Does Social Media Marketing Equal Buying?

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For as long as social media marketing has existed, one question has remained constant: How do our efforts with Facebook and Twitter management turn into dollars? Despite a blur of infographics and a tornado of blog posts from journalists, many are unsure if social media is really worth it. Yet a new study might finally provide real insight into how “sharing” equals “shopping.”

From Social to Sale is a published study conducted by Vision Critical that looks into how social media drives customers’ purchasing decisions. The study reports that nearly 40 percent of social media users have purchased an item after sharing or “favoriting” it on sites like Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. And speaking of Facebook, the study claims that the social network is the most likely to drive customers to purchase. The big shocker here is how social media drives real-life, in-store shopping at about the same rates as online purchasing.

“One of the more surprising findings in this whole research for me,” the study’s co-author Alexandra Samuel, vice-president of social media at Vision Critical, said in an interview, “was to see how significant that in-store purchasing is. This is one of those really not intuitive findings.”

Facebook once again reigns supreme when it comes to pushing people to purchase, both online and in-store. A full 30 percent of participants said “liking” led to in-store purchases, while another 29 percent said liking influenced online buying. Other data showed incredibly positive signs of how “likes” and “favorites” effect purchases on sites like Pinterest, which has a high rate of post-pin sales, and Twitter. 

But the quest for a real, meaty conversion rate advertisers can sink their teeth into will undoubtedly carry on —primarily because consumers don’t have exact information.

“If you ask people how many cars they’ve pinned or tweeted before they bought their car, they would have an idea,” Samuels says. “But the number of instances vary so much by product category. I mean, if you asked me how many pairs of boots I’ve pinned in the past year, not only would I be ashamed to tell you the number, but I don’t really know.”

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