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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.

HOW TO: Using Twitter to Grow Your Audience

FollowMe As publishers at eBay Partner Network, many of you use websites or blogs as part of your business model. That means you’re constantly thinking about how to increase traffic to those properties and stimulate more engagement with your brand. Today I want to talk to you about how you can accomplish that more effectively using Twitter.

GETTING STARTED

First, if you haven’t already, sign up for a Twitter account. Choose a handle that best represents your brand – for example, if the name of your site is “Fashion Mall,” try to secure @FashionMall as your Twitter handle. Obviously, Twitter’s popularity has made it more difficult to get the exact moniker you want, but try and get it as close as possible.

Once you’ve registered, you’ll want to make sure your profile is complete. Make sure you talk about your brand in a succinct way in the description field, and be sure to include your site URL. You’d be surprised how many businesses don’t do an adequate job filling in these pieces of information leaving potential followers bewildered about who you are and what your business does.

CONTENT IS KING

The type of content you create and share on Twitter is essential to your success. Ideally, the goal is to get people to click on links you’ve shared that bring them back to your website. You accomplish this by creating content of interest on your web properties and distribute those links via your Twitter account. That means you have to make sure there’s a constant flow of new and exciting things happening on your site.

Be careful about using Twitter solely as a megaphone. Your followers want a well-rounded experience in regard to the types of content you share. Make a point to comment on, and share, content you discover from other relevant sources in your industry. So, if you’re an auto site, don’t just link to content from your own blog. Instead, share links from other auto sites and comment on why you think it’s interesting or valuable to your followers. This conveys that you’re interested in building a community, not just shilling your wares all the time.

BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY

Building a substantial community on Twitter can take some time. If you want a genuine, passionate set of followers, there are no shortcuts.

First off, use Twitter’s search function to locate other users that are interested in the same things in which your brand specializes. Follow them. Take a look at their recent Twitter stream and make comments on any tweets you find interesting. Try to offer a unique perspective or add value in some way. Saying “hey, nice tweet” or “yeah, I agree” doesn’t add much to the conversation and just increases the noise level. Over time, the community will notice your participation and will follow you back.

Second, make sure your customers know you’re on Twitter. Make sure that your handle appears on all of your marketing collateral including your homepage, blog and any email communications. This holds true for any other social channels you participate in, including Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr. This lets your base know that you want to interact with them in a variety of ways.

Finally, make sure to nurture your Twitter community. Nothing makes followers lose interest faster than a social media account that is left unattended for long periods of time. Try and make it a priority to find at least one thing to say on Twitter everyday. This will show your growing community that you’re present and engaged.

TERMS OF SERVICE

While we at eBay Partner Network believe in the tremendous impact Twitter can have in growing your business, I want to remind you that it is against our terms of service to drive traffic directly to eBay from your Twitter account. Instead, the desired lead path is for a user to find you on Twitter, click through to your web property and complete the click to eBay from your domain. This approach not only keeps things within our TOS, it also has a better chance of building a long-term supporter of your brand.

I’d love to hear about your experiences using Twitter to build your brand presence. Please leave a comment below.

-Scott