​Conflicting reports suggest social media referral rates are up for interpretation.

​Marketers have droves of data at their fingertips, which may prove to be more of a challenge than a benefit in the long term. While some studies ​cite​ practices like social media marketing drive significant referral traffic back to ecommerce sites, other reports suggest the exact opposite. Brafton recently covered Forrester research that found 32 percent of American consumers discover new web pages through their social media accounts, surmising organic and paid content helps brands generate leads via Facebook, Twitter and beyond. However, a separate study from L2 Think Tank indicates otherwise.

In the Specialty Retail 2013 report, search engines dominated referral traffic trends for ecommerce brands, driving 35.5 percent of overall traffic to retailers. Direct web browsing (33.9 percent), customer referrals (18.4 percent) and email marketing (8.7 percent) all followed in organic’s wake. In fact, social media only drove 2.4 percent of traffic to retail sites. While social may be lagging in L2 Think Tank’s study, diving deeper into the data may uncover different patterns.

The research also found that retailers’ adoption of today’s most popular sites increased year-over-year. More, nearly every U.S. retailer uses Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to promote branded content, according to the report, while Pinterest and Instagram hover around 90 percent market saturation. Clearly brands are embracing social media marketing as a source of lead generation – consumers just might not realize how much online content published to their News Feeds affects their likelihood to convert.

The L2 Think Tank data showed that direct web browsing, customer referrals and email marketing all drove more traffic to ecommerce hubs than social media. But the information does not say how leads opted into email campaigns, where they discovered brands in the first place before navigating directly to a domain or on what platform friends referred buyers to retail sites. With companies so focused on social as a profit-driving channel, it’s hard to say it doesn’t add to website conversions, especially as a lead nurturing and discovery platform.

Ted Karczewski is an Executive Communications Associate at Brafton. He works to develop his own voice and apply his passions to the evolving world of SEO and content marketing, but he doesn't shy away from writing for fun. After graduating from Suffolk University, Ted used his Communications degree to test out Sports Journalism before Marketing at Brafton.