June 9, 2010, 1:47 PM

Two pros agree: social media is ready to shine

But the experts and the IRCE audience differ on which social media campaigns are best.

Lead Photo

David Griner (left) and Dan Shust evaluate social media programs at the Internet Retailer Conference.

Retailers are on the threshold of a new era, one that's taking advantage of social media. And it's up to merchants to exploit Facebook, Twitter and other social media and start interacting with consumers. That's one of the main points made today by two digital marketing professionals at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition.

The experts, David Griner, social media strategist at Luckie & Co., a media marketing agency, and Dan Shust, director of emerging media at Resource Interactive, an e-commerce marketing and consulting company, didn't agree on whether all the examples of social marketing presented in this morning's session were on the money. But they were of one mind regarding the use of social media tools to engage consumers.

The presenters diverged on a Twitter campaign by apparel manufacturer Uniqlo Co. Ltd. that encouraged Twitter followers to create their own videos while wearing the company's newest t-shirt. Most of the videos were of wearers dancing, and Shust gave the concept a thumbs-up grade. "It lets us get involved with the brand," he says. "It shows you don't have to be big and serious, it generated tens of thousands of free brand impressions, and it was simple and easy to interact with and share with others. It was a commercial for their company, but I don't think I care."

Griner was less impressed. "We showed a snippet of the whole video the company created. Pretty soon it becomes people wearing the t-shirts and dancing around. The point was to sell t-shirts," he said. "It was interesting, but didn't have much value."

The audience, which voted for or against the social marketing examples by text message, agreed with Griner by a rate of about 4.5 to 1.

The experts also split on a geocaching promotion run by high-end shoe manufacturer Jimmy Choo in London, which used geolocation technology from Foursquare. The premise was hiding a pair of $600 sneakers and posting on Facebook and Twitter clues and photos of the shoes in various locations around London. "It was a great idea," Griner said. "It lasted a couple of weeks before someone found the shoes and involved 4,000 or so people." The company reported a 33% increase in sneaker sales in London during the promotion and a 40% increase in positive mentions among consumers, he said. "It's a small, simple thing people can do that wasn't being done one or two years ago."

Shust didn't approve and thought the promo should have been expanded to more Jimmy Choo fans in more cities. "It was hard for me but I gave it a thumbs-down. It was a great idea and having fun with a brand is good," he said. "But Jimmy Choo has 175,000 fans on Facebook and chose to segment it to a few in London. It could have been wider, and they really made it hard to find. They should have given away more shoes. But I do think we're going see a lot more promotions like this." The audience favored the campaign by about 3.5 to 1.

Both experts liked a somewhat edgy Moosejaw Mountaineering promotion that offered a break-up service to consumers that didn't want to end a flagging relationship directly. The idea was part of Moosejaw's ongoing efforts to engage consumers by all media, including Twitter. "It's ongoing consumer engagement and they keep surprising you," Griner said. "They offer daily engagements. It's a great example of what Moosejaw is doing to make their followers wonder what's next."

Shust agreed. "I loved it, too. Moosejaw is a great example of a company that really understands social media. There have tremendous conversations with customers." The audience also approved, by about 6.5 to 1.

The speakers offered social media suggestions to attendees. "Be part of the experience," Shust advised. "I see so many people create Facebook and Twitter accounts, then have no interaction with the consumer and provide no answers to questions." He urged merchants to consider tools that are freely available first, such as Facebook and Twitter. "And have fun. You don't have to be funny but people want to have a fun, engaging experience with retailers."

Griner said retailers need to think beyond the launch of microsites or promotions, rather than letting them run their course and leaving them behind. Social marketing means perpetual interaction. For example, "if you're going to maintain a social media presence you need a content calendar," he said, so consumers will know there's more to come. Most of all, Griner said, retailers need to reach out through new communications media and "engage fans in their daily lives, not in a web browser."

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