Four Frequent Mistakes in Social Marketing

Darby Williams

Any retailer swimming in the social media waters the past few years has heard the word “engagement” a million times, and for good reason. Engagement is key in driving word-of-mouth endorsements. However, engagement and word-of-mouth are really a prelude to the ultimate goal of driving increased sales.

The problem with most social engagement strategies is they don’t actually increase sales. In fact, Forrester’s recent State of Retailing Online study (SORO) found that 62 percent of retailers’ social marketing return on investment is still unclear. As retailers look beyond engagement to ROI from their social strategies in 2012, here are four mistakes to avoid:

1. Counting on Facebook fan pages to drive sales. Retailers have invested a lot of time and money into Facebook fan pages, trying to build a large fan base and engage them with weekly posts and promotions. This contradicts the true spirit of social — i.e., connecting with and empowering consumers. The socially empowered consumer now expects input and advice from peers, not from manufacturers or retailers. It should come as no surprise that traffic from Facebook fan pages isn’t driving sales.

Recommendation: Capitalize on your existing ecommerce investments by engaging your website visitors with social features that cause consumer-to-consumer sharing. Word-of-mouth sharing will help drive traffic to your ecommerce site, where you’re best equipped to convert it.

2. Relying on the ‘Like’ button to drive sharing. Early attempts to drive consumer-to-consumer sharing on ecommerce sites centered on the Facebook “Like” button. The click-through rate has been extremely low as there’s no clear reason or benefit for consumers to like a product while shopping. What problem does that help them solve for them?

Recommendation: Provide engaging social experiences tailored to your target consumers that present compelling reasons for them to share with friends. Prioritize solutions that leverage user interaction data on your site as well as full social graph data about the user and their friends on Facebook. This will ensure you present the most relevant experiences at each step in the shopping process.

3. Waiting for a well formulated social roadmap to start. While the potential revenue that on-site social applications can generate is huge, waiting to create the ideal social roadmap may actually reduce your chance of success. It’s hard to predict what will work best with your customers and your product categories. To make matters worse, while you’re busy planning and building consensus across the company, your competitors can dive in and start getting real customer feedback to know what really works.

Recommendation: If you don’t already have Facebook-trained engineers and product managers on staff, you may want to partner with a social commerce vendor regardless of your plan so you can get started quickly and get that feedback. You should pick a partner that allows you to easily test and improve upon different social experiences across your site (and yes, Sociable Labs does offer that capability). Because social commerce is still in its infancy, rapid experimentation and testing is key to generating the highest returns.

4. Looking for the social ‘silver bullet.’ Social technologies are evolving fast (as is consumer social behavior). Forrester’s recent SORO study shows there’s no proven solution in social marketing, though efforts to integrate social features on ecommerce sites have proven to work the best so far for growing sales.

Recommendation: Look for a social solution that provides a wide range of on-site social experiences explicitly aimed at increasing the metrics that matter most, namely referral traffic and site-wide conversions. Customize these experiences to your specific products and users. Solutions with built-in A/B testing capabilities ensure the greatest opportunity to know what works for your business and what doesn’t, allowing you to optimize for the greatest user participation and overall lift in sales.

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