When Yesmail Interactive conducted a study of the e-mail and social media marketing campaigns of 20 large retail chains it found that retailers like The Gap (GPS), Urban Outfitters (URBN), American Apparel (APP), and H&M still have some fundamental misunderstandings about their social media channels and how to use them.
According to the study, the launch of marketing efforts on social media channels is out of synch with the peak traffic and usage patterns of the social media users on those channels. It's similar to running your best TV ads at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning and wondering why you're not getting a big bump in sales from it.
Through its analysis, Yesmail concluded three important things about the social media marketing efforts of the retailers it studied:
- Even though Tuesday is the day of highest activity on Facebook, Tuesday ranks fourth as the day that companies tend to launch their social media marketing campaigns.
- Friday has the lowest number of retweets on Twitter, and yet Friday is the most popular day for Twitter marketing campaigns.
- YouTubers are most interactive on Mondays, while marketing efforts are the least active on YouTube on Mondays.
To the credit of U.S. business, at least they are trying to use social media instead of ignoring it and hoping it will go away. According to research from InSites Consulting, 80% of U.S. companies have a presence on Facebook, and 45% have Twitter accounts. This high usage also holds true for the U.S. retail industry, where the list of major U.S. retail chains not using social media is a very short list compared to the retail companies with Facebook pages and the retail companies with Twitter accounts.
A very high 83% of the companies actively using social media channels claim that they answer questions and customer complaints posed to them on there. And 61% of companies surveyed report that they are actively listening to what consumers are saying about them in social media channels. In other words, businesses are proactively cyber eavesdropping and they see the value in spending the time to do so.
Despite this seemingly high level of activity, another study conducted by Conversocial and New York University found that 55% of consumers feel that communicating with companies on social media was "disappointing" or "mediocre." This indicates that customer expectations are higher than the level of service that most companies are providing via social media.
The disparity between retailers' self-reported high level of usage and consumers reported high level of dissatisfaction speaks to the ever-present challenge of activity vs. accomplishment in social media. U.S. businesses that are accustomed to operating within the business model of getting the most return for the least effort still can't get their fiscal heads around the labor intensiveness involved in connecting with social media users in a way that meets the users' expectations.
Consequently the InSites research reveals only 11% of companies say that social media is integrated into their overarching corporate strategy. It seems that social media is still viewed as an afterthought, rather than a vital component of overall marketing success.
The business use of social media marketing is a chicken-egg proposition in that the lack of sales results is used as justification for not investing fully into the effort, but the lack of full commitment is preventing businesses from developing the expertise needed to improve results. Of course, it is the definition of "results" that is the sticking point for businesses.
Social media is about connection and relationship. If someone can come up with an effective and convincing way to measure the value of connection and relationship to the bottom line, then the full force of marketing creativity will be unleashed in the social media space.
If I was Mark Zuckerberg, I would put my newly acquired Wall Street millions to that very task. Because without the enthusiastic participation of U.S. business, what will a successful social media "business" model be?