In the most recent incarnation of its exclusive ecommerce research project, Ecommerce Quarterly, Monetate, the marketing and website optimization firm, showed definitively that social media marketing is not the powerhouse tool many thought it to be, at least when it comes to last-touch attributions. The bold assertion is based on Q1 2013 data collected for this study which shows that social media outlets were responsible for only 1.55% of website traffic and a measly 0.71% of conversions. Is this a case of hard evidence disproving commonly held beliefs or is social media marketing getting a raw deal fueled by misused statistics?
Is Social Media Marketing Dead?
According to Nielsen’s “State of the Media” report for 2012 year–end, people spend more time on social networks than any other category of websites, and the numbers are trending even further upward for 2013. Furthermore, the Nielson Company’s report shows that as a category social media is still vital with new social networks, communities and forums still being created and embraced by the public. In light of these numbers and other anecdotal and experiential evidence, the EQ’s author contends that perhaps the EQ numbers aren’t telling the whole story, this may be a case of misattribution rather than social media being a poor marketing gateway. To illustrate; if one were to find out about a website on Facebook then, only after leaving the social network enter said website by typing the url directly into a browser that visit would be attributed to “no direct referrer” by Google, but is this truly the case?
Assist Interaction vs. Last Interaction
Google, in the analyzing channel contribution section of its analytics suite attempts to break the “path to a purchase” into two component parts: last interactions (defined as the interaction immediately preceding the conversion) and assist interactions (any other interactions). This, Mr. Baer posits, may explain the apparent contradiction: The EQ survey seeks to measure the impact of social media on conversions by measuring monetary impact which as Google’s apt definition shows may just be the wrong way to view social media.
So… to social media or not to social media?
The jury may still be out on how exactly to quantify social media as a marketing tool but it seems fairly evident that it does play a major role. In fact, according to Forrester Research, word of mouth advertising, of which social media is but one example, plays a part in over 80% of all purchase funnels. My recommendation is to take the EQ study at face value and move away from direct marketing on social networks, like social referred visits and similar tactics. Instead target your spending on generating buzz through coupons and contests which increase your visibility and make your company a topic of conversation. Until the science behind social marketing progresses and the true value of social marketing is revealed it’s probably best to spend your money on better understood avenues.
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