Social Media on Black Friday: the unsung, lead-nurturing hero

Over the past few days one article after another has come out quoting IBM claim that “Only around 1% of purchases and traffic on eCommerce websites on Black Friday were directly generated by social media sites.”  

Now, while I’m not surprised by the number of articles about sales numbers, money made, and where those sales are attributed, including social media, I do have a problem with the way analysts are dismissing the influence of social media because “it only drove 1% of sales”.

According to CNNMoneyoverall brick-and-mortar store sales for Thursday and Friday rose 2.3% to $12.3 billion. comScore reported that online retail purchases totaled $1B+ Black Friday, up 26%. Combined that is $1.3B+ in sales.

What is 1% of that total sales figure?$13M+! Call me crazy, but that is still a respectable sales figure generated by social media. 

The True ROI of Social Media

So yes, the breakdown per company and per social media venue cannot come close to being even. And yes, more sales probably went to the huge chains with massive social media campaigns: Shoe Dazzle and Macy's had the most brand interactions on Facebook according to social bakers. Finally yes, they probably noticed which social media sites drove their sales. 

However, there are also all the sales that can’t be directly attributed to social media. Twitter recently commissioned a survey of 1,000 adults that found 7 out of every 10 of its users say they'll rely on the site to "enhance their Black Friday and Cyber Monday experiences." So maybe it doesn’t directly lead to a lead conversion, but Social Media clearly has a role in influencing the purchase decision.

The true ROI of social media, then, goes well beyond direct traffic sales. There are several instances when impressions go unnoticed, because conversions without direct ad clicks aren’t attributed to that impression. Additionally with the massive lines at the physical stores and all the hype around sales starting on Thursday for the Black Friday shopping extravaganza, prospective shoppers may click the ad, view the deal, and then make a physical in-store purchase. Without question, this is a socially influenced sale, but it’s very hard to measure the influence.

The stat IBM released discounted influence via conversations and sharing. Their measurement of direct traffic is a clear indication of direct conversions, but how many more people were influenced and chose an indirect path to conversion? 

In the end, it’s important to recognize influence beyond direct traffic. Social is not necessarily about lead conversion, it’s about lead generation and lead nurturing.

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