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Social Marketing


Retailers spend months developing smart, effective strategies across their in-store, Web and mobile channels each holiday season. But social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can be just as powerful in getting the message out to shoppers in the days leading up to Christmas.

“As always, it’s going to be a value-driven Christmas, and people will be compelled by offers such as free shipping and rewards,” e-tailing group president Lauren Freedman said. “Whether you encourage consumers to ‘Like’ a brand for a discount code or use it as a way to get information out to target audiences in a timely manner, there are easy ways to boost social engagement and influence sales along the way.”

Keeping channels consistent is key, so the first step is to integrate a streamlined seasonal aesthetic. Retailers can dress up social media sites similar to how they would add pictures of gifts or snowflakes to an email marketing initiative or website. For example, consider switching the company’s usual profile picture on Facebook and Twitter with one that better represents the holiday season — the same goes for picking a fun, vibrant and seasonal Twitter background image.

“Merchants have to be consistent and since they are typically under-resourced, it’s strategic to take what you’re doing in mobile and on a website and somehow incorporate it on your social media channels,” Freedman said.

Not only is this important for visual themes, but integrating features across various channels is also effective. For example, apparel retailers Armani Exchange and Jessica Simpson have rolled out their Twitter newsfeed to their websites, allowing online shoppers to see in real time how people are tweeting about the brand.

Social media can also be integrated into other channels by encouraging Foursquare users to check into their store location and holding Twitter contests — for example, the first 20 people to retweet a message from the brand wins a prize.

“As long as there is a discount or an offer such as free shipping, consumers will do what they can to get it,” said Ken Burke, founder of online solutions provider MarketLive. “Retailers can also create a sense of urgency by offering Happy Hour specials on social networks that only last for an hour or so.”

According to a recent survey conducted by MarketLive, about 42% consumers said they plan to purchase products on Amazon, which means competitors need to give shoppers more reason than ever to visit their site instead.

“Amazon is a highly transactional site, but one way to compete is to make a brand more personalized,” Burke said. “Many retailers think they should have a silent voice, but incorporating corporate culture and posting pictures that show what the company really stands for can go a long way.”

Retailers, for instance, can post pictures of staffers decorating the offices or participating in charitable events. In addition, digital marketing agency Blue Glass advises retailers to ask their target audience questions on Facebook and Twitter to encourage engagement. Sample questions include: What was the best gift you received as a child? If you won a shopping spree, what would you buy? Even ask what the weather is like in their part of the country.

“People go to Facebook to keep up with friends, so consumers love when companies have a personality and don’t come across as just a large corporation,” said Tori Cushing, social media analyst at Blue Glass. “If a brand comes up on your newsfeed and only talks about products, consumer will think of it as spam and ‘un-Like’ the retailer. It’s important to keep that personalization and engagement factor, so your fan base doesn’t leave you behind.”

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