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Is Social Marketing Your Online Store's Top Friend?

Is Social Marketing Your Online Store's Top Friend?

Online retailers should take advantage of the increased opportunities to attract new customers via social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, advises Clay Olivier, COO of Volusion. Signing up for a profile with one of these sites is relatively easy and, if you're a small business, it would be wise to befriend others and post bulletins and notes to spread the word about products and deals.

By Clay Olivier
06/13/08 4:00 AM PT

Today's savvy consumers want products from a business they can trust, learn from, relate to and "be friends" with. The two most popular social networking sites on the Internet -- MySpace and Facebook -- are potential springboards for friendly lead generation.

These sites give online business owners the ability to place their products and services in front of thousands of potential customers in a more personal, and easily accessible environment. With the ability to reach large and targeted audiences, the customizable, interactive and user-friendly interface of sites like MySpace and Facebook introduce social networks as an ideal platform to expand online businesses.

Growing Potential

The rapid growth online shopping had in the past years has drawn many new small businesses to the online arena. As online stores grow and the amount of revenue these stores acquire continues to tick higher, the amount of revenue potential that social networking sites provide continues to increase as well. Think back to about five years ago, when half of the brick-and-mortar businesses in the market didn't have a Web site. Now it's unlikely to see a television commercial without also seeing a Web site address or online special attached to it.

This applies to all products in today's market. No longer are cereal boxes and bottle caps offering immediate savings and benefits; instead they are used as tools to drive consumers to their Web sites. For online businesses, the opportunity to gain additional exposure online is especially important, and it's beneficial to utilize all tools available to increase brand awareness.

Creating Your Social Marketing Profiles

Signing up for a profile with MySpace or Facebook is relatively easy -- and it's free. There are several resources available to utilize when creating and designing a page for your business. Remember to keep your page current and informative, with a personality that matches your online store. Give a concise overview of your company and how it may benefit your target audience. Use common sense and creativity to spark your visitor's interest. Not only can these profiles compliment your online site, but they can also be used to find targeted consumers.

An ultimate social networking profile would be one in which you were sought out to become a friend. If you're a small business with limited exposure, however, a more realistic approach would be to seek out others instead. Once these friends are found, posting MySpace bulletins and Facebook notes are great tools to use when spreading the message about new products and special deals.

Expanding Your Niche Market

Several niche markets have been able to expand the visibility of their product line due to social networking sites. Music bands offer up an interesting case study for the opportunities within this new channel. It is estimated that more than 5 million bands are now using MySpace.

If these bands decide to take the next step and start selling their music and merchandise to their online fan base, they can realize significant gains. Another example can be found with fashion designers such as Ed Hardy. With more than 35,000 MySpace friends, all it takes is a simple bulletin post to inform each of these thousands of customers of a new product line or monthly special.

Taking Your Friends to the Checkout Page

A successful e-commerce solution company should help consumers to further promote their online store by allowing merchants to easily add products from that store directly into their social profiles. Then customers would have the ability to check out securely from that merchant's online storefront. This type of integration allows businesses to take full advantage of the potential that social networking sites have to offer.

Once these savvy businesses drive traffic from MySpace and Facebook to their online stores, it's important that they take advantage of the other aspects involved in social selling to close the deal. Web site design, site usability and quality of the site user's overall experience are key factors in gaining customer loyalty when online shopping.

Other features such as e-mail a friend, wish list, customer reviews and affiliate marketing tools can also help to socially spread the word about a store's products and services. Again, it's important for online store owners to take advantage of all of the tools available to market their items via the World Wide Web.

A Lasting Friendship

We've found that there isn't a single magic bullet for being successful online, and it's important for merchants to be creative and open to new opportunities when introducing their products to customers.

When entering the social networking world, a business is among thousands of potential leads all with the same vehicle for giving and acquiring information. Be honest, be personal, be a friend and in return, your new friends may become your lifelong customers.


Clay Olivier is COO of Volusion, an e-commerce solution company.


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