How Social Media Can Help Sell: Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester

  • There are a variety of ways to find out what people are saying, either by looking at each and every blog or by skimming appropriate tags on the topic.
  • Communities (yes I used that word again) are popping up and are talking about brands and who’s buying what. So how to take it to the next step?
  • There might not be the traditional end goal, but that doesn’t mean there should be goals spelled out. In some cases that goal is sales, for others it’s brand building.

That’s the biggest takeaway, I think, for anyone looking to tap into social media as a tool for e-commerce. There may not be a "well for every 20 users there’s a solidly defined sale" return on investment. But for every person out there creating content, whether it’s blogs or consumer reviews on third-part sites, there are quite few who are just reading without creating their own stuff. And you may never know that their purchase was spurred by someone’s blog post or review. But that doesn’t diminish the importance.

One issue she brings up is whether or not e-tailers have a responsibility to post or otherwise highlight negative reviews. She points to data culled from Amazon that shows the negative reviews are still opportunities for dialogue. That’s important to reiterate since the fear of negative commentary is what’s keeping a lot of people from diving into social media.

Other notes:

  • Aside from anything else, recommendation engines can be a powerful way to build customer loyalty by showing people things they might like based on what they’ve liked in the past. But make sure to maintain the algorithm regularly to meet the changing needs of your customer base.
  • Creating communities that allow fans to be fans help to build loyalty and enthusiasm, something that might not lead to direct sales but is still incredibly important.
  • Del Monte is an example of a company that created a blog and solicited feedback from customers, feedback that in some cases was used to design and develop new products.
  • Oooo…Threadless gets a mention. Chicago represent!
  • Important point mentioned again: ROI may not be direct and should not, at least at the start, be the ultimate metric.
  • Wal-Mart’s failed social network The Hub mentioned as a cautionary tale.

Overall a very good presentation with plenty of "let’s keep our heads on straight" talk about the topic. Always in short supply so it’s good to hear.