Social Media bombs on Black Friday

Date posted: November 29, 2012

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by  Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian) Despite all the hyperventilating over social media, people with open minds and judicious temperaments are still unconvinced that it has significant impact on commerce.

We know that display advertising on social media sites, notably Facebook, has delivered a whole lot less than promised.

But defenders of social media marketing tell us that it is not the advertising value of social media networks that makes them so magical. It’s the content value.

The story goes that the real strength of social media is manifest in the feeds and updates on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Linked In. Here people see marketers’ posts and they also see the endorsements and referrals from members of their “community” and are powerfully influenced by them.

It’s a lovely little story. Unfortunately, it’s all bullshit.

We recently wrote about a report from Forrester Research that stated, “Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers” and that the effect of social media on online sales was “barely negligible.”

Now, a report from IBM that measured the effect of social media on online sales for Black Friday have produced some startling data.

The highlights are these:

  • While online sales on Black Friday increased over 20% from last year, everything IBM measured relating to the effect of social media on these sales dropped.
  • Traffic to online shopping sites from social networks dropped 12% from last year and accounted for eight-tenths of 1% of traffic.
  • Sales at online shopping sites that came as a result of referrals from social media networks dropped by over 35% and accounted for one-third of 1% of sales.
  • Referrals from Facebook to online shopping sites accounted for two-thirds of 1% of traffic. Remarkably, during this same period, Facebook’s user base increased 25%. If there’s ever been a clear demonstration of the difference between the popularity of social media and the effectiveness of social media marketing, this is it.
  • And get this — last year referrals from Twitter accounted for two one-hundredths of 1% of online shopping traffic. This year they accounted for 0% of traffic. That’s right, zero.

While online media propeller-heads argue about the nuances of these “metrics,” to the rest of the world the numbers are so ridiculously small they barely even qualify as rounding error.

The idea that “conversations about brands” on social media networks are a major influence on consumers is one of the great pillars that social media marketing theory is built on. But as we often say here at Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters, nobody’s smarter than the facts.

The results from this IBM report should be another nail in the social media marketing coffin.

But, fortunately for the social media lobby, the marketing lemmingocracy has bought very deeply into the social media hype machine. It’s too late for them to back out now.

– The Ad Contrarian is Bob Hoffman, ceo of Hoffman/Lewis advertising in San Francisco and St. Louis. Hoffman is the author of The Ad Contrarian and 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising. Reprinted from his blog The Ad Contrarian.