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Engaged Communities Key to Social Commerce

Article date: Thu, 14 Jul 2011 11:28 GMT

UKFast Travel round table experts

Many vendors are integrating the ability to buy into social media sites like Facebook. However, maintaining engaged communities is the key to successful social commerce, not the hard-sell approach adopted by many of the form's pioneers.

Businesses need to 'think social, not sales' to build successful social commerce campaigns. This was the view of the panel of travel industry experts at a round table debate held by hosting specialist UKFast. The other key message was that psychologists could make the best social media communicators of the future.

Jenni Lloyd, strategy director at specialist digital agency Nixon McInnes, told the panel that engaging consumers through social media is the key to business longevity.

She said: "For businesses to be sustainable, we need really engaged people in the long term, who can then become our advocates and they take on our marketing for us. It's about approaching business in a different way and thinking about how to be social."

"It has become 'word of mouse' rather than word of mouth," agreed Thanasis Spyriadis, programme leader in Tourism Management at Manchester Metropolitan University.

"If we can maintain relationships and communities, I think that people will trust the business and begin to search for, and share, the organisation rather than just the product they want," he added.

Bob Atkinson of explained that the foundation for social media relationships is to engage the users' interests and trust before considering sales.

He said: "The current approach to social media is 'why are we doing it, what is it for and when will we get money from it?' We need to realise that social media users are looking for people they find interesting, who they can get involved with, or they are looking for trusted advice and recommendations.

"It is about building trust and community as an 'influencer' and then easing into recommendations or suggestions - if we can hold interest, sales and the rest will naturally follow."

Atkinson warned that cracking the social media code is not easy and preparation is essential.

He said: "A social media strategy needs to be researched properly - we have to learn and understand it. But unless we can give users something of real value that they wish to interact with, to share and show others, people will not come back. Social commerce cannot just be a sales engine."

Jonathan Bowers, communications director at UKFast, agreed with Atkinson that social media interaction should all be about value for the user. He said: "We originally seated our social media within the marketing team and discovered that pushing marketing and sales information was not the most effective way forward.

"Transferring our social media approach into the communication's strategy and delivering information of added-value has seen our number of Twitter followers increase massively. It's raising the significance of social media for the company."

Spyriadis suggested that developing this further will be a vital step in the evolution of social commerce.

He said: "If we accept that social media is to do with building relationships then we can accept that it is mainly to do with psychology - consumer psychology and business psychology.

"I think that in the future we will see people qualified in both marketing and psychology working within social media."

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