Retail Social Media: Small Business vs. National Chain
By Alicia Deily and Lindsey Jones
Social media is imperative to the success of a business. When companies interact with consumers through these websites, they are more likely to attract new customers and develop stronger loyalty with current ones. We wanted to compare a local retail business with a national retail chain to see the differences and similarities in their social media usage.
Buffalo Exchange is a clothing store that buys and sells gently worn clothing and accessories. The store was first established in 1974 in Tucson, Arizona. After the initial success, the business was franchised and now can be found in 15 states. There are 42 stores and 3 franchises which collectively create $72.9 million a year in revenue (as of Dec 2011). Buffalo Exchange is an independent and privately held company. They have Boston-area locations on Harvard Avenue in Allston and in Davis Square in Somerville.
We got in touch with Michelle Livingston, Marketing Director, to learn more about how they manage their social media. The first few search engine results of the store are: the company’s website, Twitter, Facebook and blog. Their website is extremely user friendly and engaging. It features information about the history of the business, locations, current events, customer reviews and publicity.
The company has a very healthy Twitter feed. They have over 5,000 followers and almost 2,000 tweets. Their tweets are very useful and interactive that appeal to their target customers.
Buffalo Exchange has a very strong Facebook presence. They have over 30,000 likes. The company uses Facebook to promote deals and upcoming events. They are active on other websites like Tumblr, Myspace, Pinterest, Flickr, and Youtube.
This company jumped on the social media bandwagon early. By 2003, Buffalo Exchange had been updating their bulletins on their website more frequently. Then, in 2004, Buffalo Exchange began their Myspace account. In 2007, the company joined Youtube and Facebook. Their Flickr and Twitter accounts were established in 2007. In 2010 they began their blog. Most recently, in 2011 the company established an Iphone application for their customers.
Buffalo Exchange believes that social media is a fun yet powerful way that they can interact with their customers. They recognize and take full advantage of the fact that social media acts as free advertising for their business. Buffalo Exchange uses Hootsuite in order to manage their social media presence. They have a schedule for posting blog posts and bulletins on their website. Buffalo Exchange uses Google analytics to measure the effectiveness of their online presence. They have noticed that their Facebook page is by far the most successful for reaching their customers.
Buffalo Exchange is a prime example of a company using social media effectively. They started gaining a following early and it has strengthened over the years. Although the company is a national chain, their stores often have the feeling of a local boutique. Our suggestion to them would be to further emphasize this feeling through their use social media. Their online presence could be even more connected to the communities where their stores are located. For example, they could promote local bands and local events. Focusing on the ‘small boutique’ feeling of their stores will drive more traffic and help them gain an even stronger following.
Buffalo Exchange realizes that their online presence has a large impact on their success, and that their target market responds effectively to social media. Michelle said it best with this summary:“Our target audience is the driver for our decisions”. As long as the company continues to cater to their customer’s interests and needs, they will be successful. We were very impressed with their extensive use of social media.
Tiny Hanger is a local boutique located on Coolidge Corner in Brookline. They offer fun clothing and accessories to children ages 6 and under. They also offer exclusive designer goods and handmade crafts. Currently they have a Twitter feed a Facebook page and a Blogspot blog. They also have a website.
We interviewed its owner, Lucia Berman-Rossi. Tiny Hanger opened in October of 2011; this is when they began using Facebook and Twitter. Lucia said that it was obvious Tiny Hanger needed a social media presence. She said that everyone is on Facebook and it has become essential for businesses to connect with their customers there.
They currently update their website using Dreamweaver but due to the fact that it is so complicated, they do not update as frequently as they would like to. They end up using Facebook more. Lucia feels that the website is not where she wants it to be so they are switching their website to WordPress. She hopes that this will make frequent updates easier and less time consuming.
“Facebook by far is the most successful social media site. People will come into the store and specifically ask for clothing items they have seen highlighted on the Facebook page” said Lucia.
She is still getting used to Twitter but she tries to tweet several times a day. Eventually, she would like to tweet more interesting and useful articles along with style advice. She feels that the Blogspot blog is probably the least effective medium so far but they still feel it is important to maintain for the store to have a complete online presence.
