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Summary:

Web discovery engine StumbleUpon is now the biggest traffic driver among social media websites in the US, according to global web analytics service StatCounter. The company unseated Facebook at the top during June 2011 .The ten-year-old StumbleUpon has been working diligently at its comeback since 2009.

StatCounter social media July 2011


Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Social Media Market Share

For months, Facebook has been the biggest social media site that drives web traffic in the United States. Those days are over– for the moment, at least.

Web discovery engine StumbleUpon is now the biggest traffic driver among social media websites in the US, according to global web analytics service StatCounter. The company unseated Facebook at the top during June 2011, according to the latest StatCounter social media data. StatCounter tracks hits to over 3 million websites, and its social media data is gathered by analyzing every hit referred by a social media site.

This is certainly not StumbleUpon’s first brush with Internet fame. The company, which finds and recommends relevant web content, was originally founded in 2001 and sold to eBay for $75 million in 2007. But like so many big M&A deals, the acquisition did not go as smoothly as hoped. In 2009, StumbleUpon co-founders Garrett Camp and Geoff Smith bought the company back along with a group of investors.

In the two years since then, the company has been working quietly and diligently at its comeback. StumbleUpon closed on a $17 million funding round in March to expand its product offerings to the mobile and television spaces. The company has also been working on its revenue strategy, with the development of a “paid discovery” offering for advertisers. StumbleUpon briefly surpassed Facebook in StatCounter hits for two weeks back in February, but Facebook quickly regained the top spot.

This time, StumbleUpon’s turnaround is gaining traction at exactly the same time that Facebook’s new user numbers are reportedly slowing down, and Twitter seems to be dealing with stickiness problems. Clearly, something about StumbleUpon’s strategy is working very well. It remains to be seen how long StumbleUpon can retain the top spot — its competitors in the social media space aren’t known for going down without a fight.

  1. I highly doubt this is true. There is one thing not being considered in the study, and that is facebook now uses HTTPS, which doesn’t pass referral information to the target site.

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    1. Spot on!

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    2. Still I doubt how many shall be using https by default.

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    3. Very true, but the HTTPS only came in recently, did it not, or was it tested in the US before reaching here in Europe? My point is, the decline started for FB near the end of March… just a thought.

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    4. Colleen Taylor Thursday, July 7, 2011

      Thanks for the comment Mohannnad.

      That’s a good point about HTTPS. But from what I can tell, Facebook re-directs its HTTPS traffic through a non-HTTPS referrer, facebook.com/l.php. It passes along anonymized refer information, but does preserve the fact that the visitor came from Facebook.

      Google+ has HTTPS and does a similar thing to track referrals, which Louis Gray details here: http://blog.louisgray.com/2011/07/google-referral-traffic-possible-to.html

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  2. Hi Colleen,

    Good news for the StumbleUpon team…they’re doing something right. And, it’s a great comeback story.

    Clearly something’s happened to Facebook since April 2011, but I’m not counting them out just yet…especially considering Facebook having more than 500 Million active users, half logging in every day, and them spending 700 Billion minutes per month using Facebook. I would be surprised if Facebook’s trend line keeps going down.

    Don Roberts

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  3. I really like StumbleUpon. It’s a great way to surf the web and find sites you probably otherwise never would’ve found. It definitely opened the door of the world wide web. It looks like more people are seeing the powers of it. I think the paid discovery will be a great thing for webmasters too.

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  4. the only thing that is constant is change. FB being on top has nowhere to go but down.. while others who used to be on top will claw their way back or attempt to. social networking will continue to evolve, either as the next innovation or the next hype.

    one thing to note is, i recently started receiving mails from stumbleupon. many others probably had too, and that probably hit its mark given the demographics above.

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  5. Hi,
    weirdly it is the same period of the Google Panda Update (April)… which has given a big lift to “trusty-good-content” website when many other website have fallen in the serps. We all know that Facebook is note Google’s best friend…. :)

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  6. Not to rain on this parade, but practically every SEO consultant on the planet includes a massive StumbleUpon component in their proposals to prospective clients. It’s a cheap and dirty way to try to drive up PageRank.

    Not suggesting this accounts for all of the StumbleUpon traffic, but it may explain why StumbleUpon is outperforming its userbase.

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  7. This is good news for stumbleupon. thunmbs up for stumbleupon.

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  8. StumbleUpon is great dont be that fast all of us lets see whats will be with google +1 first we talk later on Θάσος Εξοχικές κατοικίες πώληση ακίνητα

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  9. Colleen:

    Interesting. Would be more interesting to know why that is the case. Any thoughts?

    Best,

    Natascha

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  10. Hard to believe

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  11. Could you please elaborate on what the StatCounter social media data is counting. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around how StumbleUpon can out pace Facebook as it gets significantly less traffic.

