On the Web: Dont You Forget About Me
The jury will be out for some time on just how much money can be made directly from social media. But retailers rooted in stores, catalogs and the web have worked diligently to explore ways they can squeeze incremental revenue from this emerging channel.
In fact, 91 percent of companies polled in a recent study by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth said they used at least one social media site in 2009. Eighty-two percent said they used Twitter successfully, while 87 percent found success with other social networking sites.
Many have done a great job exploiting social media for customer retention, customer service, branding, merchandising, special offers, search and contests. A number of these companies — such as Best Buy, Toys "R" Us, Amazon.com and Target — Tweeted and sent Facebook alerts about their big holiday sales last November and December to cash in on bargain-hungry shoppers.
But while so many marketers have been Johnny-on-the-spot in keeping up with this medium and its technology, a good many of them are, nevertheless, forgetting about … ME.
Not a Technophobe, But …
Who's ME? I'm a potentially viable social media customer whom you've yet to come anywhere near close to tapping, that's who. Let me tell you a little about myself as a "young," 49-year-old baby boomer, because you may be missing out on a treasure trove of people like me:
- For my new job with a trade association, I need to be on top of most technological advances, but I'm hardly a techie. However, I'm no technophobe either.
- I like to socialize by seeing friends in person, calling them or emailing them.
- I don't text very much. When I do, it's usually only to my 19-year-old son. Like other teens and college kids, he texts more times in an hour than most people send emails in a month.
- I barely scratch the surface on Facebook or Twitter. I've set up accounts on both but rarely use them, opting for simple email instead.
A lot of people like me don't "do" social media. We don't want to spend all that time gabbing in 140 characters or less, nor do we care to go to a fan page of some retailer, online merchant or cataloger.
Friend Us and Profit
Perhaps most important of all, I don't fully understand how these things work. That's where you come in. Teach me. Train me. Sell me on how worthwhile it is to check out your tweets or Facebook postings. Bait me. I have a couple bucks I'd be willing to spend; give me a reason to spend it through the social media initiative you just invested in.
Commercially, all the attention in social media has gone to exploring ways to adapt it to connect with the audiences already there. But are any companies training their customers on just how to use it?
I probably sound like I'm 49 going on 89. But it would be very easy for any marketer to add a link right beside the Twitter and Facebook logos on its site that says, "New to Twitter? New to Facebook? Click here for simple instructions." I guarantee you'll pull in a lot more prospects if you try that. Take it to the bank.
End note: Yes, I stole the headline of this column from that 1984 classic, which the English band Simple Minds recorded for the Gen X movie "The Breakfast Club." Most of the cast members are now in their 40s as well. They may not be too keen on social media either, so you better train them, too.
The former editor-in-chief of All About ROI and Catalog Success magazines, Paul Miller is vice president and deputy director of the American Catalog Mailers Association (email@example.com). Larry Kavanagh will return to this column in next month's issue.