Currently it is just Lucia and her husband managing Tiny Hanger’s social media. She is planning on having Christa Tuon, the store’s Visual Merchandiser, take on some of the responsibilities. Christa said “I think Tiny Hanger is taking advantage of social media and headed in the right direction however, more needs to be done in the acquisition of ‘followers’ and ‘friends’. Tiny Hanger is still a young company and if it stays on the right path, it will really take off.”
Tiny Hanger does have a Hootsuite account but Lucia has not had time to fully figure out how to effectively use it. With Christa’s help, Lucia would eventually like to get on a social media calendar to streamline all of their outlets. As for analytics, Lucia explained that they do use Google Analytics but since they have been so busy with the store, she barely has had time to look at it. She is aware of the benefits and would like to utilize it more when she recieves more help.
The business uses social media to promote special events and offers. They are involved locally and they have held events like “Story-Time” and “How to Make Your Own Baby Food.” For the baby-food event, she brought in an outside source to teach customers how to make their own baby food. She promoted it through Facebook and Twitter and so did the outside source. People came to the event specifically because they saw it promoted heavily online. This shows how effective social media can be locally.
However, Lucia says that she will often run sales that last only a day and promote them through Facebook or Twitter. She does not feel that this is effective because the sales are too short and does not give customers sufficient time to make it into the store. If she ran a longer sale, she believes she would better be able to better drive traffic through online promotion.
Social media is important to Tiny Hanger because it creates customer loyalty. Fans can follow events and promotions more easily. It also drives traffic especially when new shipments arrive, people see specific items they want and come to the store looking for them. Customers lead busy lives and they do not have a lot of time to spend online. Tiny Hanger has to keep this in mind when posting.
Lucia feels that social media is great because it is “free, easy and people use it.” But the downside is that it is a limited audience and that it is easy for a business to “rely on it too much”. She guesses that only about 25% of her customer base followers her on Twitter or Facebook. She said that she has posted information about upcoming events online and then realize that she forgot to put up posters in the physical store. In this case she estimates that she missed 75% of her customers or potential customers by relying too heavily on social media.
One suggestion for Tiny Hanger is that they create a mobile application for busy parents on the go. Creating an Iphone-friendly application would be yet another way to effectively reach their target market. For being such a new business, Tiny Hanger has done an excellent job of maintaining an online presence. If they keep up their momentum, we are sure that they will continue to grow and gain followers.
Whether a business is a national chain or a local boutique, social media is essential to connect with current and future customers. Buffalo Exchange and Tiny Hanger are two examples of businesses that know how to effectively reach their target market with social media. Both businesses recognize that having a heavy online presence is essentially free advertising and they take advantage of this.
By Kelsey Correia
A new study shows that college students describe their need for social media like a drug addicted talks about their need for drugs. Some of the descriptions are withdrawals, cravings, anxiety, antsy, jittery and crazy if they are away from social media tools for too long. The study conducted by University of Maryland researchers proves that students are reluctant to be without social media. One student says “I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening,”
How was their study conducted? Two hundred students at the University of Maryland College Park campus were asked to remove social media from their lives for 24 hours. After this time elapsed, the students were asked to privately blog about their experience with no social media. In the blog they were asked to mention where their strengths and weakness were.
Susan D. Moeller, a professor at the University, stated that “We were surprised by how many student admitted that they were ‘incredibly addicted’ to media,” She also added “But we noticed that what they wrote at length about was how they hated losing their personal connections. Going without media meant, in their world, going without their friends and family.” After looking through all the blogs posted by these students, she concluded that students were not addicted to the social media but they were addicted to the connection that they had through these social sites.
One student said “Texting and IM-ing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort,” also adding “When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life. Although I go to a school with thousands of students, the fact that I was not able to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable.”
A very low number of students reported that they watch the new on television or read about the new in a local or national newspaper on a regular basis. A Ph.D student and a former writer at The Washington Post, Raymond McCaffrey, said that students mentioned that they felt an enormous amount of anxiety when unable to be connected to social media. McCaffrey concluded that students who use social media care about being updated with their friends and family but they also care about world new in general. But in a larger picture they cared more about how fast they received information and the instant gratification they had from receiving the information.
Are you addicted to social media? When your phone dies do you get anxiety that you are missing out on what your friends or family are doing?
