Social Media & E-Commerce: Why Can't You Two Get Along?

I record the Social Pros Podcast every week with digital marketing impresario and Indiana Hoosiers bandwagon fan Jay Baer.  Each episode, we discuss a "Stat of the Week".  If I can get my act together, I'll start sharing thoughts on each week's stat.

Though my Black Friday tradition is firing up the chainsaw and cutting firewood with my dad and brother, I recognize that shopping is the official national Black Friday pasttime for most.  So we discussed some recent data from IBM in this week's episode.

On Black Friday:  Shoppers referred from Social Networks such as Facebook,Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube generated .34 percent of all online sales on Black Friday, a decrease of more than 35 percent from 2011.  


0.34% a minuscule number!  And it's decreased from last year!  So if you're a community manager for a brick and mortar retailer, you might want to let the panic ensue.  

Or you may choose to rationalize the numbers by suggesting that Black Friday is all about in-store transactions.  In which case, the Cyber Monday data should tell a different story.

But it doesn't.

On Cyber Monday:  Shoppers referred from Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube generated 0.41 percent of all online sales on Cyber Monday, a decrease of more than 26 percent from 2011.  


Surprisingly - the data from IBM is light on details.  (Or maybe I just didn't dig deep enough.)  So there may be some methodology-based explanation behind the numbers.

That said - it might be the case that social platforms just aren't good channels for retailers.  Despite the emerging hyper-targeting capabilities, real-time social channels aren't email marketing light.  Conversion-oriented marketing and messaging doesn't resonate on social and there are plenty of studies that prove.  Forrester and GSI Commerce recently analyzed 77,000 transactions and found that less than 1% of transactions for new and repeat customers can be traced back to social links.

That's not to say that all hope is lost for retailers - social platforms are great for building customer relationships and developing customer loyalty.  

I think that the static in these numbers stems from misalignment in the channel and the quantification.  Relationship building is a mid-funnel - post-funnel in some cases - activity.  IBM is using a late-funnel metric to quantify activities from a mid-funnel channel.  And the numbers don't add up.