All those marketers who are rushing to increase their social media spend take note: A new study says social media has almost no influence on online purchasing behavior.
This new report from Forrester and GSI is filled with headline-grabbing data. "Social Media Has Little Impact" is guaranteed link bait. I can just imagine the twitstorm that will ensue from a post or two about traditional advertising being much more effective.
The reality is buried in the data. Two datapoints struck me. First of all, everything is more effective in tandem. Integrated marketing strategies are more effective than a single tactic alone. DUH! It's amazing how long we've been talking about that, and how often it has been said of late.
More significant is that organic search and word of mouth is really the biggest driver of purchase behavior. However, the report did not look at the impact that social media has on organic search results. So, while people may not go directly from Twitter to an online purchase, it is very likely that the purchase was influenced by a Twitter or Facebook conversation. Even more likely is that the brand that was most engaged in social media was actually the one that was at the top of their organic search results. Or to put it another way, if a brand takes time to listen and engage in the conversation, posts relevant and interesting content, and earns its way to the top rank in organic search, it can be just as effective as email or paid advertising.