By Lindsey Jones
It is evident that people love social media websites. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter give people a since of unity, and makes them feel that they belong. These websites allow people to share their moments, pictures, and thoughts to the world. People also connect with anyone they could ever imagine through these websites. It is clear that these websites have unlimited benefits, but how will the world react to a new social media website? Introducing Pinterest. This social media website, different from the rest, gives people the ability to share their favorite items, dream rooms, and ultimately their personalities through what they pin on their boards. No matter the features that the website may possess, it is still a mystery how it’s popularity will stack up against the front runners in the social media race.
Pinterest is like no other social media website that people have seen before. At first glance, people realize this fact. To sign up, a person is required to request an invite. After they receive an invitation from the website, members can begin to pin. People can pin whatever their heart’s desire, and gives people the opportunity to be as creative as they want. Even though that this website is nothing like the social media websites that are out there, Yahoo said that in the past few months Pinterest has become the 16th most visited website on the internet.
Pinterest is mainly geared towards woman. In my opinion, this is the websites major downfall. Since the website is only appealing to women at this time, it is losing many potential members. Pinterest acts as an online dream board, showing others what people love and want. People try to identify themselves on this website by showing off their personal style. Pinterest also sparks creativity within women, showing off an array of DIY projects that they themselves can manage to create.
Social media websites are the reality of today. People crave these websites to keep them updated on want to know information. With a new website on the scene, one can only assume that it can not compare to ones such as Facebook and Twitter. Even though right now it has sparked popularity, it wont always be that way. Since the website does not appeal to all, people will one day forget about it, and it will lose its fan base.
A person’s privacy is only protected by law in four ways, but should there be more laws put in order in the age of social media? This week, several employers have been asking their potential employees for their Facebook passwords, to have full access to their profiles. If refused, it was likely that they would not receive the job. Many people believe that this is a total invasion of privacy, and that a person’s Facebook is their own personal business. Even though law does not protect it, should employers be aloud to have a person’s Facebook login information?
Two U.S. senators are now asking the attorney general to investigate employers asking for Facebook login information. These senators are determined to prove that this is a violation of federal law, and that employers should not be able to request this information. Now, Facebook is fighting back against employers asking for the login information, urging people not to give their information away.
Facebook has now threatened legal action against companies who are asking for people’s login information during interviews. This violates Facebook’s long lasting policy against sharing passwords. Even though law, their age, race, gender and religion, that are all available on a person’s profile, do not protect a person’s Facebook are protected under federal employment law.
“We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do. While we do not have any immediate plans to take legal action against any specific employers, we look forward to engaging with policy makers and other stakeholders, to help better safeguard the privacy of our users,” Facebook officials said this week. In the Internet world, it is taboo to share passwords, especially when Facebook has a strong policy against sharing passwords, so employers and companies should not be asking for them.
Even though law does not protect people’s Facebook profiles, they should be. Laws have not been updated to keep up with social media websites, causing many problems. Even though people believe that their profiles should be private, they are not, and for now people need to take measures to know that their information is protected. People need to make sure their privacy settings are up to date and make sure that they are not posting any information that is private and should not be distributed online.
By Kelsey Correia
According to www.procon.org, there are positives and negatives to the popular social media websites. Throughout this posting you’ll read a list of pros and cons of social media. Here’s the challenge. Formulate an opinion based on these facts alone. Put aside all reason why YOU use social media and focus on these points alone. Ready?
– social networking allows its users to reconnect with friends and family while also creating new friendships.
– Allows creativity to expand to a new medium (example: blogs, games, event invitations)
– Connects people with common interests and allows people to share new ideas around the world. Also allows people who may be “Shy” , to express themselves over the internet.
– According to a study “60 million Americans received help with major life issues from people in their social networks.” These life issues include findings new jobs, places to live or buying a car.
– “59% of students with access to the Internet report that they use social networking sites to discuss educational topics including career and college planning and 50% use the sites to talk about school assignments.”
– Social media sites help low-income students become more familiar with computers and technology.
– Social media has proven to enhance the quality of life and reduces health problems.
– Social helps with social change and gives an alternative to traditional methods of communication.
– Social media is safe for younger children when they implemented age restrictions. There are also default privacy settings based on age.
– Sites are expanding from general interest to uses that can benefit society. Example, sites to help with alcoholism, drug addiction, diseases and weight loss. These sites allow people to meet other that are going through similar issues.
