The Hitwise chart below gives a shot in the arm to the credibility to the social network business model. It shows that social networks and forums are driving a lot of traffic to retailers websites and that the volume of traffic is increasing very fast.
It also looks like that traffic has a degree of intent attached to it as well. Hitwise conducted an analysis of internal searches on Facebook and found retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy etc appearing, although they fail to say how often. They did say that 2% of the traffic to Facebook went to a Retail 500 site immediately after.
Another Hitwise post shows that Facebook is driving far more traffic to news sites than Google News (3.5% of news sites’ traffic compared with a flat 1.4%) and much much more than Google Reader (which accounts for only 0.01% of upstream visits to news and media sites). Contrary to the expectations of many, including myself, feedreaders have never gotten popular out of the early adopter group. A quick look at the referring sites for this blog in January shows that only 2.2% of traffic which came from third party sites came from Netvibes, the leading feedreader. That figure excludes search engines.
With these sorts of referral figures it is unsurprising that social media budgets are rising fast.