November 16, 2011, 1:41 PM

Facebook friends are friends indeed

Wal-Mart’s Facebook fans are 40% more likely to buy from Wal-Mart than the average shopper.

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Recent research finds that fan and their friends are more likely to buy from retailers they "Like" on the social network.

Retailers may be one step closer to quantifying the return on investment of their Facebook activities.  ComScore Inc. data show that consumers who indicate they “Like” a retailer on Facebook and the friends of these consumers on the social network are significantly more likely to buy from that retailer than consumers who are not fans or friends of fans.

ComScore, a research company that measures consumers’ online behavior, displayed its findings during a webinar it hosted yesterday. The company studied the buying influence wrought by fans and their friends for Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy. It found that consumers who directly “Like” one of those retailers on Facebook are more likely to buy from that retailer than a consumer who has no affiliation with the retailer on Facebook. ComScore chairman Gian Fulgoni says retailers might expect this because these consumers have already expressed their affinity for the retailer. When a consumer clicks the “Like” button for a retailer on Facebook he then receives messages posted by the retailer within his newsfeed.

What is less expected, Fulgoni says, is the effect that word-of-mouth “Like” endorsement has among that consumer’s friends on the social network. When a consumer clicks the “Like” button for a retailer his friends on the social network also see a message within their own newsfeeds that he has become a fan. If those friends visit the retailer’s Facebook page, they also see a message on the upper right of the page with the name of that consumer and any others within their network who say they are fans of the retailer.  

While a consumer who Likes Wal-Mart on Facebook is 40% more likely to buy from the retailer than a consumer who has no Facebook affiliation with the retailer, that consumer’s friends on Facebook are 25% more likely to make a purchase from Wal-Mart than a consumer who has no such affiliation with the retailer, comScore says.

“These results show the degree to which the friends of fans will over-index in their likelihood to buy from a retailer,” Fulgoni says, meaning friends of fans are more likely to buy from a retailer when compared with consumers who are not connected to a retailer in any way on Facebook. “This is about the amplification of reach, and it is a powerful way for any marketer to impact their business.”

The research showed that fans of Target on Facebook are 57% more likely to buy from the retailer and their Facebook friends are 8% more likely to make a purchase at Target than consumers who have no Facebook connection to the retailer. Fans of Best Buy are 57% more likely to buy from the retailer and their Facebook friends are 34% more likely to buy at Best Buy than consumers who have no Facebook connection to Best Buy.

According to comScore data collected in September, Wal-Mart has approximately 10.2 million Facebook fans, Target 5.8 million and Best Buy 5.0 million. Wal-Mart is No. 6 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, Target is No. 22 and Best Buy is No. 11.

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