June 1, 2012, 1:11 PM

Fewer shoppers follow retailers on social media

The percentage of consumers socially connected to merchants fell nearly 12%.

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51% of consumers follow at least one retailer on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, a 12% dip from 58% a year ago, according to a new report by Shop.Org, the online retail division of the industry trade group National Retail Federation.

Concerns about privacy and sharing their personal information were the chief reasons respondents said they do not follow brands on social media, according to the survey, which examined consumer’s attitudes about social media. The survey, which polled 1,507 consumers, was conducted by web measurement firm comScore Inc., Shop.org and the Partnering Group consultancy.

The survey also found that consumers who do follow retailers on social media increasingly are doing so on visual-focused social network Pinterest, rather than Facebook and Twitter. Shoppers who follow brands on Pinterest follow 9.3 merchants, on average, compared to 8.5 on Twitter and 6.9 retailers on Facebook.

The reason for Pinterest’s success is its visual nature, says Vicki Cantrell, executive director of Shop.org. The social network enables users to ‘Pin’ things on the web that they like, such as a recipe or a photo of a piece of jewelry. Those Pins are then gathered together on the user’s Board, which she can organize and share with friends. Consumers can follow other shoppers on the social network, which enables them to see each others’ Boards; that also can help consumers discover brands or products.

"Pinterest has given retailers another channel to listen to, and interact with, both existing and new customers,” she says. “It allows them to tell an ongoing visual story—through images of their products and their brand spirit—a story that customers can then tell to their friends and family members.”

Social media is driving traffic to retailer’s web sites, the report found. 58% of Facebook users who follow at least one brand say they have clicked through a merchant’s post to the retailer web site, as have 46% of Twitter users and 66% of Pinterest users. Moreover, 30% of women and 34% of men who follow a retailer on Facebook said they have actually purchased a product or service from a link posted on the site.

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