Despite a lot of attempts over the years, Yahoo’s embrace of social feeds has been slow and painful. Yahoo doesn’t want to become another social network. It couldn’t if it tried (and it has tried). But it is beginning to appreciate the power of social sharing to drive traffic to its content.
Cody Simms, who heads up what is left of Yahoo’s Open Strategy, tells me that early data suggests social links spread through Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo’s own status updates “can drive an order of magnitude more sharing on Yahoo.” And those visitors are more engaged also. For instance, when people click through from a status update to Yahoo News, Sports, Finance or another Yahoo property, they end up spending at least twice as much time there than the average visitor. For Yahoo, tapping into social traffic is what it’s all about.
A year ago, Yahoo introduced its own status updates to Yahoo Mail and Messenger, and followed up with limited integrations into Facebook and Twitter.
Yahoo users can now update their status messages on both of those services without leaving Yahoo. However, they cannot yet read their Facebook streams inside Yahoo.
“By end of the quarter, you will be able to consume your Facebook feed in Yahoo Mail and throughout Yahoo,” promises Simms. And what about adding Facebook’s “Like” buttons on Yahoo ? You can imagine every story on Yahoo News having a Like button which would drive traffic from Facebook to those pages. “We are looking at it heavily,” he says, “it makes a lot of sense.” However, he cautions no decision has been made one way or the other on the Like buttons.
The bigger play for Yahoo is to combine social feeds and content in more intuitive ways. “Think about news articles with associated tweets and updates,” says Simms, “and combining the feed next to the content from your network or the Web at large. Or, if you are looking at the feed, bringing content into the feed.” In the latter case, if someone sends out an update about an upcoming movie, Yahoo could embed the trailer within the social feed. Something along those lines could potentially be rolled out “later this year,” he says.
What is clear from my discussion with Simms is that Yahoo is thinking about social feeds first and foremost as a publisher. It wants to drive traffic and pageviews from Facebook, Twitter, and its own status updates to Yahoo’s various sites. And on the advertising side, it is exploring ways to get consumers to share ads via their streams. It’s all very reactive to the underlying changes in online consumption patterns, but if social sharing can boost Yahoo’s already-sizeable traffic numbers, these simple moves could have a large impact on Yahoo’s bottom line.