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New media evangelists proudly claimed that 2010 would be the 'Year of Social Media'. The real question for me as an Online Merchandiser is how this technology can be harnessed to turn users into buyers.

Any exploration of the idea needs to come with some essential caveats. Firstly, marketers need to consider their audience carefully. Early adopters of new media networks, particularly younger people, don't tend to respond well to "their" networks being overtaken by people trying to sell them products.

A recent study by Roiworld found that 20% of teenagers now use Facebook less or not at all due to the advertising content. The brand was badly stung by privacy issues relating to advertising in 2008.

Generally speaking, web users don't mind being marketed to, providing that they have agreed to the nature of contact, and the content is relevant to them. Twitter is all too aware of this issue; as Dick Costolo mentioned at a web conference in Paris earlier this year, "Promoted tweets are not ads. They're only tweets."

Secondly, companies need to be very aware of the tone of their content. The rules of party small talk apply: it's generally best to steer well clear of politics, religion and other potentially controversial subjects.

Thirdly, consider the benefits and costs of this fast, direct and mass interaction with your web customers. It's as easy for an irate customer to post an angry tweet as it is for your best customer to sing your praises.

With that in mind, I present a list of key ideas for turning social media from an interesting diversion into a profit-making activity:

Get involved

Identify key brand advocates by using Google Alerts to spot your brand on blogs, then contact the bloggers and start to build up a relationship with them.

The benefit of having a network of (positive) content writers on tap cannot be underestimated. Also don't be afraid to respond to customer comments on blogs or tweets.

Be helpful, courteous and polite, and write to customers as if you're speaking to them on a shop floor, and you shouldn't go wrong.

Strike a balance

It's important to pitch your content in the right way, not too casual (you should be business-like) but also not too formal (customers like to see the personal touch behind the corporate face).

In my opinion, examples of brands that get this right are Topshop (read the Inside Out blog), Net-A-Porter's brilliant Facebook page, and Argos' enthusiastic tweeting.

Blog, blog, then blog again

Blogging is fantastic for SEO (which, by the way, is far from dead). Loyal customers will enjoy looking behind the scenes of your brand, and you can reward them by flagging up new product ranges, or perhaps giving early notice of sale dates.

Don't just mention your products in the text of your blog, link to them, offer a "quick buy" button if possible, and use images and video.

Measuring and testing social media activity is vital

Any web analytics package worth its salt will track social media conversions, as well as identifying referred sales. As with any online marketing, testing is the best way to evaluate the success of your campaigns.

Experiment with different forms of content (viral tweets, Facebook posts, targeted CPC advertising, blogging) and find out which works best for your customers.

Motivate your customers

Give your customers the incentive to engage with your brand. Why not run a competition for customers who comment on your blog?

A common Facebook trick is to offer a discount or promotion in return for "Liking" a brand. Similar promotions can be run on Twitter by asking customers to use a particular hashtag in their post.

Chris Moffatt

Published 13 December, 2010 by Chris Moffatt

Chris is Online Director for Kidcount and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect via LinkedIn or Twitter

7 more posts from this author

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Mark - Wealth Coach

When bussiness think about social media as a platform to put their brand on social media, they should start strategizing the steps and be willing to take the time to make corrective actions along the way. Businesses' desire/passion and willingness towards marketing trends will make them stay up to date.

almost 6 years ago

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buyer beware

"Promoted tweets are not ads. They're only tweets." Not according to the OFT which regards any content whether tweets, blogs or status updates that are paid for by marketers as promotional and that must be clearly disclosed with that content in a way the consumer cannot mistake or miss. http://www.oft.gov.uk/OFTwork/consumer-enforcement/consumer-enforcement-completed/handpicked_media/ The OFT looked at Handpicked Media but its ruling is intended to apply to affiliate content labelled editorial.

