Retailers and brand owners have been adopting social media tools at an impressive rate, with more than 50% having begun using five out of ten social media marketing tools, according to a study by The E-tailing Group and PowerReviews.
The first annual Community and Social Media Study assessed the attitudes and actions of brands and retailers in the world of social media, and found that the penetration of social media tools within brands and retail organisations is extremely high, with five out of ten social media tools having already been adopted by more than 50% of brands and retailers.
Among the social media tools adopted, the Facebook Fan Page leads the way with an 86% adoption level among the organisations surveyed. The other top tools included Twitter publishing (65%), customer reviews (55%), blogs (55%) and viral videos (50%).
The study also found that 75% of the survey's 117 respondents felt that brands in general had accelerated their use of, and commitment to, community and social media during the past six months.
The main concerns of marketers and merchandisers related to social media were:
- Brand degradation fears: "people can trash my products in front of large audiences";
- Competence fears: "I am using outdated marketing/merchandising techniques";
- Competitive fears: "customers may be inclined to leave my site to find a more socially engaging one".
These factors, all of which drove the last wave of social media adoption, are also expected to help drive the next wave during 2010, during which time respondents said they planned to adopt Facebook Connect (31%), social listening tools (31%), customer reviews (26%) and product suggestions (26%).
But apart from increasing sales, the study also found that the primary goal for adopting social media was customer engagement (39%), along with mobilising advocates to drive word-of-mouth (30%) and increasing brand loyalty (21%).
The study found that Facebook is considered by brands and merchants alike to be the "single most effective tactic in mobilising brand advocates and influencers to spread the word about products and services". However, when it comes to driving sales and customer engagement, online customer reviews were rated first by a wide margin, as 78% cited them as the top social media tool for generating sales, while 61% cited them as the top tool for driving customer engagement.
According to Lauren Freedman, president for The E-tailing Group, "Customer engagement is now a metric to be reckoned with, where failing to engage consumers via community and social media will have brand and bottom-line implications. Merchants must test and understand how to deploy it to retain customers, encourage sales, and avoid abandonment to competitors who have already embraced it."