June 5, 2014, 11:31 AM

IRCE Hot Topic: Social media marketing

It can be hard to keep up with the ever-evolving social media landscape.

Lead Photo

The channel is extremely dynamic—it seems like Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Instagram/Tumblr roll out new ad-related news just about every day. It is also incredibly diverse in the many ways e-retailers leverage social tools and features to build relationships with shoppers and, ultimately, drive sales.

Luckily, IRCE provides a chance to take a step back to see what's going on and how retailers are leveraging social platforms—both on the social networks themselves and on their own sites—as well as how they're integrating social into their other marketing channels as well.

Take fashion retailer Free People, whose e-commerce site features Pinterest-like "Collections" that let shoppers assign various items to boards around a particular theme such as "Portland state of mind," as well as follow and comment on other shoppers' boards. Shoppers can also upload photos of themselves wearing Free People products. And, to keep the shoppers engaged, the retailer sends a weekly e-mail update on Collections and photos that are trending. And that's just on FreePeople.com.

That doesn't even account for the retailer's activity on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Google Plus and YouTube, nor does it begin to get into how the retailer incorporates social elements in its mobile app. That's why I'm eager to hear Jed Paulson, the retailer's director of direct and marketing, talk about the retailer's social emphasis during the mobile workshop's keynote presentation. Paulson plans to talk about how the retailer has woven social features into its app via a program called FP Me, which allows shoppers to share "inspiration and styling" photos as they browse an Instagram-like gallery of other user-generated images.

"We have a set of competitors from a women's specialty retailer perspective, but we are also competing with a ton of brands for our customers' time online," he says. Social engagement, Paulson says, helps drive shoppers back to its brand and to build relationships with customers.

Of course, when you're talking about social media marketing, you can't help but talk about Facebook, as it is ubiquitous. All but four retailers in the Internet Retailer 2013 Top 500 Guide are active on the social network. But online merchants use the platform in many ways.

I'm looking forward to hearing about some of the best of those tactics when Nicolas Franchet, Facebook Inc.'s head of retail, e-commerce, global vertical marketing, sits down for a discussion with zulily Inc. senior vice president of marketing David Atchinson during the session entitled "Conversion Drivers: Go Beyond the Like to Make Social Work for Retail."

Franchet says he plans to highlight the multiple Facebook tools zulily uses to reach its customers. "[Zulily] advertises products in the news feed to very targeted audiences, it leverages advanced functions like page post links, unpublished page posts, Custom Audiences and the Facebook conversion pixel," he says. "These features are helping zulily reach a large audience in a personalized way."

Zak Stambor covers all things social for Internet Retailer and is also the magazine's managing editor. This will be Zak's fifth Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

Highlighted Sessions
Conversion Drivers: Go Beyond the Like to Make Social Work for Retail Thursday, June 12, 3:30-4 p.m.
Mobile Workshop Keynote: How an App Played a Crucial Role in Engaging Shoppers with a Brand Friday, June 13, 8:45-9:15 a.m.

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