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Commerce and Social Networking Sites: A Positive Relationship

13 March, 2012

“You can’t afford not to be on them” is the most commonly heard sentence at business meetings when talking about social networking sites. Experts on the issue, 2.0 communication consultants mainly, agree, but they also warn that starting a business communications strategy on social networks isn’t easy. It is a long-term project that doesn’t always produce a guaranteed or tangible return.

As happens with many other innovations, social networks require training in order to know how to make the most of them. A brand’s presence in a 2.0 environment must be based on a previous project that set out the goals and all the timetabled activities to carry out in order to deliver the desired results. Not previously planning the steps to take with regard to social networking sites can lead a brand to make mistakes, warn people who have already been in these environments for a while.

That is why the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce has designed the course entitled Social Networks in Commerce: A Tool for Selling More. The course will be given on 26 March and seeks to provide retail sector professionals with the basic keys for communicating on social networking sites and strategies that can be tapped to heighten a brand’s values and indirectly boost sales.

Direct to the customer

Increasingly more brands have got behind the idea of communicating with their customers, free of intermediaries, via social networking sites. One example is Bobo Choses, the children’s fashion firm that uses these communication channels as one of its main points of contact with its customers. The joint founder and creative director behind this young Catalan company whose clothes retail in 26 countries around the world is Laia Aguilar. “We have always said that Bobo Choses would not be where it is today without the Internet and social networking sites,” she says. Ms Aguilar believes that social networks have “brought the world within our reach”. Today the label can be found in stores in such far-flung spots as Japan, Hong Kong and Los Angeles. The globalization of Bobo Choses can be directly attributed, according to its creative director, to “the communication strategy on social networking sites”.

Does communicating in these 2.0 environments necessarily translate into increased sales? This is the question small and large retailers constantly ask. To respond, the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce  underlines the importance of the networks as “another tool to help boost sales”. Experts from the chamber’s training department also speak of the importance of social networks to “drive traffic and therefore customers to your website”.

“You can’t sell on the social networking sites themselves, but you can’t not have a presence on them,” a Chamber representative says. It has been proven that advertising as we have known it to date is not well received on these new communication spaces, so most brands employ the strategy of targeting customers through value-added content on such popular publications as Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare.

This is what Mimòtica Micola has bet on. The fashion firm run by businesswoman Raquel Micola got onto the most popular social networking sites from the start, and is also present on lesser-known sector-specific sites that are decisive in finding new customers. “In the same way that we send out press releases, we can’t let the chance to speak directly to our customers pass us by. Social networks are a perfect way to do it,” Ms Micola says.
The firm’s communication strategy for social networks involves, among other things, two profile pages on Facebook (in Spanish, with around 2,000 fans, and in English), its own channel on Youtube and its own blog. To provide content to all these spaces, Raquel Micola advises that “one person in the company should ensure the agility and speed that the conversations and interactions that take place require”.

No less important is the fact that all of these sites also make it possible to find out what your customers think about your brand. This is a factor expressly mentioned by experts and labels alike. “We really appreciate having first-hand knowledge about what our customers think. It allows us to make improvements wherever we can,” says Laia Aguilar.

The importance of social networking sites is increasingly decisive in a label’s communication policies, which is why there are also a growing number of spaces where experts and businesspeople can discuss ways to improve 2.0 communication plans and winning strategies for delivering on targets. One example is Retail Meeting Point, a discussion space on this issue with more than seven thousand retailers, which in tough times like these, suggest how this new form of communication can be a competitive option.

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