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GUEST COMMENT Getting into social media? Choose your tactics and channels carefully

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by Tamara Littleton

As social media becomes a major channel for retailers – both to sell to and engage with customers – it’s worth knowing what attracts consumers to take part in social media campaigns and promotions, and what turns them away.

First, have a clear objective from the campaign. What do you want fans to do? And what will they get out of doing it? Do you want them to talk to your brand or to each other? Recommend you, or invite people into your community? Keep these objectives in mind when you build your competition or promotion.

Which channel works best?

The main social channels – Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – have their own ‘personalities’. People behave differently on each of them. YouTube hosts the most abusive and bullying behaviour, probably because users are more anonymous (it doesn’t link back to your personal profile), and comments can get very personal. But of course if your product is very visual – if you sell clothes, for example – YouTube can work really well for a brand.

Facebook attracts the most spam if left unmoderated. Even the biggest high street names on Facebook – notably Topshop and H&M – have issues with spam staying up on their Facebook wall. Facebook users also expect quick responses to questions posted on the retailer’s wall. Fans soon get fed up with one-way communication on Facebook, so resource page management accordingly.

With both Facebook and YouTube, you can use moderation tools to filter out abusive or bullying comments (but never censor criticism). We always advise brands to lay out clear terms and conditions on your Facebook or YouTube page, making clear that you won’t tolerate ‘hate’ posts, abuse, bullying or spammers. But beware – noone reads long Ts & Cs written in ‘legalese’. Keep them short and clear, and within the main frame of the community.

Twitter is, of course, the fastest response channel. People expect an immediate response on Twitter – far faster than on YouTube or Facebook – so put the resource you need behind it. Asos is worth looking at – it gets the combination of personal contact, problem solving and promotion right, and is building a real community on Twitter.

Ten is the magic number.

As a rule of thumb:

• Ten percent of people who look at your campaign will actively take part (post, like, upload material etc).

• Ten percent of those people who take part (Ten percent of the ten percent) will abuse the system.

Video, image or text –based campaigns?

Campaigns and competitions that ask users to upload videos will get fewer entries than those using text or images. They’re also more likely to go against posting rules, so you’ll have to spend more time moderating them. Common issues are things like copyrighted music playing in the background, or having the TV on, as well as more obvious things like nudity or sexual content.

Image-based campaigns will get more entries than video, as pictures are easy to take and upload, with no editing required. But be warned: they’re much more likely to include obscene or illegal images (including things like abuse, firearms and drug use, as well as nudity and sexual content). Don’t just look at the overall image, check for hidden pictures, titles or text within a picture.


Competitions are one of the most common ways of encouraging consumers into the retailer’s world, particularly on Facebook (but note Facebook’s promotion policy which stipulates that no Facebook features or functionality (such as ‘liking’ or uploading a photo) can be used as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism, and you cannot notify winners via Facebook). The most successful competitions are those that offer prizes that money can’t buy: exclusive access to a celebrity event, or a ‘behind the scenes’ trip (see River Island’s competition with Grazia magazine as a good example). But the prize must be relevant to your brand, or you risk attracting people into the competition who’ll never buy from your store. If you’re a high fashion store, ask is it relevant for you to run a competition for Olympics tickets?

If a consumer stands to win something, they’ll behave better on your page. Getting people to fill in their contact details – name, email address and so on – for the prize details to be sent on means they’re less likely to abuse the terms of the competition.

Live campaigns?

Live uploads (SMS to screen, or unmoderated Twitter feeds into a campaign website) attract the worst behaviour from consumers. The bigger the screen, the more chance of causing embarrassment to the brand, and the higher the likelihood that someone will try to get round the system.

Social media is developing into a really interesting channel for retailers. Not just as a marketing channel, but increasingly used for sales (‘F-commerce’) , R&D and product testing, and customer service. Putting some thought into how to get customers involved in social media campaigns, and creating communities around brands, can pay huge dividends in terms of loyalty. But it takes time and resource to do well.

Tamara Littleton is CEO of community management and moderation company, eModeration

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