Brafton has reported that the year is off to a strong start for Facebook, with the social site garnering $450 million in funding from Goldman Sachs. Now, experts at Affiliate...  <a class="excerpt-read-more" href="" title="Read Social plugins proven to lift traffic, say experts at Affiliate Summit West 2011">Read more »</a>

Brafton has reported that the year is off to a strong start for Facebook, with the social site garnering $450 million in funding from Goldman Sachs. Now, experts at Affiliate Summit West 2011 indicate this will also be a good year for brands that add social plugins to their websites.

Kevin Keranen, founder of Demand Key Media, and Beaudon Spaulding, founder of Blogger Syndication, presented some encouraging information about the Like button and other social plugins. Namely, these tools seem to drive notable amounts of traffic to sites.

Social plugins have boosted traffic to ABC News by 190 percent. The popular blog Gawker has seen traffic lifts of up to 200 percent thanks to the Like button. Moreover, the experts shared data that the Like button is the No. 2 referral source to the NBA website.

The panelists said their clients have seen impressive results from the integration of social plugins. In one case, a client traced a notable amount of enrollments to a service back to referrals from the Like button it had added to a relevant page on its site.

While Keranen and Spaulding promote the Like button as a traffic – and, potentially, ecommerce – driver, they acknowledge that Facebook doesn't currently offer marketers data that makes it easy to determine the efficacy of this social plugin. Spaulding said marketers are "not in control, but it's worth the game" because Facebook is where consumers are online.

Indeed, consumers flock to Facebook. As Brafton reported, Hitwise data at the end of 2010 indicated Facebook was not only the most visited site on the web, but the social site was also linked to four of the top 10 search phrases for the year.

Though lack of Like button data may be frustrating to brands that want to easily measure results of their Facebook plugins, the experts at Affiliate Summit West 2011 predict that the site will offer more metrics soon because demand for this info is rapidly rising. They also advise marketers to put the Like button on pages with intuitive calls to action. Keranen and Spaulding say, "the more simple the calls to action, the better the results" their clients have seen.

Lifts in traffic and reported service enrollments may inspire brands that haven't already done so to add the Like button to their sites. Still, Keranen and Spaulding believe conversions from Like referrals may not be the norm for some time. (It's worth remembering that when the Like button first came out, the Wall Street Journal reported somewhat mixed reviews from early adopters.)

With this in mind, brands can get on board with the easy-to-integrate Like button – but they may find it's best to stay abreast of other social referral tools, too. Brafton reported last week that Quora might be one social network to watch in light of surging memberships, and StumbleUpon eclipsed Facebook in the social referral market in early January.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.