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Social Media Strategies For Holiday Retailers

As social is where consumers eyeballs are, business' must take ownership of their online company profiles.
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With the holiday shopping season in full swing, retailers often feel an increased pressure to report higher than average earnings for December. To help amplify marketing efforts, the thought leaders have turned to integrate social media into their existing business models. Tapping into such a fanbase allows retailers to pinpoint and target precise shoppers based off their social networking activity. By introducing a social media strategy into a retail organization, marketing teams can rapidly increase their customer engagement and drive sales during this 2012 holiday shopping season.

Social media is the most disruptive form of communication humankind has seen since the last disruptive form of communications, email. There are 3x more social media accounts than there are email accounts. Email has seen a 59 percent decrease in usage amongst 12 to 17 year-olds and 12 percent decrease amongst 45 to 54 year-olds. With over 3.5 billion social media accounts broadcasting and sharing trillions of messages to audiences in every corner of the globe, it is now socially acceptable for customers to update their profile status, tweet and retweet messages, 'check-in' to locations, upload photos and videos, request on-location support, use third-party apps, post links, and 'like' or '+1' content at any moment. There seems to be no end in sight for all of this chatter.

As social is where consumers eyeballs are, business' must take ownership of their online company profiles. By providing their customers with a place to share content, social media managers can monitor and track content which directly relates to their brand. Among the retail industry, popular social media networks include: Twitter, Facebook Pages, LinkedIn Company Pages, Google+ Pages, YouTube, Flickr and Tumbler. Using a social media dashboard, social media practitioners manage multiple accounts, consolidate these conversations, engage with their customers, offer on-location support, understand influential power, collaborate internally with teams, share the assignment of tasks, measure the success of campaigns, and understand audience sentiment at a mass scale.

When it comes to interacting with customers using social networks, those in different locations may have different needs, speak different languages, or follow different trends. Retailers that present customers with content specific to their individual needs are more likely to receive acknowledgement. Using geo-targeting messaging allows retailers to target their messaging efforts based on geo-region or language so that they can achieve true global marketing. For example, customers can receive a geo-targeted post in their feed that provides them with a unique #hashtag that saves them 20 percent off their purchase when they "check-in" to the corresponding retail location. This #hashtags can then be tracked and monitored to understand the resulting ROI of sending this one simple, scheduled message. Some messages even turn viral when retailers pinpoint unique ways of speaking to their customers. These memes quickly spread like wildfires across multiple social networks and are shared over and over again.

Social media is also an effective way of retailers providing on-location support for their customers. For example, say a shopper posts a negative message about a brand or retailer after receiving bad service or a damaged product. Social media platforms allow community mangers to quickly react to negative messaging, reversing any potential PR disasters and preventing an eruption from spreading across the network. Know that social media must be just that -- social. Retailers must engage with customers on a personal level, analyze what they're saying, how they're saying it, and the way they interact with each other. Setting up keywords or search streams help analysts understand what is trendy among their target audience. This can assist them in predicting holiday shopping patterns and develop retail marketing strategies that focus on customer's lifestyles and personal preferences. Keywords are also useful for businesses looking to keep track of competitor activities. If closely monitored, social media offers an effective way of predicting a competitor's next social media move!

Businesses often use social media to monitor, measure, track and gauge their customer demographics and sentiment using Google Analytics and Facebook Insights. These social networks are now widely accepted as the new focus group for studying human behaviour. By monitoring the activity taking place on social networks, retailers can amplify successful marketing and sales strategies and avoid weak tactics which can later be tied back to organizational objectives.

Among all the chatter, how do retailers know how they should prioritize all this engagement with such limited time? When monitoring activity, consider Klout scores, especially if customers have high influence among their community. By prioritizing engagement this way, conversations grow faster and spread quicker -- providing a solid foundation for viral marketing opportunities to launch.

Last but not least, with all of this public content that is associated with a brand's online reputation, social media security must be practiced. Doing so will allow retailers to take control and protect the social assets and communications that happen through their online brand presence. Security features also help in the prevention of mishaps like accidental tweets or hacked networks.

Although social media is a relatively new form of communication, it has become the primary way retailers and customers are interfacing. With the holidays just around the corner, businesses are using social media strategies to help them surpass sales expectations for the season. By taking control of multiple social media profiles, practitioners can consolidate the conversations taking place around their brand, engage with their customers, collaborate amongst their teams, measure the success of their campaigns, and understand audience behaviour and sentiment at a mass scale unlike ever before.