Retailers have long felt the pressure to get in on the social media game. While some merchants have focused their attention on embracing one or two platforms, many have tossed a large net across various sites. However, it’s no secret that some sites are better suited for retail than others. “Each has its specific role and purpose, and retailers need to figure out how to best leverage them to meet their brands’ needs,” according to Susan A. McKenna, CEO of Winnetka, Calif.-based social media firm McKenna’s Marketing.
Here’s a look at some of the social media sites most applicable to the retail environment (sites are ranked out of five stars):
LinkedIn * * * *
LinkedIn is a powerful tool for business-to-business retailers. Right now, many merchants are using it for networking, HR recruitment and reaching out to those in the supply chain, from buyers and sellers to product wholesalers. Retailers can benefit from being active in the forums and answering questions from peers. Professionals are often seeking e-commerce, supply chain and other solutions for their companies, and retailers can benefit from reaching out to build relationships or even a partnership.
Facebook * * * * *
Thanks to so many built-in tools that leverage fan pages and encourage customer interaction, Facebook is often considered the most relevant social media site for retailers. Some companies are taking further steps to reach out to Facebook fans. Target, for example, is now offering prepaid Facebook gift cards that can be redeemed for the purchase of virtual goods through popular games hosted on the site, such as FarmVille and Bejeweled Blitz. The social networking site’s first foray into the retail world is a prime example of how merchants can take advantage of its inherent fan base.
Twitter * * *
Although Twitter is often hyped as one of the top growing social media sites, retailers are still trying to figure out how to best use the platform. With slightly more than 100 million registered users—and only a small percentage routinely using the site (21%, according to a report by Barracuda Networks Inc., an e-mail and Web security company)—it’s hard to compare Twitter with Facebook’s active user base of 500 million, 50% of whom access the site every day.