Practical Ecommerce

Field Test: Social Networking, Part 1 of 3

In Field Test, Practical eCommerce has gathered ten seasoned ecommerce merchants and asked each of them the same questions around a given topic. This month’s topic is social networking.

The participating ecommerce merchants are: Dave Norris, House of Antique Hardware; Justin Hertz, MuttMart; Chris Stump, Only Hammocks; Mike Reiman, PoolDawg; Dan Stewart, Xtreme Diesel Performance; Roman Kagan, Appliance Parts Pros; Cindy Barrileaux, Write Your Best; Claudette Cyr, Gear-Source; Mike Butler, Bloom Designs Nursery; Kristen Taylor, Juvie.

The responses for three of the ten merchants follow below. The answers are shown to preserve anonymity.

PeC: Which social networking sites do you visit?

FIELD TESTER 1:,,,,,,,


FIELD TESTER 3: I visit,, and occasionally

PeC: Which social networking sites do you market your business on?

FIELD TESTER 1: None, which is the beauty of social networking sites. They do the work for you, for free.


FIELD TESTER 3: Different forums and

PeC:_ Do you monitor traffic and/or sales from social networking sites?_

FIELD TESTER 1: Yes, via Google Analytics.

FIELD TESTER 2: Not really.

FIELD TESTER 3: No need at this point.

PeC: How does your ecommerce business use social networking for marketing purposes?

FIELD TESTER 1: At the most, we list our site and/or recommend a few new items on social networking sites. We also monitor comments users make in order to gauge customer service and what people like or don’t like about us.

FIELD TESTER 2: At the present time, we don’t use it much. We’re still evaluating any potential benefits.

FIELD TESTER 3: At this point, I only market my services by active participation in industry specific forums.

PeC: Can you describe both successes and frustrations that you’ve encountered with social networking sites?

FIELD TESTER 1: Sometimes social networking sites can drive a huge amount of traffic to the site all at once, but these are not necessarily people who are in buying mode. They just like finding cool stuff on the web. Even 2,000 views to a particular item coming from resulted in only one sale. However, getting that many eyeballs into the store can certainly help when those same people want to make a purchase later on. We hope that they will remember our fabulous wares and come back looking for more.

FIELD TESTER 2: The little we have done has returned only non-relevant traffic with no sales or leads. We can’t report any successes at this time.

FIELD TESTER 3: My participation on the forums has gotten positive private responses from other members. I am getting word of my services to a wider audience. The frustration is that it takes a lot of time to stay current on forums, and my message is easily lost in the midst of hundreds of others.

PeC: What are your plans for utilizing social networking sites in the next 12 months?

FIELD TESTER 1: Continue to submit our site and new items, and monitor other people submitting on our behalf.

FIELD TESTER 2: We’ll continue to research and test to see if we can get to a point where the benefits outweigh the hassles.

FIELD TESTER 3: I plan to learn more about the potential for and as a way to network and market. I will set up sites on both, if they look promising. I’m actually looking forward to seeing other responses to these questions!

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Comments ( 8 )

  1. Legacy User February 19, 2008 Reply

    The panel seems to be in the "lets see what happens here" stage, The web can be out ahead of itself at times, and this might be a case in point. There are these tremendous numbers of users on these sites and we are all trying to figure out how to sort them out and catch their attention. The social networking "animal" is sort of a "enigma wrapped in a riddle"– a yet undefined and untamed creature.

    — *James*

  2. Legacy User February 19, 2008 Reply

    When the Internet first started, people weren't seeing results there either… but they learned how it functioned, began working with it, and successes were born.

    Social Networking is much the same. Hundreds of Millions of people are in these sites. If the theory is that we want to fish where the fish are, it makes perfect sense to figure out HOW to market here and then to do it.

    I'm teaching all our Member Theaters to use Social Networking sites. And in a year or two, I believe all of us will look back and say, "I'm glad I got involved when it was easy to do so!"

    Charlie Seymour Jr
    Founder / CEO
    Where Theater Lives Online!

    — *Charles Seymour Jr*

  3. Legacy User February 19, 2008 Reply

    It's quite suspect that field tester 1 and field tester 3 had verbatim answers to two separate questions. Fire the editor of this article.

    — *Mr. Dog*

  4. Legacy User February 19, 2008 Reply

    ** Mr. Dog

    That one would be my fault, I apologize. That was simply a typo that occurred, and the article has been updated. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Also, I'd love to not get fired, if at all possible… :)

    Brian Getting
    <em>Online Director</em>

    — *Brian Getting*

  5. Legacy User February 20, 2008 Reply

    you should procede with caution if you are trying to "game" SN sites just to try to make jack. networking on the web is not very different then netorking in the real world…you get out what you put in.

    — *mark e*

  6. Legacy User February 20, 2008 Reply

    Social networking blurs the line between "friend" and "customer". If you are out there pushing yourself too hard, just like with friends, people will ignore you.

    The weirdest part of social networking is how the work "you" and the outside work "you" relate in the social space. If you are doing business with someone, not only can you see their LinkedIn profile and website, you can see their Facebook page, their MySpace page, their Twitter account, etc etc. So it's a good idea not to post your drunken tirades from college anywhere, basically ;).

    Hopefully social networking sites will help customers and companies connect and relate to each other so that everyone ends up being happy.

    — *Michelle Greer*

  7. Legacy User February 24, 2008 Reply

    I have used Multiply for Social Networking since 1 December 2007 and have received a great deal of traffic from it.

    — *keiso*

  8. Legacy User February 29, 2008 Reply

    Open social is the future,

    — *victorantos*