It wasn’t long ago that social media played a relatively small role in people’s shopping decisions. But oh, how times have changed! SimplyMeasured reports that during the three weeks between Black Friday and the middle of December of 2012, retailers gained anywhere from five to 50 percent more Facebook followers. How has the social platform become a major engine for retail marketing and sales?

Social Platforms As An Alternative To Website

Just like some people purchase newspapers just for the coupons, so too do many social media followers rely on a brand’s Facebook or Twitter profile to help them make their holiday shopping decisions. Lab42 reports that half of all customers prefer a brand’s Facebook page to the company’s actual website, with one in three liking a brand in the hopes of finding a discount or promotional item. Furthermore, with the advent of social search, the line between a social media brand page and the brand’s actual website has become blurred.

Early To Bed, Early To Rise

It’s no phenomenon that Black Friday shoppers get out early, as it’s been an after-Thanksgiving institution for decades now. Yet social media may drive them to get to stores even earlier. A report by the National Retail Foundation noted that 28 percent of 2012 shoppers visited stores prior to midnight, compared with only 24 percent in 2011. Social media has helped to get customers to stores earlier by generating e-promotions that reward early risers (or, in the case of midnight releases, night owls). As an example, the Macy’s website showcases how social media followers can get better early-bird deals and info, such as YouTube videos of new fashions and Instagram shots of behind-the-scenes store preparations.

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Spread The Word

One of the greatest marketing advantages of a social platform involves a company’s capability to get their customers to become their advertisers by sharing or re-tweeting information. There’s plenty of mystery about just what makes content go viral; while funny or heart-melting posts and pictures help, a University of Pennsylvania suggests that anxiety or anger can be just as effective. Whatever the emotional cue, more and more retailers keep searching for that next update, image, video or hashtag that can go viral and spread their brand across an audience of millions.

Take a look at Kmart’s recent viral video, it’s a holiday commercial dubbed “Show Your Joe.” The video has garnered 13.3 million views since being uploaded on November 15. Now the question is will it bring holiday shoppers into their stores?

Comparison Shop

What stores have the best deal on clothes, gifts, meals and 72-inch plasma screen televisions? If you have a smartphone, tablet, or a laptop on hand, you no longer need to open up half a dozen tabs to search different stores. RuderFinn notes that some 80% of social media users use their platforms to comparison price before they make a final purchase. Only a generation ago, users would need to drive from store to store to determine which outlet had the best value for their dollars; today they need only shuffle through their list of friends, likes and followers to see who gives greater value on any given purchase.

Whether you like Black Friday or not, it looks like it’s here to stay. If you will be shopping on Black Friday, how do you plan to do it?

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About the author: Mike Swanson is an online retail expert who can’t wait for the holidays to be over.


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