By now, most digital and social teams have their process largely figured out when it comes to social media marketing to support their brand:
But social merchandising is quite a bit different. Rather than focusing on driving conversation about the brand in general, social merchandising efforts focus on driving momentum and engagement for specific products.
It's the difference between getting someone to like "Nike" vs. getting someone excited about the new "White Ice FuelBand" from Nike.
Social merchandising is still a relatively new endeavor. However, brands with large social audiences have quickly learned how to best craft strategies and programs to drive engagement for specific products. Here are the top lessons they've learned:
1. Start with a high-potential product or collection. Some products have more social potential than others; they just do.
"Limited edition celebrity design" = high potential
"The same cleaning product as last year" = not so much
Social channels have some unique capabilities, but, in general, they aren't magic. Pick a product or collection that's worth talking about and sharing. Focus on items for which you can build up exclusivity, anticipation, or urgency.
2. Determine your target audience. Social audiences are just as, if not more, fragmented and specialized than traditional audiences. Create a basic demographic and psychographic profile of the group(s) you're trying to "activate" with your social merchandising effort.
Personas are often very useful here. Once you identify that you're trying to reach a late-40s soccer mom and her teenage son to get them interested in your product, that will inform your approach significantly.
3. Define desired actions. There are lots of ways for an audience to participate with, and lend social momentum to, a product. What is it that you want them to do most?
Identifying the desired action(s) for your target audience is the most important input to defining your social merchandising experience.
4. Choose channels wisely. Not all social channels are created equal. In fact, some are much better at driving certain types of activity than others. Your choice of social channel(s) for a given social merchandising effort should be based on who you're targeting and what you want them to do.
Some food for thought as you evaluate various channels:
5. Use the most rich, visual product content you can. Today's social channels are far more visual than they were a year ago. Brands should look to leverage their richest and most arresting imagery to get attention in today's feeds - especially on mobile.
Many brands already have high-res product assets in their "lookbooks," catalogues, and digital asset management systems. These key assets should be made available to all teams that support social merchandising efforts.
6. Build your process and tools for reuse. As with other social media marketing efforts, social merchandising should not be seen as a "one-time campaign." Instead, look to establish a repeatable process and toolset that will allow you to conduct effective social merchandising programs to support your key products on an ongoing basis.
Some areas to focus on for maximum repeatability and efficiency:
Start Finding Your Social Merchandising Best Practices
Social merchandising holds tremendous promise for brands that want to build social momentum for their products - but it won't be a one-size-fits-all solution.
The best way to understand which customer segments, social channels, and product categories yield the best results for your specific brand is to start running social merchandising programs and measure their effectiveness.
The companies that make that a priority in 2013 will be in the best position to "put social to work," driving meaningful product engagement…and sales.
Social Commerce image on home page via Shutterstock.
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Kevin has been working with brands and retailers to build e-commerce and social media marketing solutions since 1995. As an entrepreneur and business development leader in growth-stage companies, he is most interested in developing new markets at the intersection of consumers, brands, and emerging technologies. Kevin currently leads marketing and product management at ShopIgniter, providers of Enterprise Social Commerce solutions to the F1000.
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