Less Than 1% of Online Purchases Influenced by Social Media

You can’t read business or tech blogs these days without being deluged with seemingly contradictory information about what works and what doesn’t when selling products and marketing your business online. Last week, we wrote about how nearly 20% of women in the US are using Pinterest and made a solid case for adding the growing social network to your marketing mix. Then, this week a new study emerges that seems to disprove the value of social media.

As reported by Mashable, Forrester has released a study that says that less than 1% of online purchases resulted from the use of social media. They examined 77,000 transactions between April 1st and April 14th and found that only a minute percentage could be traced back to social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Keep in mind that determining how a user’s web activity influences purchasing decisions is not an exact science. Usually, the last touchpoint before a sale is the one credited, but that wouldn’t be true as an ePN Publisher. For example, let’s say a user sees an item on your Pinterest page, clicks through to your site and proceeds to eBay to buy the item. eBay would credit (and compensate) the publisher and not know Pinterest had anything to do with influencing that purchase. Sure, it's a one-off theoretical example, but you get the idea.

Forrester says that following direct traffic, organic and paid search are the next two biggest drivers of purchases for first-time users – accounting for 39% of new customer transactions. Forrester calls these users “spear fishers” – those buyers that know exactly what they want and find it through search.

Keep in mind that this is just one study. I don’t think the takeaway here should be that social media isn’t important. In fact, the Forrester research specifically says that small businesses – which were not included in the study – can greatly benefit from utilizing social media. Obviously, a well-rounded marketing mix is the key to a successful strategy. By utilizing search, email, social and other means you’ll cover your bases and make sure your message gets in front of the right people.

I’m sure there are plenty of opinions on this topic – if you’ve got one, we’d love to hear it. Please feel free to comment below.