Now for the CON:
– People spend too much time online and less face-to-face interaction.
– Users are unaware that what they post on social media is public.
– You can be who ever you want to be online. There is no way to verify who a person is.
– Increases cyberbullying.
– Concerns with security theats and possible viruses.
– Social media can cause personality and brain disorders in children. Example, inability to have conversations, small attention spans, need for instant gratificationm ADHD, self centered personalities.
– Face-to-face interaction has declined as social media use increases. People spend less time with each other and more time online.
– False sense of security can cause hacking, leaking sensitive information and viruses. Creates cybercriminals who gather information about a person for identity theaft.
– Only there to make money. Social media sites find out peoples interest to sell advertisments.
Do you think social media is a good tool for society or can it effect us negatively. I believe that it is a good thing. Social media allows people to stay connected with family and friends. It also allows people to network with business professionals and potential jobs. There are ways for people to keep their information private but we just need to learn how. So, what do you think?
By Alicia Deily
The best way to gain a customer is often through word of mouth. Consumers believe their friends and coworkers more than they believe the claims found in advertisements. Consumers also like to have a direct interaction with the brands that they purchase from; they want to feel like their opinions and concerns are being heard by companies.
In the past these goals were difficult to achieve. However, s-commerce has changed that dramatically and now it is easier than ever for a brand marketers to connect with its existing and potential customers.
S-commerce, or social commerce, is a term given to the use of social media in the buying and selling of goods. Essentially, it is all about doing business through social media. It was coined by Yahoo in 2005 to describe online shopping tools like user ratings, customer recommendations and referrals.
Since then the term has gone on to include the use of brands marketing on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. These sites allow customers to interact with brands on many levels. They can make suggestions and comments, gain inside information and special offers, share product information and offer referrals to friends. Social media can also be a platform for companies to conduct market research and get essential feedback from consumers. Both consumers and brands can benefit from s-commerce.
It is predicted that marketers have only begun to skim the surface of what is capable through social media. By 2015 the amount of sales generated through social media is expected to top 30 billion dollars globally. Keep up to date with the latest news from around the globe involving s-commerce at Social Commerce Today.
It is clear that it is important for students to understand how to effectively use social media. It is not only useful for their personal lives but it is also important in the world of business. S-commerce will continue to be a powerful force in the global marketplace.
By Kelsey Correia
Social Media Directed Study Candidate
The Internet has not only become a primary means of communication but it has become a major storage of personal information. In today’s day in age, social networking sites have captured the interest within various age groups. Social networking has blurred the lines between the right to know and the need to know for individuals and society. The rapid advance in technology in this culture sparks conflict with the concept of circles of intimacy. Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are of the leading networking sites that raise issues of privacy, secrecy and discretion.
Many people say without some degree of privacy civilized life would be impossible. There is a difference between the right to privacy and the need to privacy. The right to know and the need to know are distinct concepts and are not interchangeable. The need to privacy is more personal, and the right to privacy is legal. The law allows for a person’s privacy is four ways: it’s illegal to intrude on a person’s solitude, it’s illegal to reveal an embarrassing private fact from the past if it has no bearing on current status, it is illegal to present a person in a false light, and it’s illegal to use another persona name or likeness for your own commercial gain without the persons permission. The right to privacy is different for different people. The need for privacy allows you to go on with your daily life, along with the need to know
According to the Fast Company magazine, with the growth of social networks, it’s becoming harder to effectively monitor and protect site users and their activity because the tasks of security programmers become increasingly spread out. Privacy Settings have become more advanced and users are allowed to filter information. On MySpace the privacy settings allow you to hide certain blocks of information and block certain friends. Facebook allows you to choose for each person you become friends with what they are able to see down to the specific albums you have posted. On Twitter the privacy settings are not as advanced, but there are still a number of ways to block information.
Social networking has taken over today’s society and communication realms. These sites have defiantly brought about the conflict between the right to know and the need to know. Although not protected or mentioned in the US Constitution, everyone has the right to privacy, and everyone has the ability to control what is made public or kept private. Secrecy and discretion is key to keeping what you don’t want to get out, out. Until this moment in time I was not fully aware of the dangers in social networking and the importance of the use of privacy settings, or exercise of the use of discretion.