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    1. Colleen Taylor Thursday, July 7, 2011

      Hi Lindsey,

      Thanks for the comment. StatCounter explains its methodology here in its FAQ: http://gs.statcounter.com/faq#methodology

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  12. You can’t underestimate the effect of the New York Times and how it changed its relationship to Facebook. You can’t share directly; you have to link the accounts, or cut and paste the URL. And now that you have to pay after 20 articles, fewer people are reading the paper and sharing the articles on Facebook. Even if Kristof posts an article on his page and you open it, that counts to your 20. Only if the NYT posts it, does it not count, and they aren’t posting much. So I’m hardly reposting articles from them, and I used to repost one or two a day.

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  13. Longtime Stumble user, and I dig the blog. Will follow. Please check out mine at painfullyslowprogress.com, and link to it if you want to.

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  14. what I wonder about is why do they track in opposite directions in every time period

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    1. Don, good point. I think that’s because the y-axis is percentage of referral traffic, rather than raw traffic. If Facebook traffic increases, it pushes everything else down percentage-wise.

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  15. than why isn’t there a Stumbleupon counter/button on the page?? hehe :) I love stumbleupon and get a lot of base traffic with it :D

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  16. Don is right. Something is really odd, and at least begs further explanation, about why the FB and SU lines appear to move in a mirror image pattern to each other. Looks as if there’s an unrevealed relationship between the refers, or the numbers are wrong.

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  17. Very simple people in the US are not using Facebook as much or at all. I have seen at least a 25% drop in traffic on my wall.

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  18. I’m not surprised. That’s not what Facebook was built for, but with the new unveiling on Skype on FB chat I’m sure it won’t hurt them. :)

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  19. aaron colman Thursday, July 7, 2011

    This is a great PR piece for stumbleUpon, means absolutely nothing to Facebook, I hope this brings SU more users as it is a product with rich features.
    However, more and more content providers are asking to learn more about their current users and that is taking precedent over more impressions.
    I wonder how SU will use this to their advantage as they go out and aim to drive revenue.
    I think SU has great potential for internet longevity – it just needs to be as desirable to business as it is to consumers.

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  20. I think the reason that SU send so many traffic to other sites is the way that SU works. It is like playing Roulette. You roll until you get what you want. People can just simply click away 10-20 sites without reading the content of the site. I think we should pay attention more to the time spent on site from referral traffic.

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  21. Why the inverse correlation between SU and FB data? Simply because the data are relative data (as a percentage of the total) and all other sources are almost negligible. So if for example FB decreases the generated traffic and SU generates the same absolute level, SU will still grow as a percentage of the total…

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  22. I love SU, and have seen more related content to my tastes lately, but definitively they do need to work better on the tags

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  23. I’ve also noticed a drop in personal traffic on facebook. The traffic that’s increasing is mostly company or group pages. It’s almost turning into twitter as far as how fast posts materialize.

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  24. But what’s the bounce rate? who cares if they send 100 trillion visits if all the people click away immediately.

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    1. That is exactly what I was wondering when I looked at the data.

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  25. Great article and information Colleen! I’ve had a Stumbleupon account for a couple of years, but the last 6 months have really been implementing it as part of my social media marketing strategy.

    I’m sticking my neck out, but I’m not a huge fan of Facebook when it comes to marketing. I love Linkedin and Tumblr but my Stumbleupon connections have grown without any focus on my part. All organic which I love. Maybe I need to start paying for attention to that site!

    I will be happy to share your article with my fans, followers and clients. Good job!

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    1. Colleen Taylor Saturday, July 9, 2011

      Thanks for the feedback, Lynn. Glad you found the article useful!

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  26. Apples and oranges. The fact that we are comparing Facebook and StumbleUpon together with the the same success metric is odd. Use Facebook for engagement and building relationships. Use Stumbleupon for sharing interesting links. You can do both with either in a way, but clearly each site has its strengths. The trick is having a compound strategy that leverages the strength of both.

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  27. Thanks for the article Colleen, this is very interesting.

    Anyone who’s tried StumbleUpon will know that it lets users view other pages through its own page. There’s a ‘Stumble’ button which you can click to see another page if something that’s not interesting comes up. Because it’s so easy to jump from page to page, StumbleUpon generates a lot more pageviews per user than other sites in that graph.

    Occasionally my site gets a big spike of visitors from StumbleUpon, I’ve generally found that nearly all of these visitors bounce. That would tend to indicate that they weren’t that interested in my content, because it wasn’t well targeted for them.

    I like StumbleUpon personally and use it from time to time. I’m just pointing out that the quality of traffic being referred is different for different social sites. Raw numbers can only tell us so much.

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  29. @chickhuber lifestyle and retail. @stumbleupon sends more referring traffic to US sites than Facebook! http://t.co/s4URng1g

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  30. From June 2011, some surprising data: “StumbleUpon Sends More Traffic to US Websites Than Facebook” http://t.co/bsjFoOp2

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  31. reading » StumbleUpon sends more traffic to US websites than Facebook — Tech News and Analysis http://t.co/fSIH5N29

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  32. StumbleUpon sends more traffic to US websites than Facebook http://t.co/mHws6fxt

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