5 Paid Social Stats that Show You the Hidden Road to Ecommerce Riches

Matthew Stafford Jul 27, 2016

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Many entrepreneurs starting out in the ecommerce world drastically underestimate the necessary marketing investment. They think if they find the right products and set the right price, customers will come flocking. Marketing and advertising are useful when you want a growth spurt, but the real work is building out your product offerings.

We know better.

Marketing isn’t an ecommerce afterthought. It’s the most important and most resource-intensive part of your business. Having great products at the right price for your customers definitely helps, but effective marketing is absolutely essential. And that means using data to choose the marketing tactics and channels you pour your time and money into.

Like social media. You know it’s a big deal, but what platforms should you be focusing on? And how do you decide when to go paid social and when to keep your fingers crossed with organic reach?

We’ve got some data to help you make those choices. Putting it to work? That’s up to you.

Paid Pinterest Posts Pay Off Big Time

Not only is Pinterest the second biggest source of traffic to Shopify sites, coming in just slightly behind Facebook, but the average order from a Pinterest lead is $50the highest of any social media platform.

What makes Pinterest posts so successful? At least part of it comes down to the fact that paid Pinterest posts look just like organic posts—something the Pinterest platform can get away with much more easily than Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram without annoying consumers. A great picture is a great picture whether it’s sponsored or not, and with Pinterests excellent targeting options your paid posts are guaranteed to reach the audience of your choice.

There’s also the fact that 93% of Pinterest users explicitly plan purchases using the platform. That means they’re looking for posts that link directly to an ecommerce site or even better a specific product page. Get your paid post in front of them when they’re looking, and you’re a short step away from landing a sale.

You need great pictures, of course, and you need to know who your choice audience is. Put those ingredients together and throw some funds at paid Pinterest posts, and you should see a substantial ROI.

You can check out even more Pinterest stats on this infographic:

Facebook’s Cost-Per-Lead Blows Paid Search Away

When it comes to ecommerce enabler Shopify’s own growth plans, they decided to focus on Facebook in a big way. When they did, they found that their cost per lead was 10x lower than paid search. Facebook’s Custom Audience and Lookalike Audience features provide a lot of power, assuming you have the customer knowledge to put it to its best use.

To make the most of paid social, you need to target your highest value, most frequent, and quickest-to-purchase customers. The easier the conversion, and the higher-value the conversion, the better your profitability and your advertising ROI. Going after these customers first gives you all the revenue you need for the later stages of growth, and Facebook makes it easy to build an audience that looks just like your current customer base.

First, use organic posts, retargeting, special offers, and other incentives to get your customers to get your customers’ Facebook-associated email addresses and/or get them to Like your Facebook page. Upload the emails to create a Custom Audience, then create a Lookalike Audience that mirrors your Custom Audience and your Facebook page’s list of fans. Facebook does all the heavy lifting, matching new users with those already in your audience by using a range of demographics.

Target your ads to these lookalikes, and you ought to see similar sales patterns at far less expense than paid search.

Sponsored Facebook Content Pays for Itself

The folks over at Contently did some impressive number crunching to compare organic posts and sponsored content on Facebook, and sponsored content comes out clearly on top.

Using the average cost-per-click for sponsored content of around $0.50, an optimistic 2.6% estimate of organic reach (only a tiny fraction of your Facebook audience—those who have liked and/or are following your page—actually sees each unpaid post) with an even more optimistic 5% click-through rate, and an estimated cost of acquiring a follower of $1, they estimate that it would take more than six years for your organic growth to become cheaper than paid.

And your audience growth during most of those six years would be happening at a snail’s pace, too. Add in all of the lost revenue with such a stunted social reach, and it’s doubtful organic growth could ever catch up with paid reach as far as Facebook is concerned.

Of course, the trick is effectively targeting your sponsored content (see above) and then marketing to your newly acquired followers effectively. Convert clicks into email opt-ins, and use emails to drive sales. Use retargeting. Heck, we’ve got plenty of tips on converting an avid audience into paying customers, but you’ve got to build the audience first. Sponsored content is a great way to do it.

Twitter Tags Ain’t So Terrific

Hashtags are great for growing the organic reach of your Twitter posts—that’s their whole point, after all. They exist to help people find tweets on subjects and trends they’re already interested in. When you pay to promote your tweets, you’re paying to get in front of people who don’t know how interested they’ll be, and hashtags can actually get in the way.

According to Twitter’s own research, promoted tweets containing hashtags have a 3% lower click rate and a 24% higher cost per action. You’ll spend more and see a slip in your results, so don’t follow the conventional wisdom and add twenty hashtags to your post.

Instead, focus on your message. Don’t use your promoted tweets to join the crowd, use them to stand out. Give your audience a reason to engage that isn’t just jumping on the hashtag bandwagon, and you’ll get more click-throughs, follows, and other engagements. Hashtags distract and muddy the waters—keep your promoted content clear, concise, and compelling.

Social’s Share of Ecommerce Leads Is Growing Fast

If we told you that 1.5% of ecommerce traffic driven by social media in the first quarter of 2015, you might not be all that impressed. But what if we told you that only a year earlier that number had been a dismal 0.5%? That’s a 300% increase in the span of a year, and that’s just the chunk of social-driven online purchases we can definitively measure.

No ecommerce referral source is growing anywhere near as fast as social.

That in and of itself is important to know; it might truly be the last overarching digital platform where you can expect to see such rapid growth. If you miss the opportunity, you might miss the boat on building your business out before ecommerce fully matures, where you’ll see fiercer competition and more significant barriers to entry.

It’s also important to recognize that virtually none of the traffic this graph displays as “Direct” is actually direct. Due to a variety of analytic and tracking difficulties, a lot of traffic that originated with social awareness (and with search) ends up being recorded as a direct website visit. If just a third of the traffic measured as direct actually came from social media, that puts social neck and neck with email and gaining fast.

The specific strategies and platforms you tap into for your ecommerce success might vary, but there’s no question that the social selling age is upon us. Get with the program and start building out your paid social efforts—and be smart about it.

We’ll be here to guide you through if you get a little lost.


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Matthew Stafford

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