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 4: Slashdot.org, Del.icio.us, Digg.com.
FIELD TESTER 5: Myspace.com, Linkedin.com.
FIELD TESTER 6: Myspace.com.
PeC: Which social networking sites do you market your business on?
FIELD TESTER 4: Wikipedia.org, Simpy.com and Digg.com.
FIELD TESTER 5: Myspace.com
FIELD TESTER 6: Currently none.
PeC: Do you monitor traffic and/or sales from social networking sites?
FIELD TESTER 4: Yes, it converts very poorly.
FIELD TESTER 5: We monitor traffic to our company Myspace.com page.
FIELD TESTER 6: No.
PeC: How does your ecommerce business use social networking for marketing purposes?
FIELD TESTER 4: Primarily to build links to new content, so we mostly use social bookmarking sites like Del.icio.us and Stumbleupon.com. The small SEO boost is roughly equivalent to the trickle of traffic we get from them.
FIELD TESTER 5: We use Myspace.com to interact with our customers who have requested to be our friends. We will send updates and specials to this group, however we do not market to this group with the same level of frequency that we do with our regular email list.
FIELD TESTER 6: N/A
PeC: Can you describe both successes and frustrations that you’ve encountered with social networking sites?
FIELD TESTER 4: We linked to some articles from Wikipedia.org and get a good amount of traffic from it every day, which is always nice. Unfortunately, those visitors leave much faster than other comparable users (like from search engines) and Wikipedia.org added “no-follow” to its outgoing links. In general we’ve found that social sites send low quality traffic.
FIELD TESTER 5: One of the nice aspects of using Myspace.com to reach out to our customers is that, because many of them are avid in the industry, it presents us with an opportunity to interact with them as people who enjoy it rather than just customers. The biggest downside to social networking sites is the magnitude of what we refer to as “spam friends” that ask to join us, only to hit us with illicit spam posts afterward. As a result, it takes quite a bit more time than we’d like to screen people before we accept them as friends.
FIELD TESTER 6: N/A
PeC: What are your plans for utilizing social networking sites in the next 12 months?
FIELD TESTER 4: We will use it as a way to promote new content and get some cheap links, but it’s not going to be a priority. The ROI is pretty poor for most ecommerce situations, since what drives success on these sites is viral popularity. People enjoy skateboarding dogs and off-the-wall humor, which is hard to monetize or even create.
FIELD TESTER 5: We likely won’t do much more than we’re currently doing.
FIELD TESTER 6: We plan on taking a serious look at social networking and the benefits it could have for us. We see more statistics showing that our age demographic of 35 and older is becoming a larger percentage of social networking users.