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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 blogTwitterand 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...

Social Bookmarking

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.   

Twitter

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

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.

TopShop and eBuyer both have well written and frequently updated blogs which combine company news with special offers and useful hints and tips.  

Facebook

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

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.

Rich Media

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.

Trevor Ginn

Published 25 November, 2009 by Trevor Ginn

Trevor Ginn runs the online baby and nursery retailer Hello Baby and blogs at www.trevorginn.com.  You can follow him on Twitter

3 more posts from this author

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James Bishop

Trevor I think that you did a fine job outlining many of the components of Social Media and I appreciate you taking the time to do so. There is a lot out there to get your arms around and it is posts like this that truly help the cause. Again, thank you!

James

twitter.com/JamesB2B

almost 7 years ago

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katharinaberg

Comment to FB; H&M has 1.362.031 fans on their page ;)

almost 7 years ago

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Milly Diaz-Tamar.com

Great article, Trevor.  As you clearly pointed out, the retailers who are using social media aren't simply using the networks to broadcast messages.  Engagement/interaction with followers/fans are key to success. 

almost 7 years ago

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Anonymous

Sadly, those etailers that don't use social media often do it simply because "they don't believe in it". Not based on experienced, not based on any given data. They simply "don't believe".

I work as an Online Marketer in an ecommerce agency. I tried a lot to get our customers to do social media campaigns. By now, I didn't even get them to include "Share This"-links.

And the executives in our company ignore the topic, as well. It's like social media doesn't even exist to them. Even the simplest things, taking maybe ten minutes of programming time, aren't realized. And we care for the online shops of famous international brands.

almost 7 years ago

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David Moritz

Hi Trevor

Great article! But how would you recommend a well known company with a poor consumer perception to go about creatig an effective social media presence? Surely having a Twitter profile or Facebook wall could just provide amunition for these "haters" to post negative comments and drive a mass following.  Whilst the company could reply to each comment and use the interaction to their advantage, could this not simply be opening yourself up to a can of worms?

Thanks

almost 7 years ago

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Anonymous

@David: Social Media isn't the same as Facebook and Twitter. By choosing the right channels and the right conditions, you can put up a bit of control. But in case of big companies with poor customer support, they tend to have a social media problem way before thinking about a social media campaign...

almost 7 years ago

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Ilana

Hey Trevor

Retailers can also introduce their own community platform to integrate with their shop, like we have.

Ilana

Social Media Manager, ASOS.com

almost 7 years ago

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Patrick Murphy

Hi

Great post, so what do you think is going to be the next development?  Since they never really stand still

almost 7 years ago

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George Eberstadt

One way to break social initiatives down is between building a presence on social sites (aimed at driving traffic) and adding social functions on the merchant's own site (aimed at increasing conversion, and cross-sell/AoV).  (This is a deliberate simplification -- for example, things done a merchant's own site can improve SEO, which helps with traffic -- but simplicity is a virtue, too.)  Things like AddThis buttons, Facebook fan pages, and Tweeting fall in the former category.  Things like ratings/reviews, community features, and rich media fall in the latter.

Another powerful tool in that second category are "trusted reference systems" that can tell shoppers which of their friends are also customers of the store.  Shoppers are more likely to buy from stores they know their friends shop at.  My company, TurnTo, provides such a system.  The data show dramatically higher conversion rates from people who click on our widget than those who don't.

almost 7 years ago

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Brian Spiedel

Using social media, is a difficult task.And we should be guided.These six ways for online retailer to come up and can be a best internet marketing campaign.

almost 7 years ago

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Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Personal

@Llana,

Why does one need to register all their details (age, gender, address etc) to submit an idea to ASOS? I was going to suggest that the alt tags be removed from the menu at the top as they cover many of the options when navigating (causing friction and frustration) - but when i was faced with a six stage registration process i thought, haven't got the time, theres nothing in it for me. 

almost 7 years ago

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social bookmarking

Great article, Trevor.  As you clearly pointed out, the retailers who are using social media aren't simply using the networks to broadcast messages.  Engagement/interaction with followers/fans are key to success. 

Continue highlighting the truth!

almost 7 years ago

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