Posted January 21, 2013 9:47 am by with 4 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

Not sure what to make of this.

On one hand it sounds like a problem when a study by Adobe shows that online 2% of website traffic for the past holiday season can be attributed to social media.

On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that social isn’t influencing purchasers by any stretch of the imagination. Here are the numbers.


Social’s impact is measurable but there is still a bit of the soft measurement of impact and influence that doesn’t really come out in analytics just yet. This kind of research will give plenty of ammo to the ‘anti-social’ crowd but that’s only if they look at the surface.

What are your impressions of this kind of finding? Does it ring true? Is it misleading? Is it just part of the story?

  • I respect Adobe and I’m sure the study is probably correct, but I have a few concerns with the interpretation of it. I’ll elaborate:

    — Social media is NOT a transactional environment. How many sales did billboards or TV ads generate? The same statement could be said for other mediums. Social media enables brands to position themselves in front of their audience, allow people to opt-in to their messages and when the time is right, engage with a brand.

    — Many social media and referral sources are obscured from e-commerce sites due to SSL. Unless there is hard-coding or sophisticated cookie tracking, many merchants will lose this visibility into their marketing and e-commerce analytics.

    — This data isn’t actionable (prima-facie). What is the lesson here? Is it to do social more or less? Is it to kick up traditional media? I would almost say that the data is impeachable and making a strong conclusion is not yet possible. More research is needed.

    Thanks for sharing this. I’d love to hear what others make of this report.

  • Jeff C

    FINALLY. Someone blows the horn on this BS about Social and Purchasing. Yes, it be used as just one of many components of a product or brand marketing scheme, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out it really doesn’t drive sales. Think about it. What to people go to Facebook for for 99+% of the time? To interact with their friends and family. Not to shop. Not to do research. This was gravely apparent when we tried facebook advertising and the conversion rate was next to nil compared to most any other advertising platform. The grandfather looking at photos of his new grandchildren isn’t interested in the latest golf clubs because he has golf as one of the interests in his facebook profile. Anyone pushing the whole “social thing” is typically a com[any that provides social marketing services to other companies. Ask them for a study that has actual verifiable ROI analytics instead of empirical guesswork that essentially is promotion of using their own service. They’ll be hard pressed to find anything. Just Google “Facebook Advertising ROI” or “Facebook Marketing ROI” and you’ll find a wasteland lacking anything concrete. Many companies “bought in” to the whole “social media” thing just because it was hyped as the “new marketing channel.” What a crock.

  • All good points here..facebook is a relational space…products such as Facebook offers and gifts offer some rays of sunshine in terms of direct sales as well as what they are calling native ads – that said social can’t be overlooked – search figures highly right? well what does the Google algorithm scores and indexes now? – yup you got it social share – that means that organic search is driven by social media to a larger degree now – that means, if search is important to traffic then a social media search strategy would be imperative especially…lets not also discount the impact of product reviews and ratings..(that’s social) in the purchasing funnel and of course learning from customers derived from social intelligence….

  • Great share Frank. I’ve been watching this along with IBM’s recent data and scratching my head. That’s because we’ve found social to be reliable for driving retail sales, both online and in-store. But to be fair, we’re not looking at what happens in Facebook and other network environments alone. Social is much more than just that–one should also consider how it can be put to work as an amplifier of brand offers delivered in content geared for driving consideration and purchases. When the right content, offer and social utilities (opt-in/shares) are merged, it’s far more likely that social will spread the word to like-minded consumers and a lift in sales will be directly attributable to its use. A simple example of this is “Buy with a Facebook friend to unlock an exclusive discount”. The approach makes social’s impact on sales eminently measurable – and gives brands invaluable insight to what social dynamics (and which consumers) will influence greater sales of its products. In this context, the numbers we’re seeing are absolutely understated.