The usefulness of social media sites for enterprises is limited to marketing activities, according to a consumer research firm.
"Social media is first and foremost a marketing tool. It is a way of putting across the brand's personality in a more tangible way than adverts," said Danielle Pinnington, managing director at Shoppercentric, which conducted the research.
Retailer and brand web sites are far more popular avenues for e-commerce sales among consumers than social media sites, the research found.
Shoppercentric reports that 63 per cent of consumers visit a retailer or brand web site to make a purchase compared with just six per cent who purchase goods through social media.
She added that, contrary to what some industry experts predict, sites such as Facebook are useful for promoting marketing messages, but transactions will continue to be best processed through company web sites.
"It is a very new trend that sees Facebook encroaching into the role of web sites. If Facebook starts to overlap too much with commerce web sites, it raises the question, why do you have the two touch points?"
She added that the key advantage of Facebook is that it gives consumers the opportunity to communicate one to one with brands, immediately.
"If you comment on a brand's Facebook page, you will get a reply within an hour; it feels like you're talking to the brand. On a corporate web site, if you leave a comment, it feels like it disappears," said Pinnington.
"Facebook has a more immediate role – but the transaction side is not so important because web sites are doing that bit brilliantly."
The research also showed that the majority (54 per cent) of respondents said they think the reason that brands and retailers were present on social media was simply to sell more products, while 43 per cent also thought that they were there "because everyone else is".
The findings are based on 1,000 interviews using an online panel with adults aged 18 to 64. The qualitative research consisted of two focus groups of 18-to-35-year-old shoppers who use social media. Half of the respondents also had to have smartphones. In addition four industry interviews were completed.
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