December 5, 2013, 2:05 PM

How social is Amazon?

Amazon drives far more sales from social networks than other merchants.

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Amazon.com Inc.’s Facebook page is far from the most conversational page on the social network. While some retailers post about the news, or ask random questions to spark a dialogue, Amazon’s posts almost exclusively are promotional. For example, take its post on Saturday highlighting a Harry Potter box set containing all seven novels, along with the message, “Harry Potter fans, have you checked this out?”

On Twitter, its tweets take a similar tack exemplified by its Black Friday tweet, “Don't be a #DeadBattery. Up to 65% off Lenmar batteries & cases.” And on Pinterest it only has 17 boards, many of them old, which focus around themes such as “Ideas for dad” from Father’s Day. For the sake of comparison, the average number of boards among the 50 retailers with the most Pinterest followers in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Social Media 300 is 1,657. The Social Media 300, which is available on Top500Guide.com, ranks the leaders in social commerce by the percentage of web site traffic they receive directly from social networks.

But even though Amazon’s social media activity is rather promotional, it still manages to attract an average of 417 comments per Facebook post, which is the 12th-most among retailers in the guide. It also gets an average of 2,916 Likes per post, the 43rd-most among retailers in the guide. On Twitter, it averages 48 retweets per post, the 9th-most.

Those consumer interactions help Amazon drive significant sales via shoppers clicking from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networks to its site and making a purchase. About 3.67% of Amazon’s site traffic stemmed from clicks from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, according to data available on Top500Guide.com. That’s enough to make it No. 129 in the Social Media 300, which ranks retailers by the percentage of traffic to their web sites from social networks.

And because Amazon is so large—it attracts 89.9 million unique visitors in a typical month, according to comScore Inc. data featured in the 2013 Top 500 Guide—that small percentage of traffic stemming from shoppers clicking from social networks is significant. Amazon has more than 3.6 million unique visitors click from social networks to Amazon.com—the most in the Social Media 300 by nearly 1.5 million visitors. With an Internet Retailer-estimated 4% conversion rate from that traffic, Amazon generated more than $336 million in sales from those clicks last year—the most in the Social Media 300 by more than $248.2 million. For the sake of comparison, the average social commerce sales among the 50 retailers in the Social Media 300 with the most commerce sales were $1.3 million.

Amazon’s social commerce sales total alone would place the online retailer No. 87 in the 2013 Top 500 Guide. And that understates the revenue Amazon derives from shoppers coming directly from social networks. That’s  because the Top 500 Guide includes sales from Amazon’s various other web sites, such as Zappos.com and Diapers.com, while the Social Media 300 only includes sales from Amazon.com and not, for example, the Internet Retailer-estimated $34.9 million Zappos generated last year in social commerce sales, the 8th highest total in the guide. Including Zappos’ $34.9 million and Diapers.com’s $1.0 million in social commerce revenue would boost Amazon’s total to $371.9 million, which would place it No. 81 in the Top 500 Guide.

Like many retailers, Amazon doesn’t just seek to drive traffic to its site via social networks; it also incorporates social elements into its own site. For instance, to make it easy for shoppers to share products with their friends on social media, Amazon, like 331 other Top 500 Guide retailers, features a Like button on its product pages. It also has a Tweet button (as do 325 other Top 500 retailers), a Pinterest Pin it button (as do 307 other Top 500 retailers), a Google Plus +1 button (as do 265 other Top 500 retailers) and an E-mail A Friend button (as do 351 other Top 500 retailers).

And the world’s largest retailer continues to make its own site more social. Amazon says it will “soon” give customers more product information that stems from shoppers’ Facebook connections. For example, Amazon says customers with Facebook-connected accounts will see product reviews written by their Facebook connections and products that their connections have put on their Amazon Wish Lists. Wish Lists are a way for Amazon shoppers to collect and save information about products they’d like to have. Wish Lists can be marked private, but Amazon’s default setting for Wish Lists is for them to be public and viewable by anyone.

“Whether it helps you pick the right product or find great gift ideas, this feature makes it easier to discover items that may be of interest to you and your friends,” Amazon wrote in an e-mail sent to Amazon customers who already have opted in to connect their Amazon and Facebook accounts.

Amazon’s on-site and off-site social media efforts tie in with its broader efforts to personalize consumers’ shopping experiences using crowd-sourced data, says Wade Gerten, CEO and co-founder of social marketing vendor 8thBridge Inc.

“Unlike the majority of retailers that believe brand to fan engagement is the primary goal of social media, Amazon has always concentrated on methods to gather crowd-sourced product information and sophisticated algorithms to personalize the shopping experience,” he says. “Amazon believes social discovery is the most important aspect of social commerce.”

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