Customers who follow their favorite brands on Facebook don’t just vote with their likes—they also open their wallets.

Consumers who interact with a retailer through Facebook visit those stores about 5 percent more often and contribute 5.6 percent more revenue than other customers, according to a study conducted by researchers at Aalto University in Finland, Texas A&M, and University at Buffalo.

In recent years there's been plenty of advice about how to grab more customers through Facebook, Twitter, and blog platforms. But few previous studies of this ilk have provided hard numbers.

 “I think we’re the first ones to say [social media] may be good, but how good is it?” said Ram Bezawada, PhD, Assistant Professor of Marketing at UB who worked on the study. “We were able to obtain collaboration from a leading retailer who was willing to help us analyze store transaction data, so we were able to connect users with purchases.”

Bezawada said that previous studies have focused mainly on social media users’ behavior without making a discernable connection to sales. He described the participating company, which remained confidential, as a regional specialty retailer in upstate New York. 

The study demonstrated that retailers who’ve mastered the social media hook have positive, easy-to-use interfaces, send regular updates, and feature messages customized for specific groups of consumers.

In particular, high-end premium products introduced through Facebook content received a measurable boost in customer purchases, both online and in-store.

Bezawada believes the measurable results will prove a powerful resource for retailers attempting to strike a balance between traditional and social media marketing.

“Companies can actually plan their marketing budgets based on what kind of response they get,” said Bezawada. “If sales increase by a certain amount they can allocate more dollars to social media, and their budgets are optimized.”