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Study Reveals Where Top Retailers Source Traffic

A new study looking at the online social activity of 900 top-rated retail companies over 2013 has found that Facebook is their number one choice for paid advertising. Attracting more than twice as many investors as runner-up YouTube, Facebook emerged as the platform that 58% of these companies think has the most potential to drive sales. It also appears to be the most popular social media option for users trying to find out about new products.

Despite this, it is Pinterest that is most likely to have its button incorporated into these companies’ websites in an attempt to get recommendations. Pinterest also comes just 2% behind Facebook as the social media marketing platform of choice for sharing products, with Twitter following closely behind.

It is possible that the pattern will look different in a few months, as Facebook's plans to change the way the news feed works (again) has some marketers worried. As this will decrease the organic visibility of posts made by businesses, it may decrease the visibility of Facebook as a marketing tool. Those who want to make an impression there will have to pay for it, and some will inevitably choose to focus on other platforms instead. Pinterest is still underused in terms of its marketing potential, and its distinctive angle as America’s favorite picture sharing network makes it particularly useful for visually-appealing products.

Meanwhile, the rise in popularity of online video means that YouTube is going strong and may well increase its market share over the coming year. Facebook, characteristically, has responded by making it easier to embed YouTube videos in its own spaces, as have Google+ and Twitter. Other interactions between the big social media players, such as Google and Microsoft’s joint involvement in challenging NSA snooping, suggest that 2014 is going to be notable for the way that companies collaborate rather than the way they compete. This could be good news for marketers, who will have a richer tool set, and for consumers, who will no longer have to make as many compromises.

The popularity of Facebook for researching new products illustrates the importance most people attach to personal recommendations in this situation, with the particular context of conversation giving it the edge over indicators such as repins or retweets. It is the race to find the perfect model for combining conversation that is likely to define this year’s figures.

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