ADOTAS – Online retailers today are racing to adopt social strategies, seeing them as a key to a more engaged customer base, a lower customer acquisition cost and a higher brand affinity. As retailers assess this opportunity, their hopes are that these improved
methods of interacting with customers yield greater sales, higher margins, faster growth and increased competitive positioning.
I see three companies setting new standards with their unique approaches to social media, while at the same time, harnessing the power of their online community for new types of operating efficiencies.
ModCloth: The Two Essential Rules for Social Marketing
If you think your company is doing a good job with its social network marketing by managing a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, get ready for a reality check from a leader like ModCloth, an innovative online retailer of independently designed fashion and décor. ModCloth’s COO and CMO Kerry Cooper lays out the company’s strategy for social marketing with just two simple, fundamental rules:
Rule #1: Be where the customers are.
Rule #2: Be authentic.
“Be Where The Customers Are” is what pushes the company to communicate on nine different social networks and sites as well as two different blogging platforms. ModCloth manages a very large and vibrant presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram and YouTube. That’s not all. In addition to those “Big Six” sites, there are key specialized social networks or community sites in many vertical markets that have large followings. In the fashion world in which ModCloth operates, that means sites like Polyvore, Kaboodle and Chictopia. The ModCloth team knows it has to be there, too — managing a presence, interacting with customers and keeping its fans and followers engaged.
Similarly, the company continues to branch out to other platforms and networks if its customers are there discussing fashion, shopping or ModCloth’s products. It engages appropriately and helpfully, not with overt promotional and advertising messages, thus embracing Cooper’s second rule, “Be Authentic.” The employees understand that this means they are to communicate on those networks as real people, as customers, as women talking to other women about a shared interest in vintage and fun fashion — not as marketers. In order to ensure the voice and style are truly authentic, the company does not hire any outside agencies for these posts;
they’re written by employees who are typically ModCloth customers and can truly identify with their target audience.
Quirky: Maximizing Your Company’s Facebook Page to Its Fullest
Another example is Quirky, a social product development company that makes invention accessible by partnering with creative people around the world to bring new products to life. Each week, Quirky engages its online community to collaborate in all aspects of product design and development — from ideation all the way to packaging. Quirky brings two brand new consumer products to market every week and shares the revenue with all of the individuals who were influential in bringing these products to life. Quirky is rapidly changing the way the world thinks about product development, and is also utilizing community management and social
media to its fullest.
For example, in honor of National Investor’s Month, Quirky recently extended the timeline on its corporate Facebook page back to 1641, and transformed it into a timeline of American invention — from the first North American patent all the way to the present, the company used its Facebook page to chronicle the “Who’s Who” and “What’s What” of innovative minds and products throughout our nation’s history to help reinforce the underlying mission of the company. There are more than 200 entries already posted and Quirky continuously adds more content to interact with its wide range of customers, partners and key influencers, sharing the origins of our country’s favorite products.
Betabrand: Branding Your Buyers
San Francisco-based Betabrand produces unique and clever clothing in small, limited-edition, beta-tested batches every week. It keeps fans of its brand engaged in a number of ways, but most notably through its “Model Citizen” program, which gives customers the chance to be instant models on Betabrand.com. Betabrand actually turns customer photos into the site’s principal product images, and rewards new and current customers for modeling Betabrand clothing with discounts on future orders. To become Model Citizens, customers simply upload their photos to the site, where they instantly get a unique product-page URL they can share with friends and family. The ability for customers to share and be featured on the Model Citizen photo wall sparks instant social-commerce conversations and more unique views to the site. To date, nearly 4,000 photos have been uploaded, and the Model Citizen mobile application has made the ability for customers to share their experiences with Betabrand clothing even easier.
Why This Works
All three of these companies are embracing social media to its fullest and deploying radical levels of customer involvement in their operations, communications and marketing. When done well, companies can accurately track the increase in conversion rates and LTV (Lifetime Value) for their social media expenditures. More importantly, their customers are truly engaged in conversation, and don’t feel like they are simply being fed marketing messages and promotions. This delivers measurable strategic advantages in metrics like Net Promoter Scores, repeat purchase rates, customer satisfaction levels and lowered customer acquisition costs.
Moreover, the engagement levels of these customers and fans is a key component of what makes their communities so passionate about the companies and their products — a distinct advantage in a very competitive and ever-changing market.