It is clear that internet retail is currently in love with the concept of marketing socially. If I heard one presentation about social marketing, I heard thirty. Of course, most of them were almost useless because here is a little secret. There are not many retailers selling hard goods that are having success with social marketing.
For example, many so-called experts continue to talk about Second Life. Give me a break. If you have twisted views about sex, go to Second Life. If, on the other hand, you want to sell product, do something else. There are no success stories that I know of where online retailers have created any real business in Second Life. Most people in Second Life have something very different on their mind if you know what I mean.
Customer reviews? Yes, there is actionable data to support getting them on your site. But Facebook apps, social shopping networks, and widgets? You probably should spend your money elsewhere.
Thankfully, some presenters at the conference were honest enough to admit that social marketing is largely hype–at least for the time being. I cannot predict the future. Part of me thinks social marketing will eventually work while the other part of me thinks it is doomed to failure because customer buzz can too easily be faked by retailers and the noise is going to grow exponentially.
Social marketing is probably most useful as a branding tool, and I do not want to underestimate the importance of that. And yes, there have been dramatic success stories such as BlendTec’s YouTube videos. However, don’t overestimate your chances for duplicating that success, and don’t underestimate the work.
I would not say not to spend any time on social marketing; it can be fairly effective if your demographic is young. However, I would take it very slow, and assume that the results will likely not be dramatic–at least not right now.