A 2012 study from Aberdeen Group found that “best in class” retailers placed a higher emphasis on integrating social media into their omnichannel initiatives than did the rest of the pack. Some 46 percent of the best-in-class group called that integration “very important,” compared with 18 percent of “average” or “laggard” retail businesses.
Much has changed in both retail and social networking since 2012, but one thing has remained constant: the vital role that social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+ can play in successful omnichannel efforts for retailers.
With hundreds of social outlets to choose from, retailers must decide which to focus their precious time and marketing dollars on. My view? For many businesses that sell goods to consumers, nothing beats Twitter. By limiting users’ posts to 140 characters, Twitter has become the de facto site for people to express their thoughts in real time — including their readiness to buy.
As Total Retail's Jim Gilbert pointed out, Twitter recently began allowing people to do an end-run around the 140-character limit when retweeting content. In my opinion, this change, while important, won't affect Twitter’s status as the first place many consumers turn to for voicing their sentiments.
Even better for retailers with brick-and-mortar locations, Twitter’s geotagging feature lets them quickly and easily find tweets from users located within a radius of their choosing in a precise geographic area. Marketers can use geotagging either by enabling location-based services or through this old trick. Either way, this feature is free to use.
Where Other Social Networks Lag
The cost effectiveness that Twitter can provide to retail marketers is in stark contrast to the social site with the most users, Facebook. In June 2014, for instance, digital marketing firm Flightpath reported that it had witnessed in that year’s second quarter a near doubling of the cost of paid reach on promoted Facebook posts for some Flightpath clients. That came in addition to increasing cutbacks by Facebook on unpaid reach by marketers, Flightpath noted. A number of observers have raised the related issue of potential saturation in Facebook advertising — i.e., ads lose effectiveness because so many companies are vying for the same audience.
Instagram, the image-intensive social site that Facebook owns, has also received its share of press about expensive ad rates. Pinterest, a potential Instagram alternative, boasts a picture- and video-heavy service of interest to anybody who sells photogenic products, albeit with an advertising product suite that eMarketer recently called “fairly limited.” More than four out of five Pinterest users are female. While that audience holds great possibility for some retailers, it may be too much of a niche for a number of brands.
LinkedIn also has a niche user base: business professionals. While that group has disposable income, the issue for retailers is the service’s pricey advertising.
Perhaps the most mysterious major social network is Google+, which has around 2.2 billion user profiles, but seems to lack an engaged audience.
For many retailers, Twitter’s ability to show consumers’ buying intent as it happens makes it the go-to social network for finding customers. Why not take advantage?
Bernard Perrine is the CEO & co-founder of Twitter marketing company SocialCentiv.
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