Influencer Marketing Marketing Retail Social Media Marketing

Social Media: What should retailers do with it?

How to manage social engagement on social media.

Not social media, again? Are you with me when I say that we spend 25% of our time talking about it but it leads to less than 5% of sales? Many retailers I meet are experiencing just that. They feel a need to embrace the technology: ‘PLEASE like us on Facebook’ as if their life depends on it, yet hand on heart they probably know that it won’t lead to a massive surge in income.

There are plenty of “Social Media Guru’s” offering retailers some quick-fix solutions, for just a small retainer of £2,000 to £5,000 per month. These solutions will apparently increase your number of Twitter followers and Facebook likes, and off the back of these, will generate an increase in revenues.

“What do you make of all of this?”

I’ve been spending much of the past year answering that question for retail clients as part of Strand’s marketing audit activities. So rather than provide a step-by-step guide to social media, as you can easily find those online, we want to consider an alternative approach:

  1. How many retail sales leads are you missing in the Social world?
  2. How many people are talking about your brand, but you’re not listening?

Let’s pick up the first point. Let’s say you’re a computer games retailer. If you searched on Twitter or FaceBook for games launching soon, you’ll find many gamers welling up with excitement, when they can’t wait to get their hands on the “hottest game of the year, until the next one”. But where are they buying it? Perhaps you could get in on the conversation. If you start a dialogue you might find it could lead to a pre-order which would be great for you, and the tweeter benefits too. If they are so open about their games cravings you’ll probably find they will be open about your support. Searching for every opportunity like this would be highly labour-intensive and therefore not very profitable. We’ve been looking at a solution…

And the second opportunity from social media? Who’s talking about you? What are you doing to monitor these public discussions? In the days before social media, this is what retailers paid Public Relations agencies for. A pessimistic view would be that this is a ‘damage limitation’ retainer but we’re also interested in the positive discussions that could turn into a great opportunity for your brand. This morning on Twitter, I saw a discussion from a leading entrepreneur who was airing his thoughts publicly about the poor broadband coverage he experienced from a leading mobile phone provider compared with associates who were signed up to the competition. I’ve seen the same about some of the prestige car brands, usually about poor customer service. Back to the old world again and a complaint about a retailer would be managed by their customer services department.

Now, although this entrepreneur hasn’t contacted customer services, it’s going to have more impact across a wider audience, isn’t it? So once again, we need to find a way to listen in on some of these public conversations (yes, they’re public, so nothing Big Brother about this!). It’s a bit like hearing a conversation about your brand while you’re waiting for a train. If you can do something to help out, you probably would.

So what’s the solution?

The Sandpit logo

Strand co-habits with The Sandpit, who spots emerging technologies and help them get to market. They’ve been helping some developers recently with a tool to automatically search the social media world for either retail sales leads or for public retail customer experiences.

The Sandpit has been running some reports for us for a month now so we can assess the technology. It’s rather interesting. Not only does it run the searches but it also drafts the responses, learning over time whether a discussion is positive, negative or a sales lead, and notifying the relevant people who can best deal with them.

Unusually for something in this space, we have found it quite easy to measure ROI, so it’s easy to see whether it’s working for you.

If you’re interested in meeting The Sandpit and exploring this in more depth, do get in touch with us and we’ll put you together. But if you start talking about us, please be nice, because we’ll be listening.

(Featured Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash)


  1. What should be happening already is big brands should be contacting people directly when complaints are aired via social media (as well as praise) I’m still waiting for BAA to follow up on my complaints via Twitter……

  2. Last week I read a poor review of King & Allen on a review site. From what he was saying he clearly hadn’t been in touch and had gone straight to the internet to air his views. I contacted the review site with a message to forward to him and my personal email address. Sure enough he got in touch. I sent him a short note thanking him, after which my customer service team have dealt with him – very easily. It was a simple stitching error which we easily fixed. He has since removed the negative comments and is now a happy customer. I’m really glad I made the (relatively small) effort.

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