Practical Ecommerce

Field Test: Social Networking, Part 2 of 3

In Field Test, Practical eCommerce has gathered ten seasoned ecommerce merchants and asked each of them the same questions around a given topic. This month’s topic is social networking.

The participating ecommerce merchants are: Dave Norris, House of Antique Hardware; Justin Hertz, MuttMart; Chris Stump, Only Hammocks; Mike Reiman, PoolDawg; Dan Stewart, Xtreme Diesel Performance; Roman Kagan, Appliance Parts Pros; Cindy Barrileaux, Write Your Best; Claudette Cyr, Gear-Source; Mike Butler, Bloom Designs Nursery; Kristen Taylor, Juvie.

The responses for three of the ten merchants follow below. The answers are shown to preserve anonymity.

PeC: Which social networking sites do you visit?




PeC: Which social networking sites do you market your business on?



FIELD TESTER 6: Currently none.

PeC: Do you monitor traffic and/or sales from social networking sites?

FIELD TESTER 4: Yes, it converts very poorly.

FIELD TESTER 5: We monitor traffic to our company page.


PeC: How does your ecommerce business use social networking for marketing purposes?

FIELD TESTER 4: Primarily to build links to new content, so we mostly use social bookmarking sites like and The small SEO boost is roughly equivalent to the trickle of traffic we get from them.

FIELD TESTER 5: We use to interact with our customers who have requested to be our friends. We will send updates and specials to this group, however we do not market to this group with the same level of frequency that we do with our regular email list.


PeC: Can you describe both successes and frustrations that you’ve encountered with social networking sites?

FIELD TESTER 4: We linked to some articles from and get a good amount of traffic from it every day, which is always nice. Unfortunately, those visitors leave much faster than other comparable users (like from search engines) and added “no-follow” to its outgoing links. In general we’ve found that social sites send low quality traffic.

FIELD TESTER 5: One of the nice aspects of using to reach out to our customers is that, because many of them are avid in the industry, it presents us with an opportunity to interact with them as people who enjoy it rather than just customers. The biggest downside to social networking sites is the magnitude of what we refer to as “spam friends” that ask to join us, only to hit us with illicit spam posts afterward. As a result, it takes quite a bit more time than we’d like to screen people before we accept them as friends.


PeC: What are your plans for utilizing social networking sites in the next 12 months?

FIELD TESTER 4: We will use it as a way to promote new content and get some cheap links, but it’s not going to be a priority. The ROI is pretty poor for most ecommerce situations, since what drives success on these sites is viral popularity. People enjoy skateboarding dogs and off-the-wall humor, which is hard to monetize or even create.

FIELD TESTER 5: We likely won’t do much more than we’re currently doing.

FIELD TESTER 6: We plan on taking a serious look at social networking and the benefits it could have for us. We see more statistics showing that our age demographic of 35 and older is becoming a larger percentage of social networking users.

Practical Ecommerce

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Comments ( 4 )

  1. Legacy User February 22, 2008 Reply has had some success with social networking. Not enough to focus future endeavors, time is a huge factor.

    — *The Saint*

  2. Legacy User February 22, 2008 Reply

    I currently use as a link builder and it is a great site to get involved with my customers I market to. The possiblities of new hits and the fact that it is a top site where the most people online is there both are the reasons I use it. Not only this social network but there are many other online networks you can find located all around the world that have as many users that are great ways to boost hits.

    — *Brandon*

  3. Legacy User February 24, 2008 Reply

    Just a thought, but this type of article would be more helpful if you kept the merchants anonymous, and used a brief descriptor instead of "field tester 4." For example, a pet products etailer, or a parts emerchant etc. Some social networking sites may work better than others for particular types of ecommerce businesses.

    — *Lisa*

  4. Legacy User February 25, 2008 Reply

    I agree with Lisa. This article is very hard to read with the way it is divided up into question responses without knowing more about the type of merchant who is commenting.

    — *Sue Kirchner*