A recent story in odwyerpr.com cites a study performed at NYU that found that while less than three percent of traffic going to major brands’ Web sites came from social media, one third of the traffic was coming from search. This could be a surprise for the many marketing executives who have bought into the concept that social media is a major business driver – and have spent a lot of money to capture that market.

This doesn’t mean the social media is an ineffective platform for communicating with constituents, however. The platforms are successfully driving traffic to company Web sites, opening both direct and indirect communication channels to current and potential consumers.

By funneling consumers to company Web sites, social media sites are generating additional exposure. People who arrive at a site through social media channels may decide to click on a banner ad or sign up for more information, providing an email address that will allow the company to interact directly with them on a “going forward” basis.

The appeal of the social media channel seems to be that companies do not want to be left out. They need a social media presence in order to be considered current and innovative, and it provides another channel for them to communicate to their audience. This additional channel, however, is apparently not the ultimate marketing and PR solution that many proponents claim it to be.

As this medium develops and matures into a complementary tool that PR practitioners can utilize, alongside publicity and media relations, the value derived may not be measured in direct dollars so much as a contribution margin to an overall PR campaign.