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Social Media for Retailers: Thumbs Up for Facebook

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Facebook was initially created in 2004 to help university students network and get to know each other. Since then, it has really evolved -- catering to a worldwide audience and expanding into corporate brand pages for every kind of business including retailers in the consumer goods industry.

Thinking back to an article I came across by Moontoast called "The Social Commerce Opportunity," I'm reminded of some interesting statistics: "70 per cent of active online adult social networkers shop online" and "according to Gartner Research, by 2015 companies will generate 50 per cent of web sales via their social presence and mobile applications."

So, to continue with where I left off in my last post about Twitter, "Social Media for Retailers: Tweets to Success," let's explore some of the advantages of getting on board with Facebook to increase brand awareness and drive sales.

Advantages

Use Facebook as an extension of your brand identity. From the overall look of your page, to the voice you use in every post, make sure it's a true reflection of your brand's DNA. Starting up an account costs nothing, and you can choose to upload content yourself or hire someone to take care of it. Similar to Twitter, your potential customers are users already. Look at it this way: As of September 2012, Facebook was reported to have over one billion active users.

Interact, engage, and network. These are three things we, as online retailers, want to do, but are often unable to do so. So if you can't meet your customers face-to-face, meet them Facebook-to-Facebook. With the help of Facebook, brands have a direct line to their target demographic and are given a great tool to help engage with this audience.

For example, Facebook makes it easy for you to track data and analyze your numbers, so right off the bat, you can see how many people are talking about you, how many fans you have, and how many people have seen your content. Use this to your advantage: experiment with the type of content you're putting out there and play around with what time you're posting. Then, watch the number of likes, shares, and post visibilities to determine what kind of posts resonate best with your consumer -- e.g., which get liked or shared more often: inspirational photos or product posts? Do more fans tend to see your post early in the morning, or later in the evening? What time of day do you see the most interaction? Use this information to make sure your page is robust with quality content that your users want to see during a time of day that they're most likely to see it.

Also, consider Facebook as a sounding board for information. For example, clothing brands can post a sneak peek of an upcoming collection online and instantly see which products are getting the most likes from their consumers. This can help determine which pieces will have a better chance of doing well in-store. Or, use Facebook as an opportunity to hear directly from your target audience -- ask a question and have them weigh in with an opinion. Read user posts/comments and start a conversation.

Examples and usage

Here are some memorable ways retailers have used Facebook successfully:

Ford Motor Company
In 2010, Ford made an unconventional decision in launching the debut of their new Ford Explorer: they did it on Facebook. The result? Prior to the debut, the Ford Explorer page had 42,500 fans. At the end of the day, that number went up to over 53,000, surpassing their goal of 50,000 likes.

Cadbury Dairy Milk
Who doesn't like a huge thumbs-up? To celebrate their sweet reach of one million Facebook fans, Cadbury constructed the "like" button using 6,600 pounds of chocolate and live-streamed the whole process over Facebook.

And here are a couple well-run brand pages:

Starbucks
With over 34 million "likes," over 385,000 people talking about the brand, and 7 million location check-ins, Starbucks comes in at the top of my list of favourite brand pages. From unique product images, inspirational photos, news about ethical initiatives and most importantly, eGift cards that you can share on other people's walls, Starbucks sets the bar for social media done right.

Old Spice
As you can see on their viral "I'm on a Horse" advertisement, Old Spice, as a brand has spunk. The language used is quirky and it is clear that they know what gets people talking. Staying on top of trends and having personality is important for a brand's online presence.

Facebook is a social networking platform. The best way to socialize with users, even online, is to be human. Start conversations, reply to comments, and keep your users engaged with organic content that best represents your brand.

Bottom line is, more people are spending more time on social media. This means retailers can interact with potential customers more and, with any luck, in return, they'll "like" you!

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