3 steps to a more effective retail Facebook presence

Amidst the many clouds of uncertainty surrounding retail use of social media, a few key strategies are starting to emerge. Three recent studies, including a white paper written by yours truly, have examined customer interactions with retailers via social media. Encouragingly, all three studies (Emarketer recently summarized the findings from studies by Marketing Sherpa and Razorfish) have very similar findings regarding customer desires in their social media interactions with retailers.

While the percentages varied slightly, all three studies found customers who “friended” or followed retailers said they were interested primarily in learning about new products and new or exclusive promotions. How great is that? I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see these results because it seems like current conventional wisdom says to avoid being promotional on sites like Facebook in deference to its more personal nature. In hindsight, that conventional wisdom seems a little questionable since it’s unlikely customers are going to interact with retailers like their friends. They know we’re about selling to them — we’re retailers!

More good news: It appears that the customers who follow retailers are really the best, most engaged and brand committed customers for those retailers. I suppose that’s not terribly surprising, but it’s certainly valuable information. Since our findings were part of a larger customer satisfaction study, we were also able to determine that site visitors who also interact with a company on a social media site are more satisfied, more committed to the brand, and more likely to make future purchases from that company than customers who don’t follow those retailers. Our study also found that 61% of people who follow retailers follow less than five retailers. That’s further  indication that people are really focused on their absolute favorite retailers.

We also found that more than 80% of shoppers who use social media list Facebook as a site they use regularly, which makes it the overwhelming social media leader. YouTube came in second place with only 31% of shoppers.

So, to summarize, our best and most engaged customers like to interact with us on Facebook (an incredibly viral platform) and want to hear about new products and promotions. This is a great foundation for a successful strategy!

Without further ado, here are three steps to a more effective retail Facebook presence:

  1. Focus on best customers
    Rather than trying to build our fan base to the highest possible numbers, let’s focus on getting as many of our highest value customers as fans on Facebook. They’re the most likely to become our Facebook fans anyway, but they’re also the most likely to recommend us to their friends. Facebook’s viral nature gives us the opportunity to put our Word of Mouth Marketing on steroids, and developing messages for our best customers gives us a clear focus. We should reach out directly to our best customers via targeted messaged and encourage them to join because we…
  2. Give ’em special promotions and news about products
    These are our best customers. Let’s treat them well and make them feel special. Let’s give them exclusive offers and early notice on cool new products.  Victoria’s Secret does an excellent job here, and it shows. Of the Internet Retailer Top 40 retailers’ Facebook pages I looked at, Victoria’s Secret has by far the most fans at almost 2.7 million at the time of this writing. Clearly, they are delivering on customer expectations, and they’re being rewarded for it by attracting lots of really engaged customers.

    My good friend Adam Cohen, partner and social media lead at Rosetta and blogger at a thousand cuts, (and my go-to guy on all things social media) correctly cautions against too many rich, exclusive promotions as they could be unsustainable as the fan base grows. This is particularly true if the offers start to attract deal seekers who are not our best customers. Good warning from Adam and in line with the excellent old adage “everything in moderation.”

  3. Leverage Facebook viral features
    We’re giving great, exclusive offers and product news to our best customers. Those best customers are the most likely to recommend us to their friends. Let’s encourage them to do so. It could be as simple as letting them know an exclusive offer can be shared with their friends by simply hitting the “share” link.  There are lots of Facebook applications and other techniques that can be used, but I would personally just start simply and go from there.

(Bonus tip) Make sure your page can be found in Facebook search.
This isn’t really one of my key steps, but during my research I was surprised by how poor Facebook’s search is. For example, I searched for “LL Bean” and found nothing. Then I tried “L.L. Bean” and again got nothing. Their page is actually entitled “L.L.Bean” with no space between “L.” and “Bean.” Facebook’s search will only find it if you search for it exactly as it’s titled.  So, my tip is think about how people might search for your brand and then name the page with the most common search term.


Three separate studies have all found that customers who friend or follow retailers in social media are most interested in learning about promotions and new products. That’s some mighty strong corroboration, and it’s incredibly great news. Judging from the large percentage of retailers with little-to-no Facebook presence, I’m guessing many have been holding pat waiting for a clear direction on how to best leverage social media. While this information may not give the clearest direction for all social media channels, it certainly provides some clarity on today’s biggest channel, Facebook. Different social media channels require different strategies and tactics, and in the end it’s still important to learn more from our customers about their specific needs and desires and then work to satisfy them.

