Tag Archives: the conrad hall

Does Social Media Impact Retailers?

Consumers are starting to dislike Thanksgiving Sales.

More than one consumer is considering skipping the Thanksgiving Sales this year. That’s because, instead of starting at 4am Black Friday several retailers are planning to start their sales at midnight Thanksgiving Day.

As you might imagine, lots of folks are speaking up about this on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. They’re not happy, and they’re using social media to voice their displeasure.

Now, we all have to admit that big sales are somewhat less than social occasions. Sometimes they resemble mass riots or war zones. But Thanksgiving is definitely a social occasion (even if we’re not entirely thrilled with Uncle Fred or Aunt Edna). That’s what has a lot of dedicated Black Friday shoppers saying they're ready to throw in the shopping bag.

Target, Macy’s Best Buy and Kohl’s are planning to open at midnight Thanksgiving Day. Wal-Mart is planning to start some of their sales at 10pm.

These sales are a big deal. The shop-‘til-you-drop crowd often start lining up 3 or 4 hours before the stores open just to be in a good position when the sale starts. As recently as last year, shoppers could be at Toys “R” Us for the 10pm opening Thanksgiving Day, get to Wal-Mart for a wrist band at 2am (guaranteeing a spot for their 5am sales start), the hit Kohl’s at 3am, Target or Macy’s at 4, and wrap up with Best Buy after stopping off at Wal-Mart.

Now that all these stores are kicking off their sales at the same time, shoppers are going to have to pick and choose which sales to participate in. And that is going to have negative consequences. After all, shoppers who went to 5 stores last year simply can’t make all 5 this year. That means somebody has to lose sales.

And how does this fit in with social media and the impact it has on retailers?

The answer lies in a recent study from Market Tools.

Market Tools recently published the “Social Media and Customer Feedback” survey. They found that 44% of retailers surveyed believe we do not comment or complain about their products and services online. Another 22% don’t even care enough to have found out whether we’re complaining about them.

Based on those results, I was very surprised to read the rest of the survey and find a high percentage of companies responding to customers through Facebook and Twitter. According to the survey, 54% of retailers using Facebook always or often reply to out comments and complaints. That number falls a little to 42% on Twitter.

So on one hand we have 66% of surveyed retailers either not believing we talk about them, or just not caring whether we do. And on the other hand, of those that are paying attention, many are making an effort to respond and interact. So what is social media’s impact on retailers?

While we hear a lot of the cow-pattie gurus touting the praises of social media for business, it’s clear that businesses are quite a bit slower to accept social media as a credible source of information.

Wal-Mart is an excellent example. The New York Times presented them with evidence from Facebook, Twitter and blogs that customers are unhappy with sales starting Thanksgiving Day. Their response was “customers told us they would rather stay up late to shop than get up early.”

There’s no question that “social media” is here to stay. Heck, what we’re calling social media is only a technological progression of all the gossip, rumor-mongering and press that has been around for centuries. So far, very few individuals and companies are using it in a coordinated and effective fashion.

So far, the impact of social media on retailers is minimal. (As an interesting side note – even e-commerce accounts for only 1% of the world’s economy according to the CIA Factbook.)

Rather than pay attention to the squawking that’s going on in social media, retailers are going to pay attention to sales figures for Thanksgiving Day. After all, we know that most of the folks making a lot of noise now are still very likely to be standing in line for sales come Thanksgiving Day.

Actions count far louder than conversations.

So when you’re looking at how to incorporate social media into your marketing mix, take all the hype and hoopla with a grain of salt. While I certainly recommend making the effort to respond to customers who complain – regardless of whether it’s in person or through social media – always give more credence to what people do than what they say.

There is a distinct possibility that retailers are going to lose sales this year. But that loss will have very little to do with social media.

Last year, the sales started in staggered fashion. This allowed people to shop at multiple stores. Now most of the sales are starting at the same time - midnight Thanksgiving Day. So the retailers are going to lose because people simply can't be in two places at once, and there's an ingrained perception that a sale is only worthwhile when you get there at the beginning. This is why people line up four hours early for Black Friday sales.

And let's keep in mind that we're in a poor economy. Although some may not be able to participate in the sales the way they did before, most who can afford it will participate to an even greater extent. The stupendous bargains of Black Friday are an excellent way to stretch a dollar.

What we would all do well to listen to is the message that customers are displeased with two things:

  1. The change to cherished holiday shopping traditions. Waiting for sales to start is often a very social time.
  2. The inability to fully participate in the social nature of shopping because it now overlaps with Thanksgiving Day.

The retailers likely to come out on top this year are toy stores (because parents shop for their kids before themselves) and the J.C. Penny's. J.C. Penny is keeping its usual 4 a.m. opening time, so they're going to stand out from the crowd.

What do you think? Do you care when stores open for Black Friday sales? Should retailers immediately cave in to complaints, or wait to see what people do?

Facebook and Groupon Losing

Facebook and Groupon losing ground with the government and investors.

The FTC  has already reached agreements with Google and Twitter over privacy issues. Now they’re close to reaching a deal with Facebook.