almost 6 years ago

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Aaron Eden

I love this idea you have on running a competition on my blog.  I think I'll give that a try.  I guess, contrary to popular belief, blogging won't be dead - especially when third party social networking sites has total control over what you own ( unless you're Diaspora and the likes ).  Building trust and credibility is still a hunt for the holy grail of social media and lucky is the business who finds it.  Cheers!

almost 6 years ago

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Nicholas Hammond

Its actually against facebooks terms of service to offer special rewards or incentives to users that like your page. Just thought I'd add that in there since theres a potential your page can be taken down if you do it, although its very rare they actually go after you. nickhammonddesign.blogspot.com

almost 6 years ago

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Nicola Clement, Group Online Manager at Forever New

Interesting that the Argos Twitter account you referred to only seems to have broadcast tweets... struggling to find a reply or RT to show true two way communicaiton...

almost 6 years ago

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Chris Moffatt

@Nicholas Hammond   Certainly Facebook do seem to have very strict and somewhat anachronistic rules around advertising, particularly around the Like button.

Until recently, it was possible to have a Facebook representative review the incentive/competition and approve it, provided that you had a significant advertising spend with Facebook. That's why I used the word "trick" in my post - it was always somewhat of an under-the-counter approval process. However, even that option seems to have gone in the latest revision of their promotion guidelines.

Given the number of retailers who are still doing this - big players such as Net A Porter amongst them - it seems that many are willing to break the rules.

almost 6 years ago

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Mikko Rummukainen

Thanks for the post, these sorts of checklists can be of great help for companies who are still just getting into using social media outlets, or have a hard time figuring out how to make better use of their current Social Media efforts.

One thing I would like to point out, however, is that setting feasible objectives is key, and only after that companies should design their social media strategy. Sometimes it might be better to start off by approaching just a few of the outlets at first, before going all out. For example, posting content on Facebook and Twitter are quite different in terms of how meaningful discussions and relationships get built.

My advice would be, that companies first set off by mapping out their social media surroundings, and then seeing where they could be strongest as their own brand or within their category. This is exactly where social media measurement makes a whole bunch of sense.

almost 6 years ago

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Steve Goldner, Director, Social Media at Hachette Filipacchi Media

I think there is a big disconnect between the title of the article, "Five ways to monetise social media," and the content. The content of the article supports ways to engage with your target audience and build relationships. This is the essence of social media. When you make statements like "monetise social media" I would expect some commentary on revenue. I have always said that marketing and sales are different things. Social media and sales are different things as well. Social media should not be a selling endeavor, but rather a marketing endeavor (or customer support or requirements collection). A good source to read is "Reality Check: Social Media Integration and Measurement" at http://ow.ly/3nZZW I am with you on your recommendations here for social media - but these are not monetising steps. Social media builds awareness and generates leads - should not be used for or to measure sales. Social Steve

almost 6 years ago

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Ellis Covington

Nicola, Argos have a seperate twitter account for their two way communication. Have a look at http://twitter.com/argoshelpers .

almost 6 years ago

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Angie Mee

Many people may start to tire of Facebook if it continues to allow a person's 'likes' or interests to infiltrate their posts.   As soon as we 'like' a product or service it gets in the way of the conversation with friends /contacts by showing every comment from the company or group.  It's rather like someone butting into a conversation.    Facebook should consider setting up a separate section for likes or interests which doesn't interfere with our conversational posts.             

almost 6 years ago

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AlphaPoint

Five great tips indeed. One of the things that we've found to be great is setting up multiple Google Alerts, as you've mentioned. We can receive real-time notifications about people talking about our brand, trigger keywords, or other industry trends. We can then use a platform like Tweetdeck to interact and engage with these people on social platforms.

As you've outlined, blogging is huge as well. We've been able to use our social media platforms as a launch pad for our blog articles related to data center management and build a great following behind our articles... Mostly tech people, which is great for our brand. Google also likes lots of fresh content (i.e. blog articles), and is rewarding those brands that make a conscious effort to become a publisher through their corporate blogs.

about 4 years ago

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