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multichannelmerchant-use-of-social-media-june2012.pngMerchants are increasingly using social media to monitor mentions and engage with customers, but are using the sites less as prospecting tools, according to [download page] a Multichannel Merchant survey released in June 2012. A leading 76.9% of the respondents this year said they use social media to monitor what customers are saying about their brands, up 34% from 57.5% last year. Close behind, 74% are using social to engage in conversation with consumers, up from 68.9% in 2011. This year, though, just 3 in 5 are trying to prospect for new customers through social media; last year, this was the top use, by 71.7%.

The rise in relevance of social media as a customer engagement tool was reported recently in an IBM survey of more than 1,700 CEOs. According to those survey results, CEOs predict that social media will become one of the dominant customer engagement tools in the next 3-5 years (to be used by 57%), despite being the least utilized tool for interaction today (at 16%).

Less Look to Sales as Success Metric

Somewhat unsurprisingly, as less merchants look to social media for new prospects, fewer also tie their success to sales directly attributed to their social media efforts. This year, 2 in 5 are measuring success through sales, a more than 20% drop from 52.7% last year. Overtaking sales in popularity this year is the number of participants in special promotions, which is now being used as a metric by 44.9% of merchants, up from 36.6% last year. The most prevalent way of measuring social media success is still the number of followers or fans, tracked by three-quarters of respondents this year, up from two-thirds in 2011.

According to an April 2012 report from Social Media Examiner, soft metrics still rule when it comes to measuring social media’s benefits. The same report finds that just 40% of marketers say that their social media marketing has benefited them by improving their sales, down 7% from last year, although prolonged investment into the marketing channel ultimately pays dividends.

Satisfaction With Effectiveness Relatively Stagnant

Data from Multichannel Merchant’s “MCM Outlook 2012-2013” indicates that despite the shifts in how merchants use social media and measure their efforts, not much has changed in how they perceive their effectiveness. Overall, 61% are either somewhat or extremely satisfied with the effectiveness of their efforts, compared to 62% last year. The effectiveness ratings present an interesting dichotomy, though: while the proportion saying they are extremely satisfied has risen 3% points (from 9% to 12%), so has the proportion saying they are not at all satisfied (from 10% to 13%).

More Merchants Use Pinterest Than Blog

This year, 94.6% of the respondents reported using at least one social network, up from 84.2% last year. While the leading sites – Facebook and Twitter – grew rapidly to 89.2% and 74.% adoption, respectively, some newcomers also demonstrated quick growth. For example, Pinterest, which was not on last year’s survey, is now being used by 34.2% of merchants. And Google+ is not far behind, with 29.7% maintaining a presence.

Declining in popularity this year – and falling behind Pinterest – are company blogs (down 2.5% points to 30.8%) and LinkedIn (down 11.2% points to 22.5%).

Other Findings:

  • Roughly 85% of merchants have user-generated content (UGC) on their site, up from 79.2% last year.
  • The most common uses of UGC on merchants’ sites are customer reviews and ratings (63.4%), integrating Share This/Facebook/Tweet This (49.1%), and testimonials (44.6%).

About the Data: he Multichannel Merchant data is based on an online survey fielded between April 19 and May 21, 2012. When the survey closed on May 21, there were 952 respondents. Of those, 654 (69%) indicated that their company was an online merchant, retailer, manufacturer, publisher/media or a wholesale distributor. Those active respondents formed the basis of the survey results.

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