What are you waiting for? Smart retailers already foster real relationships and make real money by going social-local

The Financial Times recently posted a story with the headline Retailers wait for Facebook to deliver. In the article, the authors (Barney Jopson, David Gelles, and April Dembosky) discuss the discouraging results seen by retail efforts on Facebook:

Even as US Christmas shoppers have spent record sums online this year, one of the biggest disappointments for some internet entrepreneurs has been a company that is otherwise hot property: Facebook.

Retail executives and consultants say Facebook has yet to take off as a retail platform, defying excited predictions that “social commerce” – jargon for shopping via social media sites – would be the next big thing.

While the article makes many good points about how social commerce, or “F-commerce” (“F” for “Facebook”), hasn’t yet lived up to the hype, there’s a concept missing: the value of social-local retailers.

Co-founders Clara Shih and Steve Garrity created Hearsay Social two years ago on the foundation that social media will best work for businesses at the local level. Retail marketers should use their global Facebook or Twitter page to build brand awareness and make themselves more personable to fans, but they won’t have a truly social business until their businesses engage social at the local store level.

It was Clara and Steve’s original vision when Hearsay Social launched and, today, more and more marketers are opening their eyes to the possibility of local. Just look at this selection from marketing experts ClickZ’s six predictions for social marketing in 2012:

4. There will be less content with a national focus and more localization. Studying data from clients that are corporate franchises with hundreds or thousands of local stores, we found that their social media efforts gained the most user interaction when they had a local focus.

Localized content – be it a geo-targeted Facebook ad, a region-specific contest, or even just a tweet highlighting a local news story – creates seven to 10 times higher levels of engagement than non-locally relevant content. We expect to see more brands target and personalize their social marketing content at the country, region, city, and designated market area (DMA) level to optimize user participation.

Many large companies have already realized the importance of maintaining a global corporate page on Facebook, Twitter, and other popular networks.

Once those companies start going local on social media, however, it will be like shaking hands with actual customers, not just splashing catchy billboards along the freeway. From a retailer’s perspective, going local means creating individual social profiles and pages on all the most prominent networks (from Facebook to Google+) for individual franchises in small towns and cities across the nation.

As corporate pages focus on bolstering brand, these local franchise pages can work toward doing real business, like driving in-store traffic with coupons and other rewards programs. The local pages will see higher engagement, as they can provide content hyper-targeted to customers in their region. And, as this is the basis of all good business, local page owners can actually foster real relationships with real people.

Real people spend real money, and that’s where you’ll see the biggest impact of ROI on social business.

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