Practical Ecommerce

Social Media Comes Of Age

Seemingly, everywhere you look these days, people are talking about social media online technologies and websites that people use to share content, opinions, insights and experiences. It’s Facebook this or MySpace that, and those are only two of the myriad of such sites that comprise the social media landscape. The question that must be asked, though, is whether these various types of participatory environments can be used for marketing purposes? The answer, if not a resounding “yes,” is certainly a definite “maybe.”

Only a couple of years ago, the same question was being asked about the forerunner of the social media movement blogs. Today, companies, large and small, are using them not only for public relations and thought leadership purposes, but in direct marketing as well. Take, for example, jewelry retailer Ice.com. Its Sparklelikethestars.com blog contains links to products offered in its ecommerce site.

In what ways are online retailers using social media? Quite a number have created applications, or apps, (also known as widgets) for Facebook. Popular online shoe retailer Zappos.com has one that allows members to share their favorite products and brands. Blue Nile has a “wish list” app, which Facebook members can use to post gift ideas and share them with friends.

Not only are companies producing Facebook applications themselves, so are consumers. Lee Paul Martin, a university student in Louisiana, created one for the t-shirt retailer Threadless, a company with a large college-age fan base. Martin’s app allows customers to earn points by promoting the company’s products among their Facebook friends points that can then be used to make purchases at the Threadless website. Call it “affiliate marketing meets the Facebook generation!”

Applications are just one way companies are using the popular social network to market products. Facebook Groups is another, as well as is the newly released Social Ads platform.

However, using social media for marketing extends well beyond just Facebook. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses with MySpace pages. Others have created videos and posted them to YouTube or placed pictures at the photo-sharing site Flickr.

I am not suggesting that all the “I’s” have been dotted or the “T’s” crossed insofar as using social media in marketing. Quite the opposite is true at this point. But, as was the case with blogs, a precedent could soon be established and case studies will abound.

Over the next few months it will be my duty to explain in detail how social media can serve marketing purposes, especially as it relates to small business ecommerce. One of the best ways to do so is by sharing examples of companies already using the medium. If that’s you, please feel free to drop me a line.

Paul Chaney

Paul Chaney

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Comments ( 9 )

  1. Legacy User December 4, 2007 Reply

    These are times of 'e' connect. 'e' for electronic and 'e' for emotional.

    — *Anshuman Misra*

  2. Legacy User December 4, 2007 Reply

    Yes, social media is playing a big part and proving a very useful medium for small business to drive traffic and generate leads for their business. Recently I came across this tool which my friend has been using for his real estate business and is very happy with the results. Its a unique business marketing tool which helps you generate quick leads and drive traffic to your website. You can read more about it here http://moguling.com/

    — *Tom*

  3. Legacy User December 4, 2007 Reply

    I have a hard time seeing MySpace, YouTube, etc. as serious marketing strategies. They are great for entertainment, but one must consider that most corporate and many personal firewalls and proxies block these sites. And for good reason.

    — *Fred*

  4. Legacy User December 4, 2007 Reply

    Being an user of MySpace myself, I've experienced the blaring corporate advertising first hand. The amount of advertising on MySpace is tremendous. However, the advertising is done tastefully enough as to not interfere with the function of the site. In the limited amount of time I've used Facebook, I haven't noticed near as many advertisements. The site does lend itself quite handily to third party applications.

    Anyways, the advertisements on MySpace (most of the time) are directed towards more of a high school and college audience, naturally. Since the infrastructure of that particular social network relies on people that age, the advertisements end up being quite effective. Just a thought.

    — *Nic*

  5. Legacy User December 5, 2007 Reply

    I think you will see more and more specialized social networking sites as time goes on. Facebook started with a bunch of Harvard students wanting to stay connected and is now broadcasting Facebook members' brands of choice. Is this really what people really want to see when they create a profile just to share some pics of a party with their friends? I think not. As more and more "advertisers" pour onto Facebook and MySpace, more and more users will tune out and tune in somewhere else.

    Merchants should be smart about how they use social networking sites. If you can create a profile and offer useful information to customers who are genuinely interested, that's fine. If too many advertisers get involved with ideas like "Beacon", these sites won't be fun anymore, and kids will go somewhere else.

    Regards,
    Michelle Greer
    Volusion Inc.

    — *Michelle Greer*

  6. Legacy User December 9, 2007 Reply

    How do people find the time to keep in touch with all their contacts on MySpace and Facebook…? It must be an ideal platform to offer them food and drink and exercise (as in the Facebook application: http://apps.facebook.com/desk-trainer/).

    — *Eran Baniel*

  7. Legacy User December 28, 2007 Reply

    Our small company (sparklingwhitesmiles.com) has had a lot of fun designing blogs on websites such as MySpace.com. We were able to make or MySpace blog a fun page to visit. I believe we add a very hip, unique and valuable product for lab direct professional custom teeth whitening. Not sure if it will help with marketing but it was a great way to have fun, and expand creativity all while working as a team!

    Warm Regards,
    Joe

  8. Legacy User December 31, 2007 Reply

    Thanks all of you for your comments. They provide the absolute best feedback for me in preparing future articles. Keep em coming!

    — *Paul Chaney*

  9. Legacy User February 6, 2008 Reply

    I am seeking a speaker to discuss the topic "Communicating with the Facebook generation, and how they live their media lives" This is more of a "sociological look at this new generation and how their social networking habits differentiate them from previous generations. If you are a marketing firm in the San Francisco Bay Area, and you would like to do a 1/2 hour talk on this topic or something similar, to the Palo Alto Tour Meeting of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtor, (great way to get new clients…..) please contact me. You can find me by googling me. aarjani@kw.com

    — *Anne Arjani*