Social Commerce is the Long Game

My Definition: “Social commerce is the practice of using social media for commercial purposes”.

The short -term dichotomy

When it comes to using social commerce correctly it takes time and patience to produce results.

Social commerce is about building communities, identifying and generating e-Influencers and in turn increasing advocates. Having done so, sales will start to improve and more customers will be kept, but these strategies take time; you can’t make friends and influence people in matter of a few short months.

So here’s the social commerce dichotomy. Many marketing directors are driven by a results horizon of three to six months – in other words they are under pressure to run campaigns that show returns in less than half a year.  The end result is that the agencies they use are not using social media networks to generate engagement and build communities; they are sticking to traditional marketing practices such as display ads and sporadic campaigns in hope of getting click-throughs.  The issue with this is that display ads are not effective when posted in people’s social spaces and social commerce engagement demands a continuous drip feed not short term hits.

Overcoming the dichotomy with courage

Firms such as Nokia, RIM, Motorola, Playstation and Xbox have proven that consumers who are involved with them via social media networks spend annually 20% to 140% more than a consumer who is not. So what are these companies doing to achieve these outstanding results?

Amongst other best social commerce practices, they are formulating a social commerce strategy with clear objectives to be achieved over the minimum of a year.  They take a programatical approach whereby they use social media to and strengthen their longer term marketing objectives as well as augmenting marketing campaigns. Social commerce is far more effective when integrated with other Marcoms initiatives and not treated in isolation.

They use surveillance tools such as EngageSciences, Cymfony or ExactTarget to identify consumers with the greatest social network ‘reach’ and classify them as a new market segment category and nurture a supportive relationship with them. They don’t spray them with display ads or offer them gratuitous discounts, but over-time reward them for an ‘earned contribution’.

There is enough well-researched evidence to substantiate that this approach works, and that short-term traditional marketing tactics are ineffective unless you get lucky with a viral campaign such as the Diet Coke and Mentos, as demonstrated here.  Unfortunately these viral events don’t originate by design.

Those marketing directors who set about understanding all the many facets of social commerce, particularly the social science and formulate a strategy, are successful at convincing their board to play the long game. They make their strategy inclusive, involving their staff and others who can contribute to positively enhance brand reputation and improve customer service.  A few firms such as O2, Phones4u, Kodak and Virgin Atlantic have embraced these winning ways.

To find out more about my research into wining social commerce strategies please contact me paul.fennemore@viapoint.co.uk.

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