Social media is a broad phrase that refers to a variety of user generated content on the web. You may think of it as the online equivalent of traditional word of mouth. Social media has proven its value over the past few years, even playing a role in both the Obama and McCain campaigns during the 2008 presidential race. Social networking platforms like MySpace and Twitter as well as forums and blogs make communicating with wide audiences easier than ever, and as a natural result, online discussion about companies and products are taking place constantly all over the Web.
Interacting and shopping on the web have evolved into an integrated set of behaviors that influence the way consumers research products and make purchase decisions. Honest consumer reviews and comments about products are powerful examples of social media influence at work. A recent survey by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Volusion revealed that 27% of respondents would be encouraged to shop on social networks based on the presence of comments about products. The survey also found that 30% would be encouraged to shop based on the availability of special deals and exclusive products. The takeaway from these findings is that consumers are paying attention, and they are open to what businesses and consumers have to say through social media. Online businesses that choose to get involved have much to gain from developing relationships and communicating their messages in the online spaces where potential customers are actively socializing and learning about products they are interested in purchasing.
As an online store owner, social networking can give you the opportunity to interact directly with those in your target market and build relationships and loyal customers. Relationships have long been a core component of business, and social media provides a contemporary means of developing and fostering them.
-Pam Westbrook, Ecommerce Marketing/Copywriting