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Leveraging Social Media to Boost E-Commerce Holiday Sales

By Sean Cook, ShopVisible
Oct 21, 2009 8:48 AM PT

The following is an excerpt from an eight-page special report, exclusive to ECT News Network. Addressing the power of mobile messaging, social media and other word-of-mouth technologies, this paper provides concrete advice on how to integrate them into an e-commerce business plan. The complete report is available as a free download to ECT News Network subscribers.

Leveraging Social Media to Boost E-Commerce Holiday Sales

Word of mouth has long been a priceless asset to any business, and technology has expanded the playing field in a whole new way with mobile messaging and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more. Every day, it seems hard to avoid the buzz about social media -- who's on it, what they're doing and what the latest trend is. Through all the chatter, it can be difficult for many business owners to know whether they should get involved, where to start, and how to launch their own social media campaign.

Technology has changed the way people shop, and it has also changed the way they live and communicate. Social media's growing popularity and impact on business has established that it is not a fad, but rather a growing part of the consumer conversation. Studies show that people are spending more than 80 percent more time on social media sites today than they were a year ago. Twitter's reach has grown amazingly in the first half of 2009, reaching 10.7 percent of active Internet users in the month of June. What's more, these millions of tweets and Facebook pages are coming more and more from the 35-and-older demographic.

Online retailers who want to tap into new and existing opportunities for growth must implement tactics to maximize word-of-mouth marketing technologies to begin increasing reverberations of their company. Businesses need to utilize the technology that is available and create a specific plan for marketing and consumer promotions using social media.

Word of mouth, whether face-to-face or online, relies on the unfiltered opinions of consumers about the goods and services they use, and it can have a dramatic impact on the success of an online retailer. There is a growing list of innovative ways that businesses are using social media as a word-of-mouth marketing tool. However, there are some basic principles and strategies that can be easily implemented for e-tailers who need to get started.

Jump In!

Core components to accelerate positive word of mouth involve knowing how opinions are shared, listening and responding to consumers (even if they are being negative), sharing information on your products, and giving consumers easy tools to share feedback. These simple principles remain true for traditional word of mouth and also apply directly to new word-of-mouth technologies.

The first step to engaging in digital word of mouth is to find out where and how opinions are being shared. There is no surefire best place to start when it comes to social media; the most important thing is to dive in and start familiarizing yourself with the different networks to learn where and how people are talking.

If you haven't been on Twitter, Flickr, Digg, YouTube or Facebook yet, do it immediately. Look to see if your competition, your customer base and even your employees are there -- and check out what they are saying. Each page has its own site search function, so simply type in key terms related to your company and industry to get started. Also, be sure to check out blogs that may be related to your business, and see what people are saying. Technorati is a great resource to help find blogs that may be related to your company. For example, if you sell tea and teapots, then you would want to know there are blogs dedicated to drinking tea.

Finding out where audiences are talking and what they are saying should be an ongoing process for any business and needs to become a core component of ongoing marketing. After your initial exploration, stay active in monitoring and participating in the digital networks where people are sharing their thoughts, and look out for new social media sites and tools that continue to emerge. Depending on available resources, e-tailers can have a dedicated word of mouth manager or can simply integrate daily monitoring into existing operations.

Identify Goals and Objectives

Chances are, you will find some surprising discoveries from your initial social media endeavors, and it can be tempting to immediately begin talking back to consumers who may be chatting about you. However, it is important to first plan what you want to achieve through digital word of mouth, how you want to implement your strategies, and how you intend to measure success. Do you have a quota to meet this holiday season? Are you launching a new product and need to get the word out fast? Or do you want to enhance brand recognition and customer service?

When outlining your goals, be sure to consider not only what your company will achieve but also what your customers will gain. Social media is an opportunity to grow your business and enhance customer service and satisfaction. By listening to what shoppers are saying, you can gain real-time insight into their needs and directly respond to them, in most cases ...

Click here to continue reading this eight-page special report.

Sean Cook is CEO of Atlanta-based ShopVisible, which combines e-commerce technology with the power of online communities and social networks. With more than 11 years of experience in online marketing, management and new technology innovation, Cook parlays ShopVisible's e-commerce solutions into bottom-line results for clients.

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