Who’s Driving Where? For Content, It’s All About Context

Where should a brand direct people to go? Whether the brand focuses on e-commerce or gaining referrals for news, the best platform and mechanism may vary. All content is not equal.

Late last month, Adweek reported that the latest BuzzFeed Social Intelligence Report named Reddit as the biggest driver in referral traffic for the site. In comparison, Pinterest, it said, “is nothing more than a fad.”

Content marketers have to consider traditional search (through sites like Google) as well as referral traffic from social media. However, as all content is not created equal, the context in which people discover content is not equal as well.

Many publishers, Adweek included, are saying that Pinterest is simply a fad and doesn’t offer much for publishers. This may be due to the fact that Pinterest is more suited for e-commerce than for sharing news, which have fueled predictions that Pinterest will become most significant driver of social traffic to e-commerce sites.

Digiday reported that for BuzzFeed in July, Pinterest drove a mere 110,000 referrals, far less than the other social networks, including Reddit, which referred a little more than 5 million.

What’s even more surprising is that, according to Digiday, “for many news publishers social isn’t really a big deal to them.”

Editorially driven sites like The New York Times and The Atlantic report little referral traffic from Pinterest. However, publishers that have established their own unique brand such as Time Inc.’s Real Simple and Conde Nast’s are seeing some positive traction. According to what a Real Simple spokesperson told Digiday, Pinterest is the number one source of traffic from social media.

A publisher like Brides  has other higher-level objectives. Lisa Gooder, digital director at, told Digiday, “We have recently undergone a re-branding of the magazine and website, and Pinterest has been the perfect way to get our new look out there.”

While Digiday says that publishers are wondering whether social benefits their traffic, social sites are beating leading search engines. Shareaholic reported last month that among 200,000 publishers who reach more than 270 million people each month,  Pinterest referral traffic is less than 0.10% away from overtaking Yahoo! organic traffic.

Google introduced social context into search results earlier this year as a possible attempt to capture what has made Twitter a leader in referral traffic.

Social adds a context for people looking for information or browsing content. What friends share and who people choose to follow provides more value than search results alone. While the The New York Times and The Atlantic are large enough to not get lost among search results, brands with editorial content and smaller media sites should leverage social to get more results.

It’s about finding the right context for content.

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