One of the aspects I enjoy most about my job at Awareness is the ability to hear and share insights about the future of social marketing and to connect with inspiring thought leaders such as Errol Apostolopoulos, head of innovation at Optaros, an e-commerce solution provider focused on innovated experiences for leading retailers and brands such as Rue La La, Puma, and Macy’s. Optaros is focused on social commerce innovations that create new closed-loop experience for increased revenues, along with back-office enablement of services to improve product information and management efficiencies.
On the social innovation front, Errol and his team spend a lot of time helping leading brands and retailers tap into social connections to drive new business. I chatted with Errol on the lessons learned from his work and the emerging best practices in social commerce that transcend the boundaries of commerce and can be applied to all social marketing efforts and industries.
The Three Pillars
Errol started by sharing his philosophy on what makes social marketing successful. In his view, there are three pillars to a full social strategy:
1. Social marketing activities that drive product awareness and traffic;
2. Conversion best practices using tools and tactics along your product catalog experience, such as rating and reviews, that support the consideration stage during the buying cycle; and
3. Social commerce, which is a new way of shopping that takes the social context into account from the get-go. “Private sales have no search button; it’s a browsing experience that’s built on a time-based group behavior, exclusive to a shopping club,” explains Errol.
Social Commerce and the Social Internet
This entirely new buying experience is built on a social business model. “There is no SEO, there is not the traditional customer acquisition strategy,” he said. It’s all done through viral advocacy and incentives that are driven by the customer membership. Enter the age of the “Second internet, or the social internet.” What Errol is referring to is the “evolution of the awareness that people are interconnected now.” This power can be utilized to do many things. It’s no longer an individual browsing or shopping experience. At first, the Internet gave us the power to research, where Google was the prominent player. It was about the individual researching and getting information, the individual finding out what to buy. To a certain degree, this first push was driven by “the convenience and wealth of information that I now have access to.” This new social movement, with its leader being Facebook, is all about the fact that “we’re connected and aware of each other. It’s not a one-to-one relationship between me and the brand; it’s a whole interconnected group, and our nature to be socially connected now is an experience that drives new ways of behaving,” continued Errol.
The Six Tenats the Drive Social Behavior
Six tenets drive social behavior and social psychology, Errol said, and these tenets come into play in varying degrees when people make decisions. These tenets are not only the drivers of social behavior, but, in Errol’s view, also the recipe for success for any social marketing strategy or campaign.
1. Social Proof: We as individuals tend to follow the crowd. Crowd-sourcing businesses that have successful used this principle abound – from music discovery platforms like OurStage to fashion prediction communities such as Krush.
2. Authority: People want to follow an authority, such as a brand, retailer, or an expert. For example, when a well-known designer like Naeem Khan, who has twice dressed Michelle Obama for black-tie state dinners, says feathers are going to be the next new fashion trend, people would have a desire to buy apparel and accessories with feathers.
3. Liking: We’re willing to follow people we like, admire, or find attractive. Look no further than Kim Kardashian’s Twitter followers which are approaching 10 million.
4. Interest: People tend to make decisions that are aligned with their particular self-selection, interest group, or passion point. “If I’m a golf enthusiast, I want to have the latest equipment or the latest gear, because I want the world to know that I’m a golf enthusiast,” explained Errol.
5. Scarcity: Things that are rare have higher value. If there are only five left of a product, “there’s this indication that other people all found it valuable, so it must be.” This is what private sales experiences tap into, said Errol, where “there’s limited inventory and you have to get there quickly or else it’s going to go, because when you arrive there are all these other items that are sold out.”
6. Reciprocity: We have an innate desire to pay it forward, or share and make decisions based on a service, incentive or a group reward provided to us. We are more likely to want to repay that reward. This is the basis of viral advocacy and viral customer acquisition. If people receive great customer service, they will likely become an advocate of the service. “Zappos is a great example of great customer service,” shared Errol.
Equipped with these six great social behavior insights, I asked Errol how social commerce leaders measure the return on their efforts. “It’s ultimately the same as with any other initiative – it is about revenue, membership, repeat business, and cost of customer acquisition.” Additionally, he recommended connecting and engaging with key influencers, those most likely to influence their group to buy a certain product or service. “Look for the people who are your best brand advocates; measure their ability to spread the word and impact buying behavior with their circle of influence.”
To see the six social behavior tenets at play, look no further than the current two leaders – the private sale and the group buying industries. “The private sale was a $0 industry in 2007 and is now over $3 billion. Rue La La was bought by GSI Commerce within two years for $250 million; Gilt has only been around for four years and has over a billion-dollar valuation,” he said. Group buying players, led by Groupon and LivingSocial, have all been focused on marketing for local businesses, but ultimately, Errol believes, that the experience is going to evolve and “tap into the willingness to get a collective group of people to help either sell product or work together to get a benefit by participating in a particular program or experience.”
Are you the next Rue La La? Have you employed the six social behavior tenets to grow your business?
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