Social Media Doesn’t Sell [Research]

7 Reasons Your Social Media Sales Are Understated

Social media doesn't generate sales (or does it?) While social media accounts for roughly one out of every five minutes spent online, it doesn’t translate to sales according to a new report from Monetate.

As a marketer what do these findings mean for your business and 2013 marketing plans with regard to social media strategy and budget?

Social media doesn’t sell

Monetate shows that traffic from social media is significantly less effective than from either search or email across three important indicators, inbound traffic, conversion rate and average order value. 

Search drives 34.79% of inbound traffic compared with 4.85% from email and 2.85% from social media. This makes sense because customers use search at every step of the purchase process, while social media focuses on the early awareness and research phase and email, while targeted, is marketer, not consumer initiated.

Social media drives 3% inbound traffic

In terms of conversion rates, email (4.25%) does almost twice as well as search (2.49%) because it reaches a more targeted audience of handraisers. Social media has a 0.59% conversion rate. This lower conversion rate makes sense since research shows that roughly 1% take positive action rather than passive action on social media platforms.
Social media conversion rate 0.6%

With regard to average order value (AOV), search generates $90.40, email generates $82.72 and social media generates $64.19. Social media’s lower average order value is likely attributable to the fact that these customers are buying less expensive, less involved products. For example, while Ford can attribute sales to social media, most car companies can’t. (Don’t take my word for it, here’s what Scotty Monty said about Ford’s social media.)  Social media average order size is $64  less than search and email

7 Reasons social media sales are understated

Before you cut your social media budget, here are seven reasons social media drives more sales than these results show. (This assumes you’re tracking the right social media metrics.)

  1. Social media builds brand awareness. Social media has its greatest impact early in the purchase process, often before marketers start tracking potential buyers. Social media helps increase brand awareness and other brand related attributes that are difficult to track and more qualitative than quantitative.
  2. Social media content and engagement embedded on your site is counted as internal media. Many marketers underestimate the impact of social media such as blogs and videos since they’re distributed to multiple locations. This includes their own website where it’s not tracked as social media. This makes sense but understates the impact of social media based content  created to feed multiple platforms.
  3. Social media needs a call-to-action. A contextually relevant call-to-action is needed to drive prospects from a social media platform to your website. Without being directed to take action, prospects may move onto the next shiny thing.
  4. Social media requires tracking codes. In addition to having a relevant call-to-action, the social media traffic must be trackable back to the originating source. This needs to be incorporated into your social media execution and your analytics backend.
  5. Social media increases the number of steps in the purchase process. Participants are on social media venues to socialize not shop. Therefore, marketers need to get them to engage on the social media platform before capturing their email or driving them to purchase. This means extra steps especially if social media advertising is used. Although each additional step is a place where you can loose prospects, overall, social media provides more entryways into your site.
  6. Social media often lacks tailored landing pages and related conversion support. To improve conversions, firms need targeted means to convert social media prospects such as tailored landing pages and streamlined purchase processes which they’re practiced at doing for email and search.
  7. Social media isn’t the last media touched. In a holistic marketing approach where customers engage with different media and content over a period of time, many factors affect conversion, yet it’s often the last media touched that gets the full credit. As a result, search gets overweighted for its contribution to sales.
BTW, if you need further proof social media drives sales, here’s other research.

Understand that social media is part of a complex integrated marketing ecosystem. As long as social media is where your target audience spends their time, you must develop effective means to reach and encourage prospects and customers to raise their hands and purchase from you. To this end, you must ensure that your social media efforts are well integrated with the other aspects of your marketing plans and processes.

Does your social media marketing generate sales that you’re able to track? If so, what’s your experience been?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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  • Andi the Minion

    Social media was great for traffic, now that Facebook has been constantly playing with it’s set up the potential to drive traffic to your site from Facebook has dropped, Twitter has become full of fluff and filler chatter by marketers trying to keep people informed that they are ‘still there’. Yes Social Media is good for branding and should be used for that as for anything else, I am beginning to believe it is more time consuming than what you get back from it.

  • ask away

    Good post! when you hace a doub you can ask away…

  • Rob Yoegel

    Heidi, great post and thanks for including the Monetate EQ Report data!

  • http://twitter.com/rongiordan Ron Giordan

    Great article with a reminder about what social is about!

  • @RyanWrecker

    I think it’s great to remember that you’ll get the most out of any tool if it’s used properly.