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Social Media Report

Some people just don’t get social media.  And that’s ok, because the format is constantly evolving and changing and those of us who are enthusiastic participants like to try new ideas and see what sticks. But when you are attempting to make an authoritative report on the effectiveness of social media and purchase power, you probably better have a faint clue how social media works, and perhaps an inkling of how much power the medium has when used effectively.

THE PURCHASE PATH OF ONLINE BUYERS For eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals was released today by Forrester Research in cooperation with GSI Commerce.  The report comes to the conclusion that “The truth is that social tactics were largely ineffective in driving sales.”

I’m surprised that this report is receiving the attention that it is, given how flawed the reporting methods are. A few missed details with this report.

1.  Social Media

The report fails to answer some key questions. Namely: What social media outlets were engaged?  What messages were posted? How often were sites updated? Did retailers respond to mentions or did they ignore customer contacts? Did all 15 of the retailers use social media in the same exact manner, or was there a vast difference in tactics?

2. Timing

The report says, “Data was captured from November 12, 2010 to December 20, 2010. Thanksgiving weekend data was captured from 12 a.m. on November 25, 2010, through 11:59 p.m. on November 28, 2010. Cyber Monday data was captured on November 29, 2010. ”

So on November 12th, 18th, December 3rd and 13th for example, what time was the data captured? Was the data not being captured 24/7 between 11/12/2010 and 12/20/2010?  What reasoning was behind the choice of that time period (other than measuring effect on holidays sales)?  Is this a sufficient time period to determine effectiveness? Were social media updates being posted between working hours only or throughout a 24 hour period? Were messages posted every day?

3. Collection

The report offers measurement as “social media alone” as a touchpoint prior to purchase and focuses on the ineffectiveness of social media. If Forrester actually understood social media, they would understand that a well planned online marketing strategy would never consider social media alone, but a smart combination of online tactics. I don’t think any of us who are in the habit of helping businesses use social media would ever recommend a social media alone strategy, but would certainly insist that a no social media policy would in fact negatively impact sales as well as brand image and customer retention.

Clearly this report raises more questions than it provides answers.  And the few findings that are stated are so far off the mark, it’s laughable.  In fact, I would call it ineffective in driving social media strategies.


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