Facebook, Twitter Influence Holiday Gift Buying

Social media sites including Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. have influenced 28 percent of U.S. holiday shoppers in gift-buying decisions this year, according to a survey by ComScore Inc.

Shoppers were most swayed by product reviews written by other consumers, the Reston, Virginia-based research firm said yesterday in a statement.

"We are getting our first real glimpse at the impact social media will play on commerce as we enter the next decade," ComScore Chairman and co-founder Gian Fulgoni said in the statement.

J.C. Penney Co. and Eastman Kodak Co. are using Facebook, the world's largest social-networking site with more than 350 million users, and Twitter, a site that lets its more than 58 million users send 140-character messages, to lure shoppers searching for bargains online.

"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," Fulgoni said.

J.C. Penney fell 48 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $27.43 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have gained 39 percent this year. Kodak dropped 1 cent to $4.36. The stock has declined 34 percent this year.

'Two-Way Communication'Seven percent of survey respondents said they have followed a company's Facebook fan page to receive alerts on special deals, while 5 percent said they follow San Francisco-based Twitter. J.C. Penney has about 627,000 fans on its Facebook page and 3,200 followers on Twitter. Kodak has 47,000 on Facebook and 13,000 followers on its "kodakCB" Twitter site.

"The momentum continues this holiday season as companies really start to value two-way communication," said Tom Arrix, vice president of U.S. sales at Palo Alto, California-based Facebook. "Social shopping" is the main new e-commerce trend on the site, he said.

Facebook said in September it was teaming up with Nielsen Co. to allow companies to track consumer trends with polls.

Kodak is offering a Facebook application that allows users to create photo albums, send messages and share pictures. J.C. Penney's Facebook fan page allows users to exchange recommendations and stories about gift-buying.

"Our customers are spending a lot of time connecting with each other in these online communities, and we want to be there," said Nick Bomersbach, director of jcp.com. "Oftentimes they're talking about brands and J.C. Penney, and we want to have an open avenue to have that dialogue."

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