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How Social Media Impacts Foot Traffic to Retail Stores

May 26, 2021 by Placekey

In 2019, Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A had an online war about who had the ‘original’ chicken sandwich, with both businesses taking to social media to hash this out. In turn, Popeye’s sold out of chicken sandwiches in certain locations, showing that these online social media campaigns drive foot traffic to real-world locations.

In his dissertation, Thomas Weinandy uses this as inspiration for his primary research question: how does social media impact foot traffic to nationally recognizable retailers?

Social media engagement has small - but meaningful - impact on retail store visits

In his research, Weinandy found that social media has a small - but measurable and meaningful - impact on retail visits. The effect was different for each brand and each retail store, showing that some stores gained significantly more foot traffic than others from social media activity.

He found that higher social media popularity, sentiment, or disagreement all increase retail visits, showing that more social media attention - even not always positive - drives retail visits to stores.

How Placekey enabled research on social media’s impact on retail store foot traffic

This research was made possible by combining 2.7 million tweets from the Twitter API with 171 million store visits from SafeGraph foot traffic data, allowing an analysis of how Twitter engagement and interaction impacts footfall to these stores. For this analysis, Weinandy examined 15 nationally known brands, a total of 258 stores for the brands, and 110 days for each store.


To learn more about how SafeGraph enabled this research and share ideas with other users, join the SafeGraph community!

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