Facebook remains the gorilla in social media, but retail-friendly networks could soon spell trouble for the company.
Social media outlets are driving qualified traffic to retailers -- and that's paying off in revenue, Adobe said today. But Twitter and other relative newcomers are eating into Facebook's share.
Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social sites topped themselves in delivering traffic to retailers in Q4 2013. Twitter's share of referred visits to retail sites grew 125 percent year-over-year, and Pinterest sent 89 percent more shoppers this year than last, according to Adobe's Q4 2013 Social Media Intelligence Report, which analyzes social media.
Facebook's fourth quarter had record click-through rates (up 365 percent year-over-year) and the highest ad-click volume ever, while cost per thousand impressions increased 437 percent year-over-year.
But its cost-per-click rate has leveled off year-over-year, while competitors' share of retailer referrals is growing. Facebook still contributes the lion's share of traffic to retailer sites, but that portion slipped a bit in Q4: In Q4 2012, Facebook delivered 71 percent of all social traffic; last quarter, it accounted for 69 percent of all social traffic to retailers. To put this in perspective, Facebook likes still produce 82 percent of all social engagement.
The report looks at paid, earned, and owned social media and is based on 240 billion Facebook ad impressions, 1.5 billion Facebook posts, and half a billion referred visits, plus paid social media derived from Adobe Marketing Cloud customers.
"All social is growing, Facebook is just growing slower. The main story is not necessarily that Facebook dropped. It's more the surge of the other ones," says Joe Martin, marketing analytics manager for the Adobe Digital Index.
Pinterest's share of referred visits was up 89 percent year-over-year and up 11 percent quarter-over-quarter. Martin expects Pinterest to surpass Facebook in the United States this year in terms of referring traffic to retailers; it already has done so in the U.K. "It's built as a retail social network, so it's not too surprising," Martin says.
Looking at the even more important metric of revenue per visit, it increased across all social channels. Tumblr increased revenue per visit the most, at 340 percent, followed by Pinterest at 244 percent, Twitter at 131 percent, and Facebook at 72 percent.
Tumblr is the big story, Martin says. "It's Twitter with more than 140 characters." He points out that Tumblr encourages strong visual content, which is much more engaging than text, according to the Adobe Social Index. "Tumblr is a very small portion of social traffic, only 1 percent, but providing really high-quality traffic," Martin says. "It's maybe underutilized by brands at this point. Marketers should look to get the most they can out of this high-quality traffic and then go down the line [of other social sites] to get the extra impressions they need."
Indicating the increased demand for visual content, Adobe found that Facebook posts with images or video produced a 650 percent higher engagement rate than regular text posts. At the same time, its analytics showed that, while 74 percent of brand posts include an image, video posts were down year-over-year and accounted for only 6 percent of posts.
Says Martin, "Brands need to focus more on getting quality content other than images to provide diversity of content to consumers -- and get more engagement."
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
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