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As the retail industry sorts out what worked this holiday season, expect a lot more attention to be paid to social media initiatives come Christmas 2010. That’s because the folks at comScore, who tend to generate a lot of good data about online activity this year, conducted a survey that said 28% of those shopping online were influenced by social media. Their definition of social media tends to be rather broad, and includes such things as online product reviews, but even so the trend is noteworthy.

Consumer-generated product reviews were the most common form of social media that had influenced holiday purchases (13% of respondents), followed by an expert product review (11%). Seven percent of respondents indicated they have followed a fan page on Facebook to take advantage of special offers and deals, while 6% said they have been influenced by a friend’s Facebook status update referring to a particular product. Five percent of respondents indicated they had followed a company on Twitter to take advantage of special offers and deals, while 3% said that a friend’s “tweet” about a product influenced their purchase behavior.

“Social media really appears to be emerging as an important marketing channel this holiday season,” according to comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “One the one hand, its emergence is being driven by increased consumer adoption of these technologies and the exponential growth in digital word-of-mouth that is occurring over this medium. On the other hand, having a social media marketing strategy makes sense for retailers in this environment because it’s cost-effective and shows an effort to get closer to one’s customers. I think we are getting our first real glimpse at the impact social media will play on commerce as we enter the next decade.”

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