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Social Media Requires Savvier Networking Skills

Social networks are growing at breakneck speed with newer entrants like digital pinboard Pinterest proliferating faster than any other medium to date.

A recent report in Nation’s Restaurant News, a sister publication of SN, notes the service, which lets users “pin” articles, recipes and photographs on virtual pinboards organized into subject matter such as food and drink, hit 10.4 million registered users in February, growing 145% since Jan. 1.

A key demographic is said to be driving the craze: affluent woman aged 18 to 34.

Keeping up is enough to make this Millennial (albeit an older one) feel her advancing age. So it’s safe to assume that supermarkets, which have finally hit their stride with Facebook and Twitter, are uneasy.

While amassing followers with special offers is popular on Facebook, emerging networks seem to call for a more sophisticated approach. Pinterest plays on self-expression, like-mindedness, and will require of brands looking to make inroads more subtlety than exchanging “likes” for discounts.

Research from The Hartman Group called Clicks & Cravings bears this out. It advises retailers to concentrate on creating brand advocates and an emotional connection that drives influence.

The Kroger Co. brings an authentic voice to its brands by leveraging purchase data. It uses Dunnhumby’s social marketing arm BzzAgent to pinpoint and recruit private-label fans who will make the best advocates for social media campaigns. The most desirable bloggers don’t necessarily have the largest following, but elicit the most meaningful response.

Price Chopper is also gaining a foothold in this space. With a new Pinterest account (see report "Price Chopper Gets More Social") it’s expressing brand identity, but not by splashing photos of store logos across its pinboards. Rather, it’s using stimulating images of meals like Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes to draw like-minded followers, and in turn “repining” things it admires to its boards.

The immediacy with which Instagram users can share all-access snippets of their lives through cell phone photos is also changing the game. An Instagram ad network was recently launched to connect prominent “instagrammers” with brands.

Then there is Thumb, which invites users to pose questions and/or quickly vote by clicking an icon for thumbs up or down.

True, the learning curve is enough to make anyone feel socially awkward, but the benefits of showing up to the party far outweigh the risks.

TAGS: News
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