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Did social media fail to drive sales on Black Friday?

IBM joined the growing chorus of social media skeptics over Thanksgiving weekend after it reported that social media had negligible contributions to sales on Black Friday.

Every year, IBM’s Digital Analytic’s Benchmarks team releases a holiday shopping report which tracks traffic and sales for around 800 e-commerce sites. This year, IBM’s strategy director Jay Henderson said traffic from social media to e-commerce sites was tiny, and hadn’t changed much from last year, when it was around 1% of all referral traffic.

“I don’t think the implication is that social isn’t important,” Henderson said, speaking to AllThingsD. “But so far it hasn’t proven effective to driving traffic to the site or directly causing people to convert.”

It’s important to remember that IBM only tracked direct referrals coming from social media sites, which means a customer would have to go directly from a link on Facebook or Twitter to a sales point on a brand’s website. So it doesn’t take into account consumers who might see a advertisement, but go to several other websites (like Google, or Amazon to compare reviews) before deciding to finally make the purchase.

IBM did however have some interesting insights into which social media platforms were performing the best when it came to sales:

On average, holiday shoppers referred from Pinterest on Black Friday spent 77 percent more per order than shoppers referred from Facebook. Facebook average order value was $52.30 versus Pinterest average order value which was $92.51. However, Facebook referrals converted sales at nearly four times the rate of Pinterest. 

Could Pinterest finally be the first social media site to directly drive e-commerce? The platform is certainly positioned well to do so, given that almost all its content is generated from catalogs and product wishlists. As the company wades further into the world of linking its pinned content directly to e-commerce sites, next year could be the year it becomes the biggest revenue generator for brands on social media.

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