E-Commerce Social Media: A Red Herring?

e-commerce social media
credit: perrymanku.com

We’d like to draw your attention to Armando Roggio’s sobering observations on e-commerce social media—in short, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Significant data is rolling in to support the idea that social media isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in terms of driving real traffic to your site. To forestall knee-jerk reactions, let the record show that traffic is by no means the sole parameter for social media success—rather, social media may best be suited to purposes other than traffic attraction.

According to a recent E-commerce Quarterly report from Monetate, social media contributed about 1.55% of traffic to e-commerce sites and averaged a conversion rate of 0.71%. These figures are disappointing, to put it gently. The questions, then, become: why is this so, and how can social media be considered useful? Monetate’s Jay Baer hit the nail on the head when he identified social media efforts as “inherently additive pieces of the conversion funnel, rather than causative.” They enhance existing content, but they don’t replace it, and social media alone does not a conversion campaign make.

Last-Click Attribution

It all becomes clearer in the context of usage trends for major social media hubs—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, et al. Though you could think of clicks from social media pages to your site as last-click attribution for marketing purposes, it isn’t as simple as that. Firstly, modern users would rightly be suspect of a company whose only form of contact was social media when just about everyone spreads their contact channels out across multiple media. Though that example’s facetious, it gets the point across: social media really isn’t a reliable way to secure lasting customer relationships, and it’s completely overhyped even as a first-contact point.

So what’s the alternative? Again, think of social media additively. Contests, for example, work well via social media not because they instantly grab long-term consumers, but rather as a means of acquiring a few more email addresses at a time. From there, a well-constructed email campaign can obtain some real conversion results. Social media fits in the support slot, but will disappoint you if it’s asked to take center stage.

E-Commerce Social Media Relationships

The whole idea of customer relationships isn’t fundamentally predicated on this sale or that sale or a visit count. The best online customer relationships have more to do with sustained user habits: lingering on your site before purchasing, recommendations, better response to marketing, etc. E-commerce social media recognizes and reinforces these behaviors once the interest is already shown. It creates the fellowship and continuity that define many of the most successful brands, giving personality to your business and incentivizing involvement over time.

It’s not as if the situation is hopeless. Social media campaigns, subsites, and the like do drive an appreciable number of sales in the bigger picture. Think of this traffic as a bonus! It’s by no means a backbone, though. You certainly wouldn’t turn a customer away if they happened upon your Facebook page via Google, but neither would you pour resources into capturing a sale from them the way you would with a substantial email response or referral.

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