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While the team in Texas oversees all conversations, the strategy it shepherds for each social network depends on the segment of business that is engaging with customers. "What matters is where customers are and what they are interested in," Binhammer says. "We try to ask questions or see what they are sharing. In Twitter, it's different from Facebook." Dell's SlideShare account, for example, posts white papers on cloud computing or I.T. security aimed at corporate network managers. On the other hand, the Dell Home U.S. Twitter account is more consumer-focused, with tweets about promotions or new products.
Another social media success story is Home Depot, which scored fifth on the list, largely because of the popularity of its corporate blog. The home improvement products retailer had 273 blog posts in the previous 12 months, an average of 0.9 comments per post, and more than 500,000 monthly unique visitors to the blog portion of its e-commerce site.
"Home Depot is the only one that is doing blogging well," Dyer says. "They were far and away the best and there was no one in their league. For them it's how-to's and product demos and answering people's questions. It's real, tangible valuable stuff."
Given the importance of Facebook, W2O took a closer look at the content of Facebook pages of the 10 retailers that scored highest in effectiveness on the leading online social network.
These retailers are increasingly using promotions as a major part of their Facebook strategies. On average, these 10 retailers post 2.22 times per day, and 39% of those messages directly promote a product or deal. They also include images in 72% of their posts.
On the flip side, other engagement strategies were lacking as W2O found video content in only 7% of posts, cross-promoting other social media channels in 5% and fan polls in 8%. (These figures add up to more than 100% because some posts applied to several categories, such as including both a discount and an image.)
Along with Amazon, other major e-commerce players like Apple and Netflix could be missing an opportunity to engage with customers, the data show. To get a sense for how retailers' social media presence compares with their overall online customer base, W2O also scored each retailer from 100 downward based on volume of web site traffic. And Netflix, Apple and Amazon are the only three e-retailers in the Top 100 whose social score is lower than their traffic score. "What this means is that based on the amount of traffic to their web sites, we would expect to see a much stronger presence in social media," Dyer says.
Apple, for example, is the only Top 100 e-retailer that did not have a Facebook page for all of 2011. Apple Inc. joined Facebook in July of 2011 and since has racked up more than 5 million fans. However, W2O gave Apple a zero score on Facebook because its page was not live for the whole year. Also, Apple does not use the social network to promote its products or connect with customers. Its Facebook wall is blank. Apple ranked No. 50 overall on the W2O list and Netflix came in at 13. Neither Apple nor Netflix were available for comment.
On the other hand, Amazon and Apple scored No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on Social Footprint, a measure of how often the retailers are talked about on blogs, forums and social networks. While social marketing is no doubt an important opportunity for most retailers, some might not need much help from the social web. After all, Amazon dominates online retail and Apple is the most valuable publicly traded company in the world—they must be doing something right.