Can you believe the social hype?

According to a 2011 Forrester report regarding the purchase path of online buyers, social media accounts for a miserable 2% of conversion sources.

The data was taken from 15 retailers of hard and soft goods who collectively represented approximately $1 billion in gross merchandise sales.

The report concluded that most online shoppers were exposed to one or two touchpoints prior to making a purchase on the internet. Significantly, email and search between them pretty consistently accounted for around three quarters of these touchpoints, depending on how you slice the numbers.

In view of all the often unsubstantiated ‘noise’ in the marketing industry about how effective social media is at driving profit, it’s worth stopping for a moment to put it in perspective. These numbers do that nicely.

Is social media effective? Undoubtedly. But ‘what is it effective at’ would be a more pertinent question. It seems hard to deny that it’s a great tool for engaging audiences and building brand loyalty, but it is yet to prove itself as a credible sales promotion tool that can stand up there with more traditional methods of driving business.

That said, social media rated highly in Forrester’s report as a source of holiday sale conversions, reportedly resulting in a 45% uplift around these busy shopping times. Consider also the low cost of entry in to the world of social media marketing and it’s still a difficult tool to ignore, despite its limitations.

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