Social Media Means Business

BBY%20Community.JPGRSR posted an excerpt of some research on Retail Wire today that got me thinking. Are retailers really pursuing social media? So I set out to find some examples and settled on Best Buy. They have a dedicated team within their e-commerce group that addresses social media. I found four examples of ways they are harnessing the power of social applications today.

Connect is a portal for conversations about Best Buy and its products. It includes blogs, videos, and tweets from employees and customers. In addition they also provide a traditional community forum.

Blue Shirt Nation/Mix
Blue Shirt Nation is a social website, similar to Facebook, for use by Best Buy employees that was started in 2006. The objective is to keep the conversations going between the various ranks of employees. The positive voices are amplified, and the best ideas rise to the top. One campaign involving 401Ks increased sign-ups by 30%! More info from Gary Koelling's blog.

Spy is an application that monitors several feeds for key words. It was created by a Best Buy employee, but is available for general use. Spy can be helpful in gauging customer sentiment about a brand. Best Buy is using this application to monitor what's being said about it. You can read more about Spy in Ben Hedrington's blog.

I mentioned Remix in a previous post. They are basically providing an API to access their product catalog in the hopes it will drive more business. This is very similar to what Amazon has successfully done with their affiliate program.

Best Buy is certainly out in front using various types of social media to enhance employee collaboration, increase customer communications, and monitor their brand's image. Like most emerging business trends, it takes a leap of faith for the initial funding. In the case of Best Buy, some of the early work was grassroots and very inexpensive. The next step is to find more formal methods to assess the impact of these efforts, so businesses can invest appropriately.


A few weeks ago I heard a major fashion retailer present on their crowdsourcing initiative infront of about 100 of their competitors at a retail technology event in South Florida. Judging by the speaker taking questions for a good period of time after their presentation it definitely felt like they were out ahead of their peers and their was a lot of interest to replicate what they were doing.

This retailer setup a closed community of 2,000 of their best customers using a SAAS offering from Passenger ( to engage directly with their brand.

The concept, which seemed pretty simple, involved an online portal that included polling, active discussions, and a series of formal questions that helped collect customer feedback that influenced their future direction, their fashion mix, and the overall customer experience.

Some examples of the finding was that the customers purchase across all their channels - stores, web, partners - and expected to have a common experience and be able to do so seamlessly i.e. returns, crm data, etc. Another finding was that the majority of the target demographic enjoys spending time out to dinner with friends and shopping over watching TV or reading magazines, which was information that was used to target the marketing campaigns away from media toward regional sponsored dinners and other relevant campaigns.

Crowdsourcing seems like a simple way of getting input from the customer (even without giving promotions or other costly "bribes") to build a community. The one call out the speaker made was that if your going to setup the community you have to be prepared to "feed the hungry beast" because customers are going to want to see action or at the least felt heard if they offer up their feedback.

Posted by Ayal Steinberg on March 12, 2009 at 08:48 AM PDT #

Ayal, sounds like a very interesting presentation. Using social media to enhance customer collaboration can shorten the time it takes to get valuable feedback, which in turn allows retailers to better serve their market. Its a much more efficient form of focus groups because it takes less resources, involves more people, and is probably more accurate.

I would only classify this as "crowdsourcing" if the retailer presented the group with a problem to solve rather than just soliciting opinions. Famous examples of crowdsourcing can be found in the book Wikinomics by Tapscott and Williams, but the common definition is "a distributed problem-solving and production model."

There are a few retailers out there that understand the power of social media, and they have begun to differentiate themselves. I've heard that Facebook might use profiles to assemble target groups for just such surveys. Makes sense to me.

Posted by David on March 12, 2009 at 09:58 AM PDT #

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