What Value Does Social Media Have?

Does social have the ability to drive traffic to stores and online?

The growth of Facebook since its birth in 2004 has been a world-wide phenomenon affecting most of our daily lives. Richard Lowe [Head of Retail & Wholesale at Barclays] reports that the growth of affordable mobile technology has helped to support the growth of social activity. On the basis that mobile technology improves over time, he believes that social commerce has a “significant role to play in the future of retail” . As a result, social commerce will start to have its own value as an “influencer”.

Many people who use social will be in a different frame of mind than those shopping online.
Users tend to be exploring their friends pages’, updating their status. One can assume that users will be more open to new ideas, inspiration and recommendations. As a result Facebook tends to be a hub of exploration, not currently a place for direct sales.

As a result, Facebook tends to be a hub of exploration, not currently a place for direct sales.

Therefore, social should not be seen as another nail in the coffin for high street businesses, social ought to be used as a way to tie together offers in-store (and online). Your content should reflect this; it should aim to – connect – engage – and react. What’s clear is that social sites should be more about influencing and engaging with your followers than pushing your sales message.

Shopping in social media is not yet a common activity.

Many of you know that the use of social platforms have surged over the past 3 years. From 2009 to 2012, Facebook has 5 times the amount of users, an increase from 175 million users to just over a billion users. Twitter has increased 8-fold from 11.5 million to just over 100 million users in 3 years.

With this growth, a third of online shoppers are said to be “social shoppers” – those that engage with social for shopping research e.g. browsing products online, comparing prices, reviews, comments on products.

This represents 32% of all online shoppers.

•    Only 21% of said they “always”, “frequently” or “sometimes” use social media as a shopping tool.
•    A higher 79% say that they rarely or never use social for shopping purposes.

Accessing social media sites as part of the shopping process is still very low. It is currently seen as a borderline activity not associated with thinking about the act of buying or shopping online. Social media’s current value lies in the early stages of buying.

The power of social media as an “influencer” relies on the fact that social media is more personal than the internet in its entirety… It’s said that social users are influenced by their connections; this is particularly true amongst the most devoted social enthusiasts. Social sharing and blogging facilitates and extends knowledge out into groups with common interests. The “I like” button and notion of “fans” and “followers” supports this idea of tribal interaction well. It works on the concept that groups of mothers are as much consumers, as single friends, husbands and wives.

It’s up to businesses to use social media to understand the human side to their interaction – Which platform is the best for me? How is the best way to communicate with my fans/ followers?…How can I interact with these groups on a personal level?

If this is carried out successfully, social media will encourage activity that builds a community where social users can discover, assess, feedback to friends and similar social groups.

Top Tips.

There is a fine line between what is considered valuable social communication and undesired spamming:

  1. Don’t use every social platform because you think you have to. Think about your business – what is the most appropriate platform for you? e.g. Facebook is more about creating a personal community, blogs are great for thought-leadership and adding a personal touch whereas Pinterest works well for businesses that are visual.
  2. Make clear business objectives and action plans to get there.
  3. Don’t ambush your following with promotional material and products. Get a good mix of content to give your page a personality and keep your followers interested.
  4. Be clear about your privacy policy and how you use personal data.
  5. Relate to the human side of your following. Approach you followers as a community genuinely interested in what’s behind your brand.
  6. Include social plug-ins on your website. Allowing people to share and make recommendations about products within their wider social network.
  7. Monitor your audience: There are plenty of tools out there for you to listen to your customers and look for trending issues.
  8. Social media is not a task to tick off your marketing list. It requires commitment, time, effort and last but not least creativity! Allocate the  resource to ensure you can take the time required to engage and respond quickly.
By 2018, 42.4% of world’s population will be plugged into the internet, with around 3.6 bn people able to access it at least once a month.
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