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Monday, September 26, 2011

Social Media and Big Retailers: Just Browsing, But Not Necessarily Buying Into the Concept

Earlier this year, Amazon.com announced the hiring of a director of social media, John Yurcisin, from WPP's Ogilvy & Mather. Yurcisin has been brought on board to help Amazon.com develop social strategies. Additionally, Amazon.com is in the process of creating a Social Games Group to compete with Zynga, the world’s leading social game developer.

Amazon.com is one of the relatively few large retailers that is joining the world of social media. According to a recent post on InternetRetailer.com, 79% of the online retailers listed in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide have their own Facebook page. However, only 12% of those retailers have the ability for consumers to shop on Facebook. The question is, why?

Business Size and Social Media Use
Small and medium-size businesses have turned to social media much more readily than their larger counterparts. Smaller businesses simply do not have the budgets for traditional marketing outlets, such as print and television, and, as a result, have to be more adaptable and innovative in their marketing strategies. Social media is an extremely cost-effective marketing tool, which is a great advantage, especially in a tight economy.

While big retailers do have the luxury of large advertising budgets, they are generally not as willing to take the time and effort to maintain a social media platform and prefer to stick with tried and true advertising methods. When larger retailers do acknowledge the effectiveness of social media as a marketing tool, they tend to forget social media is about connecting first, selling second, and focus on events and promotions rather than on fostering long-term relationships with consumers.

Rethinking Social Media
However, big retailers are making a critical error in their marketing judgment. Social media is not just for small and medium businesses. Big retailers have a lot to gain by engaging in social media and developing a strong social media presence. Large, international retailers are rethinking their overall marketing campaigns to include Internet marketing strategies, such as social media platforms.

Heineken, as reported in a recent blog post by Des Walsh on SocialMediaToday.com, has signed a deal with Google in a move to update their advertising strategy and to reach a younger target market. Adults in their 20s spend a considerable amount of time using social media, and it only makes good business sense to go where your customers are so that you can connect with them on a personal level. Large retailers not taking advantage of social media are clearly losing a source of potential revenue – revenue that is sure to be snapped up by businesses with strong social media platforms.

Moving Forward
While Amazon.com already had the potential for social interaction in the form of customer reviews and product recommendations, the company is now looking to strengthen its social media presence by adding Facebook and Twitter features – like the ability of readers to post public notes about what they’re reading – to its electronic book reader, Kindle.
While big retailers have the advantage of brand recognition and reputation, smaller businesses have the benefit of a connection and relationship with their customers. In an economic climate where consumers are more careful than ever about how they spend their income, large businesses can greatly benefit from making that personal connection as well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Is Social Media Worth the Time?

As a small business owner who is faced with making tough decisions while contending with limited resources, such as time, money, and personnel, “Is social media worth the time?” may very well be a question you find yourself asking. Whether or not social media is worth the investment in time and effort is an issue briefly explored by blogger Jason Keith, senior communications manager at Vista Print.

In a recent post for the Small Business Blog entitled,  “Social media might not be worth the time,” Keith puts forth the notion that maintaining a social media platform effectively is simply too time-consuming for many small businesses. Why?

The Challenges
Keith indentifies two main areas of social media maintenance that can potentially demand a significant amount of time. The first area is updating current followers. This means having the time to know what to say and then saying it on a frequent interest to maintain follower interest.  

The second area is monitoring and responding to feedback. Perhaps even more time-consuming, this follow-up process can take time, especially if there are a lot of comments left or questions to answer. While it is true both of these activities do require a certain investment of time to accomplish, the benefits far outweigh the costs of abandoning social media all together.

Why Social Media Is Worth It
The direct connection and communication that social media allows businesses to have with customers and potential customers are extremely valuable. Social media platforms are not only quick and easy to update, but they are also easily integrated into a seamless Internet Marketing strategy that leads customers – and revenue – right to your website or to your brick and mortar location.

Responding to feedback, especially negative feedback, is a crucial part of any social media platform. Social media allows businesses the opportunity to directly and personally address and rectify any issues or complaints a customer might have. This is a powerful tool to convert negative feedback into a positive experience for both the customer, and your business.

Most importantly, the fact that social media primarily involves time versus considerable money like traditional marketing channels makes it worth it. Using this tool means that you can more effectively target and reach more of your intended audience than through traditional advertising and print media. Again, that makes it well worth the effort.

Making Social Media Work
With today’s social media acting as the new word of mouth, your business can’t afford not to have a social media presence. One of the great things about social media is that, for every business out there, there is a social media outlet that is just right or one that can be customized to suit that business’s unique, individual needs. The effectiveness of those outlets is limited only by the creativity of those who use it.

If the thought of creating and maintaining a social media platform still seems daunting or out of reach, there is help. Experienced, professional firms, such as Flyline Search Marketing, offer high-quality social media services. 

Your business may not be able to spare the extra time or personnel to devote to social media, but there are effective social media solutions that can work within a small business budget.  Contact Flyline with any questions or to learn more about social media solutions for your business.

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