Unfortunately, the privacy problems seem to run a little more deeply with Facebook. That might be why the New York Times article indicates part of the deal includes Facebook submitting to privacy audits for the next 20 years.

In a follow-up piece to last week’s anticipation of Groupon’s IPO, we take a look at what happened after day 1.

Although the IPO was a success for Groupon – and for the investment bankers who raked in $50 Million in fees – it has been somewhat tempered by losses starting on day 2.

And we wrap up the show with a look at how social media is impacting social media.

It begins with a look at how people are responding to the announcement that several retailers are intruding on our Thanksgiving by opening at midnight Thanksgiving Day. Then we look at a study published by Market Tools that shows most business owners are not listening to what we have to say through social media.

And that leads us back around to Facebook, and their persistent reluctance to listen to user dissatisfaction with their privacy policies.

Ad Agencies Failing With Social Media

US ad agencies – 95% of them – are using social media to identify potential clients for themselves. Unfortunately, their social media efforts are only generating 10% of their new business.

That just has to hurt...

This news is from a study done by RSW/US and RSW/AgencySearch. (Ironically, two divisions of an ad agency.) And it’s reminiscent of the news that came from Nation’s Restaurant News in 2010.

Then it was restaurant owners going whole-hog into Facebook. Their customers, on the other hand, were less than interested. So while 65% of restaurant owners were using Facebook Pages, only 3% of their customers cared. Still, that’s 50% better than what the “pros” (ad agencies) are accomplishing.

Hear my take on why ad agencies can’t even find the boat at www.smcande.com (It’s short for Social Media: Cheap and Easy, and it reads like candy. Perfect for Halloween.)

Ad agencies, after pouring lots of time energy and effort into using Facebook, have discovered that only 2% of potential clients prefer to be contacted though Facebook. Something tells me they’re saying “oops,” and someone – maybe a few someones – are now looking for alternate employment.

In fact, of the options provided, most US marketing decision makers prefer to be contacted via e-mail (79%). Snail mail comes in second at 41%. And LinkedIn vastly outperforms Facebook with 16% of decision makers accepting contact from ad agencies.

Simple Truth: Social Media cannot save a sinking ship. But it can certainly sink a healthy ship.

Most business owners hear me say that and immediately think about people bad-mouthing their business. Just like information piracy, bad reviews are really not the problem. Just look at the success Domino’s has had by publicizing bad reviews.

Social media can ruin a healthy business precisely because it takes time, energy and effort. Getting an account is free, using that account can be a huge drain on your resources.

After you listen to this week’s episode of Social Media: Cheap and Easy, listen to the previous two episodes. In them, we take a look at a company called Collective Bias. They’re an ad agency – although completely unlike any other ad agency I’ve encountered – and they’re getting social media right.

Where ad agencies can’t get a grip on social media – Collective Bias is producing increases in the range of 51% for year over year sales.

The key element is HOW they’re using social media.

In carpentry, and all trades, there’s an adage that the tools don’t make the carpenter. It’s how you use the tools you have that makes the difference. And while everyone else is focusing on Facebook, Collective Bias is making effective use of the most powerful social media tool available: Blogging.

They have a massive community of bloggers with engaged audiences. They also keep a healthy distance between those bloggers and the brands. Why? Because the brands would poison the well – often without ever meaning to, or realising they’re doing it.

I could go on for pages and pages. So seriously, you need to listen to this week’s episode of Social Media: Cheap and Easy, plus the previous two episodes. Then come back here and start posting your questions and comments. It’s time for every local business to give the boot to ad agencies, and start enjoying some real success with your marketing.

 

Social Media Politics, Agencies Admit Failure, Yahoo For Sale

Social media is used in Egypt to change the government, and in Mexico to keep people safe. But in the U.S. it’s being used by politicians to bicker and throw mud. Is it just me, or does this seem incredibly out of whack?

As politicians of all stripes follow Barack Obama’s precedent setting social media campaign from 2008,

I’m starting to wonder if they can really be this clueless. After all, what have they been doing for the last 4 years? They’ve had no particular use for social media since 2008, yet they expect us to engage with them now that they’re hopping on the bandwagon.

Listen to this week's show at www.SocialMediaCheapAndEasy.com

Another social media flop is ad agencies. A new report from RSW/US and RSW/Agency (2011 New Business Report) found that while 95% of U.S. ad agencies are using social media to identify potential clients, less than 10% of their new clients are coming to them through social media.

Evidently they didn’t pay attention last year when the Nation’s Restaurant News published the results of their own industry survey. In that case, it was specifically for Facebook, and they discovered that while 65% of restaurants were using Facebook to market themselves only 3% of their customers were interested.

Naturally, the agencies blame social media for the poor results. Listen to this week’s show for the real reason why they’re getting no social traction.

And we wrap up the show this week with a look at Yahoo being on the bidding block. Google and Microsoft are interested in financing a purchase, although neither company wants to directly own Yahoo. Strange, but true.

More importantly, there’s a particular line in this story that really raised my ire. It ties everything together this week, and is a stinging indictment of all the profiteers and opportunists. This one piece is the best possible evidence for why we need to revive capitalism.