News of this magnitude can cast a pale on any event so I was pleased to attend one of the more inspirational and upbeat presentations during the show. Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation showed retailers how to take part in communities and conversations. In doing so he covered some important concepts that apply to anyone tapping into social media to create communities instead of customers.
Can Social Media Save Retail?Social media is not a silver bullet. But Joel certainly gave retailers hope when he outlined the potential opportunity for them to compliment their other online and offline efforts with a real social media presence. He prescribed six steps to explore how social media might impact a retailer.
1) Think in terms of tribes | Instead of looking at customers in one bucket, consider their affinities. JCPenney could create a travel site for its customers, giving them a place to talk about shared interests. This would build on efforts like JCPenney’s Doghouse campaign where they relate with their customers. But JCPenney would facilitate conversations around this topic of interest.
2) Everything is with, not instead of | The old “integrated marketing” chestnut holds true. Social media is another channel and it must work with all of the other marketing efforts to make sense and to be successful.
3) Don’t be fleeting. Build, Share and Grow | This takes more than merely building a Facebook page and then ignoring it. To see results you must build relevance/content/space, let it be distributed by customers across the web and let it grow. Think in terms of a long-term commitment and not a campaign mentality.
4) Earn the right to get customers out of lurker mode | The key is to facilitate discussions about a brand and not necessarily try and start them. You want to be found on sites like Flickr and YouTube if customers look for you, but you need to “empower them to talk about your brand and not pander to them.” By focusing on offering great products and services customers will do this on their own. A “community can be earned, but not bought.” And if a retailer does not have a solid product or service it won’t work.
5) It’s attitudinal, not generational | This one is a common fallacy in my experience. Everyone assumes that kids under a certain age are soc med savants and people over a certain age are either confused or a complete luddite. This is far from the case.
6) Do something (now) | The relationship between technology, people socializing online and content creation becomes clear after uploading a video to YouTube or spending some time on Facebook or Twitter. Experimentation helps this, but the key is to “focus on the why before the what.” The strategic drivers of a project may dictate that social media is not the answer. Worrying about whether to create a LinkedIn or Facebook profile for a brand is a what/tactical question that is not important until answering the question “why social media.”
Now is the time to innovateNow is the time to get involved in social media projects. Innovation occurs during recessions and there is a lot of room left for innovation by brands in the social media space. Better customer relationships are the end result which will impact sales. Both Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters have been doing better than most in sales. While this is for a host of reasons, it is also interesting to note the unique projects both brands have launched online, including Hot Topic’s Shockhound and Urban Outfitters’ culture, music and event blog that focuses on local content for Urban Outfitters’ key markets.
Free HugsTo illustrate some of the concepts above, and end on a positive note, the crowd enjoyed Juan Mann’s “Free Hugs” video which is a great way to end a presentation.
It was great finally meeting Mitch after reading each other’s blogs for a few years now. But it was even better seeing the impact his presentation had on the audience.