Posted December 7, 2010 4:05 pm by with 6 comments

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There’s no doubt that this is the year of the social media holiday marketing blitz. More folks than ever are using Facebook, Twitter and other sites to encourage holiday shopping.

According to eMarketer, 27% of retailers said they’d spend most of their marketing budget on social media, up from 18%. And 75% said they had a social media strategy this year as opposed to only 51% last year. But does this rise in activity mean a rise in sales?

We’ve been told that Black Friday and Cyber Monday both did very well this year, but is it as a result of all the social media air time?

Practical eCommerce took a look at this very question and came up with some interesting answers. They began with numbers from Hitwise who said that, “social networks referred 4.39 percent of traffic to the top 500 retail sites on Black Friday 2010.”

4.39? That’s not so much.

Their expert, George Eberstadt, CEO of TurnTo Networks says:

“The social stigma against shilling is as strong today as it’s ever been, and that limits the amount of commerce-related sharing that’s ever going to go on – the popularity of social media hasn’t changed that.”

Shilling. Haven’t heard that word in awhile, but it’s a valid point, except during the holiday season. Because everyone is on a buying spree, we’re much more likely to tolerate a barrage of sales Tweets and updates. But imagine if marketers maintained that same enthusiastic level of social media marketing throughout the entire year? I love a good deal, but I’m already growing weary of the onslaught.

The article goes on to say:

“Eberstadt added that he believes social commerce will ultimately be more important to brands and stores than social media marketing. “Social will be more important as a discovery and decision-making tool for people that are in-market for goods and services than as a way to promote and advertise.”

An interesting distinction and one I believed we’ve addressed here before. It’s the difference between conversational Facebook updates and a continuous stream of sales pitches.

So while your Facebook and Twitter followers might be okay with “Save 50% on Blu-ray Players” today, after Christmas they’re more likely to respond to “what’s your favorite movie on Blu-ray?” They’ll not only respond but they’ll share their answer with their Facebook friends who will also come and answer, resulting in more “likes” for you and more potential customers when one of them decides to buy a Blu-ray player.

What do you think? Are your social media efforts paying off in actual sales, or is brand awareness the ultimate goal?

  • The increase in social media use for the holiday season has helped wonders for the facebook ad campaigns I’ve been running. We have grown our fan base by over 1,000 in just a few weeks….Weather or not that will transfer to sales immediately is a different question. I am confident that now that we have people listening we can grow their trust and build relationships that will equate to sales down the road.

  • I have to agree with you on social media as a decision-making factor when it comes to people making a purchase. In fact, I’ve read a few days ago that people actually check online product reviews before they head out to their nearest store to make a real-time purchase. That doesn’t surprise me though. We just want to be smarter with stuff we buy today and social media gives us instant access to second opinions out there. We’ve all regretted buying the wrong kind of stuff, anyway — and we only want value for our hard-earned cash this time. Nice sharing though, thanks!

  • 27% of people interviewed plan on spending 100% of their money to get a 4% return? That’s about 98% stupid!

    • Cynthia

      Yeah, that was kind of the point, but as the other two commenters said, there’s more to be gained than just immediate sales. If you look at it as an investment in building an audience then it’s a good deal.

      Plus, social media marketing is relatively cheap when compared to other kinds of marketing, so when they say 100% of their budget, they could be talking $500!

  • Cynthia, thank you for referencing the article. That one was tough to put together because hard, empirical evidence wasn’t there yet. I hope to follow up with something more concrete and with better stats in a few weeks. Regardless, it’s pretty obvious social media is having an effect on ecommerce sales.

  • Really good info. Some of the social media marketing campaigns that I’ve run for clients in the past have resulted in a significant increase in holiday sales. Coupon codes and special offers (free shipping, buy one get one, etc.) can really help drive an effective campaign.

    The trick is to not sound spammy when you do it 🙂