FAQ on Social Media – Part 2

Continuing my series of responses to questions I didn’t have time to answer in recent webcasts, this segment covers demographics, sales conversion and the valuable Google “link:” command.

Q: What can millennials best teach us about social networking?

A: How to infuse it into everyday life. There’s a myth about millennials that the group is completely tuned in to the use of social media tools. In fact, I find that most young people are active users of Facebook, instant messaging and text messaging, but not much else. They don’t blog, rarely listen to podcasts and don’t use Twitter. What’s more, they don’t have much perspective on the value of these tools beyond their usefulness in everyday life. They’ll learn those things through experience and training, just like everyone else. But they’re not really as social media-savvy as they’re often given credit for.

What they are exceptionally good at doing it is managing relationships online. They don’t have any more close friends than their parents did at the same age, but they have a much larger number of casual acquaintances that they keep alive through occasional and indirect communication. I think that’s something we can all learn from.

Q: Have you found that social media outlets are used by particular age demographics or does it apply to all age ranges?

A: Nearly all age groups use a media, though there are variations. If you want to go into detail, get Groundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li. Their top-line observations are that the most active users are the under-25 group, but that usage is quite consistent between 25-and 55-year olds. It drops off rather sharply after that. However, there are significant variations by media and industry. For example, under-25s are more inclined to use instant messaging, text messaging and online video while podcasting and blogging are more popular with older age groups. It’s also interesting that the percentage of people under 25 who prefer instant messaging over e-mail is nearly the exact inverse of people over 25.

Q: How does the Google “Link:” command work?

A: In the Google search bar, type “” substituting whatever URL you want. You can also access this command from Google’s advanced search page. This will give you a list of all webpages in Google’s search index that link to the specified domain or page.

Q: What’s the best way to convert your audience to make an actual purchase using social media?

A: There are many ways to do this, so I’ll give you an example of a direct and an indirect approach. A direct approach might be to offer a discount coupon to people who join your social network, fill out a form or respond to a contest. Or you might ask people to view a short video to get an access code that they could redeem on a website. The coupon could be delivered electronically as a thank-you message when visitors submit the form.

And indirect approach might be to set up an informational blog that educates visitors about your company or your area of expertise. You can then surround this educational content with promotions or offers.

An Online Video Strategy That Hits The Mark

I just returned from my second trip to Toronto in the last two months and was again impressed with the Web-savviness of the Canadian audience. Did you know, for example, that Canadians are the world’s most active users of Facebook? Or that Canadians spend, on average, two more hours per week viewing online video than their counterparts south of the border?

And don’t give me that “Of course! It’s cold up there!” cliché. Canadian homes are wired and its businesses are doing some very innovative things to reach those web-savvy customers.

Take Future Shop. Canada’s largest consumer electronics retailer is using online community not only to learn more about its customers, but to help sell products and support customers. It has built an online advisory and customer support service that is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

“Ask an Expert” is formulated on a high-touch model in which sales associates are taught to be valued customer advisers. The company has come up with a strategy to duplicate that real-world experience online. The screen shot shows “Aaron,” one of the video avatars who guides customers.

“We’re trying to blur the lines between the offline and online experience,” says Robert Pearson, Future Shop’s director of e-commerce. “Our goal is to become the largest technology community in Canada.”

Future Shop is well on its way to that objective. In less than a year, the site has signed up 50,000 members, which would be equivalent to about 450,000 members in the much larger U.S. market. But the community isn’t just a discussion forum. Future Shop co-developed a ranking system with Lithium that lets customers provide feedback on each other and on the quality of information offered up by sales associates. Customer contributors can earn discounts and status in the community. The most helpful sales associates can earn cash.

Next up: Facebook-like functionality that gives contributors their own personal spaces and ties sales associate profiles to store locations. Success is measured by a survey of customer affinity with the brand. It’s still too early to draw measurable conclusions, but all the trends are pointing in the right direction. “We’re getting about 250,000 visitors a day out of a population of 33 million,” Pearson says. “That’s many more than come into a store. We actually see people walking in with printouts and asking for specific experts they’ve met online.”

Future Shop isn’t using video to be cool. It’s using video to reinforce an in-store experience that is essential to its business strategy. It has also bound its customers to the company in a way that is rewarding for both parties. The company is now owned by Best Buy, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar capability showing up on a retail website near you.