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When it comes to using social media to appeal to customers, marketers are starting to realize that more is not necessarily better. The competitive drive to amass more followers or likes has not translated into improvements in consumer conversions or purchases. Accordingly, some firms are shifting their focus, seeking quality contacts through social media, rather than simply quantity.

For example, the Ritz-Carlton strategically limited its social media activity, and as a result, it has fewer than 500,000 followers—far fewer than most of its competitors. Yet with this smaller contingent of Facebook fans, the hotel chain has found it can devote more time and effort to responding to their specific comments and questions, as well as analyzing their complaints.

Article 4Such a limited approach may be necessary, according to survey findings that show that consumers do not appreciate hard sells that target their social media personas. One Gallup poll revealed that 62 percent of U.S. consumers claimed their purchase decisions were not influenced at all by social media, and only 30 percent even admitted they had any impact at all. Rather than using these social media sites to gather information for their purchase decisions, people rely on them to connect with friends and families—which was the top reason cited for using social media by an astounding 94 percent of the 18,000 people that Gallup surveyed.

Furthermore, even as U.S. firms spent $5.1 billion on social media marketing, consumers continue to gain expertise and skill with ignoring and skipping such content. Nor is the situation likely to improve for retailers that pursue massive numbers of fans, because of the revised algorithms Facebook now uses to rank posts. By attempting to predict which posts Facebook users will find interesting, Facebook has largely relegated generic marketing communications to the bottom of news feeds.

The recommendations for retailers and marketers thus imply the need to initiate in-depth conversations with consumers, rather than just blasting them with information. Thus for example, even though the NBA attracts 23 million followers, it claims its focus is on giving fans “more of what they’re talking about” than about increasing its numbers. The league monitors social media chatter during games and posts real-time videos of stellar plays, in an effort to increase viewership of broadcasts, as well as determine when might be the exact right moment to push sales of a particular player’s jersey or tickets to an upcoming matchup between rivals.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How to people use social media?
  2. Do these findings support having a strong social media presence by retailers? Why or why not?
  3. How are retailers adjusting their social media presence to get more bang for their buck?


Source: Jeff Elder, The Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2014