Data from Internet Retailer’s new Social Media 500 show that even though retailers are having a harder time getting their posts seen on social networks, social media is playing an increasingly important role in their overall e-commerce businesses. Consumers are spending more time on social networks, and online merchants are placing a bigger emphasis on reaching them.

As consumers continue to spend more time on social media, and the networks themselves roll out a slew of paid ad formats that allow retailers to better target users, online retailers’ social media strategies are looking markedly different today from just a year ago.

Data from Internet Retailer’s newly released 2015 Social Media 500 show online merchants are stepping up their focus on social media marketing, and their efforts are paying off. That’s despite the fact that it’s harder to get free exposure on Facebook, by far the largest of the social networks.

Retailers’ followings on social networks are way up this year, the data reveal. The 500 merchants ranked in the Social Media 500 boosted their collective number of Facebook Likes 33% in 2014 to 915.7 million. They also grew their Twitter followings 26% to 88.6 million, increased their Pinterest followers 16% to 34.7 million and drove 78% more video views on YouTube for a total of 3.89 billion.

That increased response from consumers helped drive more social traffic to e-retailers’ sites: Social Media 500 retailers got an average of 5.77% of total site traffic from social networks in 2014, up from 5.36% in 2013. Moreover, those social-derived visitors are purchasing more once they arrive on a retailer’s site. Total social commerce sales—purchases by consumers coming from social networks—reached $3.30 billion for the Social Media 500 last year, up 26.0% from $2.62 billion in 2013. That’s a far greater increase than the overall 16.9% growth in e-commerce in the U.S. last year.

The kicker is that the increased traffic and sales from Facebook and other major social networks isn’t coming cheap, as merchants are having to spend more on ads to have their content seen by consumers. That’s because Facebook shows fewer of a brand or retailer’s posts to its fans now than it did a few years ago, a strategy that effectively forces marketers to spend more on advertising to reach Facebook users.


While 12.05% of a brand’s fans saw a brand’s post in October 2013, that percentage fell to 6.15% just four months later, according to marketing and public relations firm Ogilvy & Mather. In an average month, a brand will only reach 25% of its fan base via organic posts, according to a report by social analytics vendor Socialbakers.

As Facebook no doubt intended, that has led retailers to significantly increase social media marketing ad budgets. The 43 e-retailers that shared social ad spending data boosted their collective ad budgets on social media 144% last year to $17.9 million per month. That includes six e-retailers that invested in social ads for the first time in 2014.

Now in its third edition, the 2015 Social Media 500 includes updated rankings and detailed listings of the 500 most effective social media marketers in North America, ranked by the percentage of site traffic they receive directly from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.

The publication is available in two formats. A 63-page PDF download includes in-depth analysis articles and case studies that delve into what’s driving the rapid evolution of retailers’ social media marketing programs. It also includes updated annual rankings and detailed charts that identify the merchants with the largest and fastest-growing followings on the major social networks, and data on which are driving the most sales and traffic from those outlets.


An online database subscription is also available on Internet Retailer’s, which allows subscribers access to 72 metrics for each retailer ranked in the Social Media 500, including exclusive social commerce sales figures for the past three years, monthly unique visitors from social networks, conversion rates on social traffic, social ad spending figures and key engagement metrics like average comment per Facebook post or number of retweets per Tweet. It includes 500 social commerce executives’ names and corporate contact information.

Click here to purchase the report.