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.