New data from a leading marketing optimization firm indicates that social media is not a significant traffic driver for online merchants, but traffic may not be the only indicator of success for social media marketing.
Social media represented about 1.55 percent of traffic to ecommerce sites and a conversion rate of 0.71 percent in the first quarter of 2013, according to a new Ecommerce Quarterly (EQ) report from Monetate.
“In its most recent EQ data, Monetate demonstrates in a very definitive way that social media is not a significant source of direct traffic to ecommerce websites or purchase conversions from those destinations,” wrote Jay Baer in the Monetate EQ report.
“Based on these findings it might be reasonable to conclude that social media participation is over-hyped and disproportionately resourced for ecommerce websites,” Baer added. “But the challenge for social media — and for its big brother, word of mouth marketing — is that they are inherently additive pieces of the conversion funnel, rather than causative.”
Don’t Measure Social Media with Last-click Attribution
Baer’s point — that social media marketing adds to campaigns — makes very good sense when you consider how social sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest are used. And it implies that counting clicks directly from a social network to your site — which may be referred to as last-click attribution — does not accurately represent social media’s value for building lasting customer relationships or feeding, if you will, other forms of marketing. We addressed this recently in “Google’s Purchase Path Tool Helps Merchants View All Marketing Channels,” where we explained Google’s attempt to measure all steps in the sales process, not just the last click.
As an example, a brick-and-click retailer in the northwestern United States has successfully used contests on Facebook to acquire several thousand new email subscribers. In turn, email promotions are some of the company’s highest converting marketing tactics. Here Facebook contests — which are social media marketing — do not directly drive traffic or sales. But is nonetheless an important enabler for the email campaigns that do drive traffic and sales.
Build Relationships and Connections
Lasting customer relationships are not about individual sales or visits. Long-term customers are very valuable to a merchant. They tend to spend more time on the site when they make a purchase, and they are typically far less expensive to market to.
Social media marketing inspires a sense of connection and continuity. Shoppers learn about your business and your company’s personality, and they make dozens of purchases over a number of years. Try not to think about social media in terms of creating an immediate response, but rather a lasting connection.
Social Media Does Drive Some Direct Traffic
In the context of long-term brand-oriented marketing on social media networks, the traffic and sales that these sites do drive can be a bonus.
Put another way, if social media marketing’s primary job is building relationships, adding of 1.55 percent and a conversion rate of about 1 percent is not bad.
Imagine an ecommerce site with 3,000 visitors per day. If the Monetate data held true, social media — in addition to engaging customers long term — would be sending about 46 or 47 customers to that site every day, adding, perhaps, 15 extra sales a month.