business content and business connections has a LinkedIn account and is usually actively using it.
But you need a follower growth strategy on LinkedIn if you want to generate traffic. And yes, followers count more than connections. At least when we are not talking about true connections but connections that were generated by seemingly random contact requests.
Still, LinkedIn has a massive potential to get you traffic.
For follower growth tactics – you need to work with groups (either by using existing groups or by founding your own) and you need to actively engage with your audience. It does work well for many companies for organic social traffic.
Number 5: Facebook
Facebook was one of the first true superstars of the social media world. And in the early days, when Facebook was still interested in growth, it was a massive traffic generator.
But it was also the first network that started to limit the organic reach of fanpages and even personal profiles. These days, organic reach is only available when you have a high interaction rate and post high-quality content – preferably content that doesn’t just link to other content for instance on your website.
If your content is slightly below the top 1% of the content posted on there, then your only chance is to get ready to pay for advertising.
You can still get organic traffic by using growth tactics like using Facebook groups, but organic reach when only employing a fanpage is very low.
Number 6: Instagram
Instagram ranks lowest on this list for a reason – it has just not been built with traffic generation in mind. There are some opportunities for links – like the swipe ups in stories, but the whole DNA of Instagram says “use me as a standalone platform.” What I mean by that is that Instagram is for people who use Instagram instead of their own website.
That doesn’t work for every business – and you may still want to be active on Instagram with your business for other reasons like branding. But Instagram will never be the traffic generation machine your business and websites can rely on for organic social traffic.
Read more: How Brands Can Leverage Instagram Stories
So there you have it – my ranking of the most important social networks for organic social traffic in 2020 differs from Neil Patel’s – and where we agree, we do it for different reasons. Instagram is an exception.
Neil’s point comes from a statistical analysis of how companies are already using social media platforms right now – and from a very limited set of questions.
I disagree with his analysis. But that is just me coming from different intelligence and different opinions.
If there is a lesson you should learn here, then it is, that you should never take what marketing pros tell you for granted. Not what I tell you, not what Neil Patel tells you. Neil Patel is one of the most successful marketers on the web – and maybe the best (seriously, the guy is awesome and get’s my full respect). But that doesn’t mean he cannot be wrong.
If your insights go against something you read on the web, then go by your guts. The online marketing landscape changes quickly – and neither Neil, nor me, nor anybody else, has it all figured out.
(Just in case you wondered: There is more data and interesting data in Neil’s video – for instance on video views on different platforms. Go check it out!)