Social Media in Retail – Everybody is at it this Christmas

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In this guest post, James Ainsworth takes a look at the surge of social media use by retailers in the lead up to Christmas. Read on for great stats and insight (and a festive slideshow!).

First things first, the title of this post is a slight exaggeration. Although, it always seems like everyone else is doing it and certainly it is true that more are doing it than ever before. Back in October, research conducted by LinkShare, suggested that 43% of Marketers intended to use social media in their Christmas campaigns this year.

Is this because it is cheaper than print and a whole World away from a TV ad spot budget? Maybe. Is it because it pays dividends to be active where the conversation is actually happening? More than likely. Is it because creating an engagement loop with existing and new customers is a sure fire way to generate advocacy, interest and sales? Let’s see…

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So, this year will be a very social media Christmas and we are already seeing some exciting examples of joined up marketing campaigns that integrate an aspect of social to get the message across.

  • Sainsburys are running a Christmas microsite whereby users can win a Sainsburys Christmas party if they can mobilise enough support from their friends via social networks.
  • Amazon vouchers can now be bought and given to friends from within Facebook.
  • Wagamamas have a somewhat addictive Christmas game.
  • Twinnings are setting up a tea subscription club and supplementing it with a newly created community of tea lovers and in-house tea experts.
  • Debenhams have shop floor assistants that will be tuned in to twitter to help customers in a pickle
  • Children can now harass their parents from every social angle as Argos introduces a Christmas Wish list Facebook app.

Christmas is also seemingly a time for drinking. Two of the biggest commercial indicators that Christmas is indeed coming are the ‘responsibility’ of Coca Cola and Starbucks. The former being the famous ‘Holidays are coming’ TV spot and the latter being for latte lovers anticipating the arrival of the Red Cups flavoured coffees each year.

This year, we Christmas loving monitoring mavericks at Alterian are going to throw ourselves head-first into the conversations on the web around the Starbucks Red Cup campaign and look to conduct some deep insightful reporting with our SM2 social media monitoring tool and in-house specialist resources. We will examine what the web is saying and how other retailers can extrapolate these findings to apply some new business actions themselves with their campaigns.

If you are in the retail business, how will you use the data that you capture from your Christmas social campaign in 2011? What will you do with the community your seasonal offering builds? Please do join in with the fun of Red Cup World and see how social media monitoring can deliver valuable insight on those magical Christmas campaigns, not just for Christmas but for life…

As a consumer have you been interacting with retailers in the social media space?

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Don’t Get Social Network Tunnel Vision!

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I was in a meeting recently and a colleague was talking about Social Networking, he was getting very bogged down and seemed to think that the networks were the only SMM outlets. I though I would give him a summary of some work I had carried out in a previous role to show him how the SMM sphere reaches far and wide. It is very much a summary and does not mention/consider the whole sphere but he found it useful so I thought I would post it here too.


In a previous role I had a high street retail client selling toiletries, fragrance, health and beauty products and more. I was tasked with looking at what we could achieve for them from a Social Media Marketing point of view. When you are considering SMM use for a retail brand, you are already on the front foot as they have tangible products that can be sold online, meaning that you have a clear end goal for any SMM activity.


The first thing I looked at was how we could best use the networks to create a dialogue between the brand and its customers and potential customers. Rule number one when using networks is  – ‘If you don’t have anything interesting to say, then say nothing at all’ people too often open up networks profiles on Facebook, twitter etc and instantly start pushing out constant promotional messages. This instantly puts off users and creates no form of engagement. I decided that a great way to engage with these people would be to produce a number of health and beauty tips, case studies and tutorials that would give people added value and a reason to build up a relationship of continual engagement. The content did not just come from us, we asked the users to share their tips, creating a feeling of involvement for the user (and droves of UGC – User Generated Content). Anything we produced always used products that were available from the retail business in question. This allowed us to promote the products but in a clever way as we gave the user something in return.  The Facebook fan page was used as a hub for conversation and the added content and very quickly built up a strong following (all content was also placed on the official site, this is very important for SEO purposes but also aids in achieving the end goal – a sale!)  Outside of Facebook we used Twitter and Bebo in similar ways. Twitter more a pointer to new content etc. In this case I was looking at the Social Networks as the keystone of the campaign.


Once I had created this base it was important to look at SMM as a whole. See below for a summary of the other outlets that I used.


  • Youtube – optimised video tutorials e.g. makeup tips
  • Blogging – employed industry experts to blog with tips etc – blogs were placed on site as well as on blog sites such as WordPress
  • Wikis – build a Wikipedia based around the business and its products but still with an educationary angle
  • Forums – Allocated resource to participate in forum conversations based around health and beauty (please note this can be a risky strategy)
  • Social bookmarking – implementation of bookmarking on site to ensure users could quickly share content using Digg, Twitter etc


By creating presence across the above, we had implemented a strong and engagement integrated SMM strategy which created community, engagement, brand awareness, customer to brand dialogue, a number of new customer service outlets and last but not least sales! This activity had a massively successful effect on the SEO of the official site. I will not go in to the details of how SMM can help SEO at this stage as that is a whole different ball game.


A few things to remember:


  • You need to create and maintain a tone of voice that suits your brand/business etc
  • All of these things take considerable time to set up and manage, once you start you cannot really stop
  • Have a plan based around the product/service that your business offers
  • If people are asking you questions via these mediums, be sure to answer the promptly. If they are complaining, do it even quicker and make sure any issued are resolved. Do not delete negative comments etc, be seen to address them and this will bode well for you.
  • This is not a free ride, it will take dedicated resource but the advantages can be great.
  • Remember there are always people out there with an interest in what you do, however obscure that may be, so go find them and engage!


I hope that is of use to you and feel free to ask any questions. This is designed as a summary, I could talk about SMM until the cow come home and I know you (we!) are all busy!