On one end of the spectrum, we have analysis from third-party, holiday-weekend trackers such as IBM and Adobe, which each looked at data sets from their respective clients. The lazy headline from their findings would be this: Facebook, and Twitter in particular, had little to no impact on direct traffic or online sales.
A look at Facebook’s findings, however, suggest a more uplifting takeaway. The social network said it drove a substantial amount of referral traffic to retailers’ websites yesterday. And then there’s Fab, a Facebook partner with the brightest outlook of all. The startup claims that at a massive chunk, or about one-fifth, of its holiday weekend sales can be traced back to Facebook.
So who should we believe? Everyone. I’ll tell you why, but first let’s go over the data sets.
In IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark report, the company shared a few findings about the correlation, or lack there of, between social networks and Cyber Monday online sales:
Adobe’s Digital Index came up with some similarly bleak-looking numbers around social and shopping on Cyber Monday. Keep in mind that the Adobe analytics team pegged online sales at $1.98 billion for the day, which is up 17 percent year-over-year.
Facebook, meanwhile, said that the top Internet retailers using the social network noticed an aggregate 240 percent increase in referral traffic on Cyber Monday compared to average referral traffic from the last several Mondays. Harry & David saw the highest jump in referral traffic. The basket-maker noticed an 11,425 percent uptick in referral traffic on Cyber Monday over the previous Mondays.
I requested the raw numbers associated with these leaps in referral traffic, but the company said it was unable to provide the data because it belongs to the advertisers.
Facebook did tell me, however, that the sites receiving the most referral traffic from Facebook on Cyber Monday showed an average increase of 18 percent versus Cyber Monday 2011 referral traffic.
E-commerce site Fab was also more than happy to provide evidence that Facebook helped it bring in record-breaking sales on over the shopping weekend, even though said data was lacking actual revenue figures. Boo. Here’s what the startup shared:
How does one reconcile these disparate data sets, each of which tell very different stories? Honestly, one doesn’t, except to conclude that the story of how Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest contributed to Cyber Monday is complex.
“You can do anything with numbers,” Altimeter Group digital advertising and media analyst Rebecca Lieb told me. She believes that Fab’s data is likely the most telling of what actually happened on Cyber Monday, though she cautioned me and everyone else to wait until all the ballots have been counted, so to speak. “All the data aren’t in yet.”