A quick survey of Hitwise’s list of top UK online retailers shows that adoption of social media is patchy to say the least. The recent hype around Twitter and Facebook has clearly caught their attention with 69% and 50% respectively having a profile.
However, a measly 31% use blogging and social bookmarking and, surprisingly, only 25% use product reviews. Even when social media is being used, it is not always obvious. Debenhams, for example, has a blog, Twitterand Facebook page, not that you would know that from their homepage.
Since the benefits of social media, in terms of connecting with customers and driving traffic, are well established this lack of enthusiasm is surprising.
Here is a quick review of the basic options available to retailers, as well as examples of companies which are using social media tools to their advantage...
Adding social bookmarking links to all website pages is a quick win for online retailers and allows customers to share products quickly. There is really no excuse for not including these links as services like AddThis and ShareThis provide ready made widgets for easy integration.
AddThis widget is used on the Topshop and ASOS websites to provide their bookmarking links. Alongside the popular bookmarking sites such as Delicious and Stumbleupon there are also shopping specific sites like ThisNext and Kaboodle.
As users opt to follow tweets, posting on Twitter can be used as a form of highly targeted permission marketing. Examples of companies with highly successful Twitter profiles are ASOS (18,000 followers) and ToysRUs (16000 followers).
These retailers use Twitter to communicate directly with their customers, publish company news and post special offers. Twitter also allows companies to search historical tweets to find what is being said about their products and brand.
Blogging has huge benefits for businesses as it provides a platform to publish all kinds of interesting content and receive feedback from customers. A well written blog can quickly build up a loyal readership and establish a company as an authority in their field.
Blogs are also a powerful tool for driving natural search engine traffic as Google gives preference to unique, frequently updated content.
Facebook allows businesses to create their own pages which individual Facebook members can become fans of. By acquiring Facebook fans, companies have the opportunity to market their services to the enormous Facebook audience.
Innocent Drinks (15,000 fans) and Zappos (22,000 fans) both have successful Facebook pages. These companies actively interact with their Facebook fans and post frequent, interesting and targeted content, such as competitions, company news, photos and product launches. Their Facebook pages have become vibrant communities centred around the company’s products.
Product reviews were one of the first ways in which retailers harnessed the social potential of the web and were a major driver behind the early and continuing success of Amazon.
Allowing customers to add reviews to a site provides valuable and authentic product information to potential customers. It also generates additional site content to be indexed by Google.
Use of rich media such as video, audio and photo sharing is a great way of giving users more information about a company and its products. Video has obvious advantages for displaying and demonstrating products and by hosting on video sharing sites like YouTube they can easily be shared across the web.
Play.com uses video for trailers and Kiddicare extensively uses videos hosted on YouTube for product demonstrations, while Innocent Drinks and ASOS encourage customer to share photos related to their products using Flickr.