Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Social Media and Back to School

Ah the pleasures of summer...shorts and tank tops, free outdoor concerts, bare feet on dewy grass, lemonade, ice cream and...sales! In August we usually see retailers make their big push for "back to school", but what's different this year is their use of social media in addition to traditional print, TV and online advertising campaigns. Mo Krochmal, journalism professor at Hofstra University and I, inspired by this article, traveled to Herald Square, site of the brand new JCPenney flagship store - its first ever in Manhattan - to cover the story. We wanted to see first hand how big box retailers JCPenney, Staples and OfficeMax are using social media. Facebook fan pages, Twitter and YouTube are big.

Will they be successful? Time will tell, but so far:

JCP Teen on Facebook has doubled its fan size to 17,000 since July 25th, and they're doing a a great job of cross marketing the fan page with a dedicated website where you can actually buy the products, plus they're also running other campaigns linked to concerts and skateboarding.

Staples has a back to school tab on its Facebook page which also links to a matching landing page for shopping. They have a 3 campaigns centered around giving to students in need. The fan base grew by about 4,000 members in the same period but it's hard to tell whether it's all from back to school or just supplies in general because it's all together. I took a quick scan of the latest comments but didn't see any posts from teens, like you see in the JCPenney page.

OfficeMax has no mention of the viral penny prank videos on their website and their Twitter account hasn't been updated frequently, although they do have over 500 followers.

Some points to consider when deciding whether your business should launch a social media campaign:

-Where is your audience? Do they spend time on social networks?

-How can you tie in your other web assets, like your website or blog to the campaign?

-Who will be managing content and moderating the conversations?

-How will you measure success? Is it traffic, sales, engagement?

How are you using social media for your business? Please share!