Transparency essential on social media

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Toys “R” Us, and other retailers have Facebook pages, on which social users can become “fans"
Toys “R” Us, and other retailers have Facebook pages, on which social users can become “fans"

More retailers are embracing social media for their marketing efforts. Accord­ing to a study by interactive marketing agency Rosetta, which was formerly known as Brulant, 59% of the top 100 USonline retailers currently have a page on Facebook, up from 30% in April.

The study also says that 29 of the retail­ers surveyed added Facebook pages in the last four months. These include Best Buy, Toys “R” Us, Kohl's and Wal-Mart.

Adam Cohen, partner with Rosetta's Consumer Goods and Retail Practice, believes that a tipping point has been reached between Facebook and retailers.

“More and more retailers are going to embrace [social media],” he says, because it “provides such a number of options to connect with a customer, retailers that invest in it now will see the benefits pretty quickly and pretty early on.”

Though social media sites such as Facebook are not traditional e-commerce platforms, Cohen adds, they raise the interaction level between brands and cus­tomers — people can opt-in for updates, view promotional offers or use a customer service forum, he notes. “There are a lot of possibilities, and you can get creative,” he says — for example, a retailer could create photo or video contests on its page to engage its customers.

However, if a retailer decides to create a presence on Facebook or another social media site, they must be committed to maintaining and updating it, and using it as a real forum for communication with customers, Cohen warns.

“An effective Facebook presence requires that you carefully consider what your customers are looking for, what you would like to communicate, and what role a fan page should play in your overall online strategy,” he says.

Transparency and candor are key in the world of social media, Cohen continues. Deleting every negative comment posted on its page, he says, is the “worst thing” a brand could do.

“Let your fans come to the defense of the brand,” he explains. “If you're not going to commit to [a social media pres­ence] and commit to being candid, open and building that presence, then I'd rec­ommend not doing it at all.”

Another study, issued by Universal McCann, also stated the importance of brands being involved in social media.

The research report, penned by Tom Smith, Universal McCann's head of consumer futures for its Europe, Middle East and Africa division, states that as the Internet age has give consumers a larger voice in publishing their opinions of a brand, the “democratization of influ­ence to the masses,” has resulted in an “influence economy” where brands must become more transparent.

“The key factor is that the social Web is increasingly adopted as a core social platform by hundreds of millions of users worldwide,” the report, which surveyed 17,000 Internet users from 29 countries, states. Twenty-nine percent of respondents had commented on a product or brand on a blog, and 27% had posted an opinion on a social networking profile.

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