Monday, November 2, 2009

Marketers Should Put Social Media in their Christmas Stockings

As a consumer I refuse to think seriously about the Christmas holidays yet. Retailers, however, see it looming before them and should be getting ready.

In that spirit, I downloaded a study from OneUpWeb on the 2009 holiday shopping season. They expect the increase in online holiday shopping to continue this year. The sentence that caught my eye was not a surprise either, but provided food for thought: “consumers are more engaged with online ratings, reviews and initiating conversations about products and services” (p 3). The news here is that shopping habits, and consequently the way shoppers arrive at websites, is changing.

Here’s the summary of their findings:

• In 2008, holiday traffic directly to retail sites was down ten percent from 2007.

• On average, traffic to social sites outpaced retail sites, growing 12 percent from December 2007 – December 2008.

• Traffic to the review sites remained stagnant throughout the year, experiencing a mild bump during the holiday season. (p. 7)

The OneUpWeb study took its cue from one on the role of social media in the consumer purchase process by GroupM Search. I checked that one out also and found a useful perspective. The text in the graphic suggests they believe, as many of us are coming to accept, that social media are more useful in the early, awareness and consideration, stages of the funnel. That’s good; we can reach more people with what’s essentially not-precisely-targeted branding message. Then, in the later stages, we can use paid search media to reach a better defined target that is moving closer to a purchase. In their words:

As expected, social media exposes consumers to brands, their products, the benefits of their features, and corporate value propositions. It clearly presents a powerful and often underutilized way for brands to become part of the consideration set. This is an important learning because it helps situate social media in the marketing landscape—not as a conversion or direct response channel, but rather as an exposure and awareness vehicle. (p. 5)

The data is a bit complex and I’d encourage you to read the report for yourself. This chart looks at the likelihood of searching when social media is added to paid search advertising alone (the green bar). Consumers who were also exposed to social media relevant to the product category searched exhibited a substantial increase in search behavior (the dark green bar). Consumers who were also exposed to social media influenced by the marketer exhibited an even greater increase in search behavior (the blue bar).

Is it surprising that social media should be integrated with search marketing? No, not at all. Is it helpful to say that social is most useful when consumers are exposed in the awareness and consideration stages? Yes, it is. Does the data provide support for social media activity by marketers? Yes, it does. Is it good news that we can get more bang for our paid search buck by including social media in the mix? Absolutely!

Are any marketers moving in this direction? It seems so. Stay tuned for a short case study which closes the circle to the holiday shopping season!

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