In the meantime, let’s build some really great Facebook pages for our best customers and give them some exclusive offers to enjoy. Please let me know when you’ve got your page running so I can become a fan!

What do you think? What have you learned about Facebook? What tips do you have?


  • By Sarah, February 11, 2010 @ 1:16 pm

    Do you think there is a downside to a “bad” Facebook page? We all know a really crappy website can do more harm than good…is the same true for a facebook page or twitter account? And how do we know?

  • By Adam Cohen, February 11, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

    Kevin – Excellent post and summary, and thanks for the mention. Some more thoughts:

    1) I really like the approach to focus on your best customers. Engaging advocates is going to help spawn new customers indirectly and also build more advocates from the pile of neutrals out there. It can also help to have these folks engaged when a detractor comes along – they will come to the defense of the brand.

    2) I do sometimes question if Facebook is the best way to engage advocates. One of our partners, Drillteam (http://www.drillteammarketing.com/) designs and operates long term advocacy activation programs through private communities. It’s worth at least comparing options and effectiveness – and likely not mutually exclusive.

    3) To expand on leveraging Facebook’s features, the possibilities that Facebook Connect provides beyond just sharing are in my opinion highly underutilized in creative ways to create customer experiences. The best example I always point to is http://frenziedwaters.com, and I haven’t seen anything like it since. Just because you allow people to share doesn’t mean they will – there are big opportunities for retailers to use more functionality to provide a deeper, engaging customer experience.

    4) Lastly, you hit it spot on in closing – it couldn’t be more important to learn from customers about their needs, attitudes and behaviors and leverage that to build a rich experience for them in social channels.

    Great read Kevin and thanks again.

  • By Danny, February 11, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

    Fantastic post! Those viral features are certainly an important part of social media (ie: tagging, sharing etc.) It says something when smart marketers who leverage the viral features are able to lure in social media professionals who know all the tricks, like me, on Facebook and other platforms :$

  • By Kris, February 11, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

    I enjoyed your post. It was well written and very thought provoking. I agree that having the right message and the right offer will engage customers…on the flip side of the coin, I think the wrong message and limited, unappealing offers will cause customers to not shop. Pavlov and Skinner have taught us all that desired behavior can be replicated through appropriate conditioning.

    In regards to the platform, how does customer engagement compare to those on facebook with those on Twitter or Myspace?

  • By Kevin Ertell, February 11, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

    Thanks to all for your comments.

    Sarah: I think it’s definitely appropriate to draw parallels between a Facebook presence and a web presence. In both cases, the brand is being publicly represented and people’s perceptions of the brand will be shaped by the quality of that representation. One good way to answer your “How do we know?” question is to use customer experience analytics to ask people about their perceptions of the brand base on their social media experience. Of course, I would recommend ForeSee Results as an excellent source for those customer experience analytics. 🙂

    Adam: Interesting mentions in your points #2 and #3. What Drill Team does is very interesting,and I agree that’s a good way to work with some of your best brand advocates. I also agree that it and Facebook are not mutually exclusive as there is plenty to be gained through separate approaches for each.

    Facebook Connect definitely presents lots of great opportunities. I’m not sure I understand the point of FrenziedWaters.com, but maybe that’s the point you’re making.

    Danny: I absolutely agree that viral aspects of social media are highly valuable. It’s good to know you’re out there spreading the word!

    Kris: Your points about the flip side of the coin echo some of what Sarah was saying, I think. Totally agree.

    I’m not sure I can definitely answer your question about customer engagement between channels, but I can say we found way more people using Facebook and connecting with retailers on Facebook that we did other channels.

  • By Adam Cohen, February 11, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

    Frenziedwaters.com was a site designed to market Shark Week for the Discovery Channel. If you click on “my story” while logged into Facebook, you’ll see a very creative video of a 1st person shark attack, with your life (as Facebook knows it) flashing before your eyes. Imagine the possibilities for retailers who want to create a more engaging experience with relevant, user focused content. That was all to my point – there’s more in Facebook than just sharing to walls/emails.

  • By Kevin Ertell, February 12, 2010 @ 9:04 am

    Thanks for the clarification, Adam. I get it now. I tried it and thought it was pretty cool. I wonder if the Discovery folks missed the mark in explaining what it does, though. I certainly didn’t realize what I was going to get until I got your explanation. Now that I saw it, though, I can absolutely see the value in using those types of capabilities to create a viral offering. Thanks for mentioning it.

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