As more retailers look to develop effective social-media strategies, a new study finds that Facebook is by far the most effective way to woo would-be shoppers.
And chains that use their Facebook pages to promote new products and special sales are most appealing, with brands like Victoria's Secret leading the way.
"What surprised us most was how many customers say they really wanted to hear about sales and products," Kevin Ertell, VP/retail strategy for ForeSee Results, tells Marketing Daily. "Yet many retailers aren't doing that -- conventional wisdom is that fans want things like engagement, with polls, or pithy comments or customer services tools. This study found those things are actually far less important."
ForeSee, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., says that of the 69% of online shoppers who are social media users, 56% have chosen to "friend," "follow" or "subscribe to" at least one store. But they are selective, he says, and 61% of this group is connected to fewer than five companies. Another 21% is made up of more serious shoppers who follow between 6 and 10 stores, while just 18% is hardcore enough to have friended more than 10.
Typically, he says, customers who interact with a store brand through social media tend to be the most satisfied, creating a chicken-and-egg situation: "The most satisfied and loyal customers are seeking out their favorite stores' pages, and then if those experiences are rewarding, they become even more loyal."
Facebook is by far the dominant player: Among online shoppers who engage in social media, more than 80% are using Facebook. YouTube comes in second at 31%, followed by MySpace with 22%, Twitter with 16%, and LinkedIn at 12%.
Yet 25% of the top 100 online retailers have no formal presence on Facebook, Ertell says, and another 25% have fewer than 10,000 fans. Winners include companies like Limited Brands' Victoria's Secret, with some 2.8 million fans, and its teen brand Pink, with 1.8 million fans. "If you look at those pages, they are giving Facebook users exactly what they tell us they want -- information about new products, and special prices and promotions," he says. The study found that 49% of those who follow companies through social media want to hear about deals, and 45% want to see products. Only 5% use social media primarily for customer support.
Still, he concedes, it would be easy for stores to go overboard on sales and promotions. "It's like emailing customers about special deals. That is also effective, but if you send customers too many in a single day, they'll just stop responding."