topshopConsumer retail companies are increasingly turning to social networking sites in order to attract potential customers.

According to Dan Cryan of media research organisation, Screen Digest, the popularity of major social networking sites is simply too tempting for many companies to ignore:

‘In simple marketing terms it is good practice to be where your audience is’.

Among those companies engaging in various marketing activities on social networking sites are top fashion retailers, Next, Topshop, and River Island; and online books and DVD store, Amazon.

Whilst engaging with social media sites appears to hold a strong appeal for retail companies, there is however very little comprehensive data to prove how effective this activity really is, making it more important to ensure any activity is tracked as much as possible.

Although top coffee shop Starbucks claims that its involvement with Facebook around the Christmas period last year increased its seasonal drink sales volume by 15%, the World Federation of Advertisers says that over half of those companies using social media remain ‘unsure’ of its effectiveness in terms of sales conversions.

Some commentators have also observed that companies using social networking sites need to be quicker and more efficient at responding to any customer feedback received, in order to maintain customer confidence, which is where social media experts can help.

These challenges have not, however, prevented a few top branded companies, including UK-based ASOS, from taking things a step further and testing online retail outlets exclusively on Facebook.

It is not yet clear whether engaging in direct selling on the back of social networking sites, as opposed to contributing subtle suggestions or raising a company’s profile, is likely to be viewed positively by consumers. Although social media is still very much a new way of staying in touch with consumers, there is little doubt it is here to stay.