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LAS VEGAS -- There are many questions surrounding social media: how to use it and what's coming next, to name a couple. "What should be working and what the next step is are the biggest challenges," said Michael Lawshe, president of Paragon Solutions speaking at a NACStech panel in Las Vegas this week. "In order to reach the younger market you need to speak their language and their language is social media."
Norman Turiano, senior manager of fuel marketing at Wawa Inc. agreed, but added that retailers still need to be true to themselves. "I found that speaking to them in their medium is important but you have to remain who you are," he said. "It is a changing time. How to reach this generation today is to speak where they are listening and that's social media."
Having social media as a tool takes more than just having a presence, it takes having relevance, explained Brian Sevy, founder and CEO of Affinity Amp. "Use the medium but use it in a way that is valuable to your customer."
One channel to reaching your customers, and potential customers, that may not work best is through a company Web site, they agreed. "Web sites are great but they are where your customers is shopping," Turiano explained, adding the Internet presence is great for positioning your brand and for communicating with customers but not necessarily as a marketing tool.
Mobile apps are becoming increasingly more popular and to use successfully retailers should offer something to the customer, explained Sevy. "Make a brand promise to the customers. If you get this app, you will get this."
But whatever it is should bring a Wow factor, Lawshe added. He also cautioned that the offer should not be a one-time offer, "It has to be a continuous value because it is very easy to get rid of an app," he said.
Social media also presents a down side, the panelists agreed. For example, Turiano said the Wawa Facebook page has 683,000 "likes" or fans but the c-store chain has no idea who these people are. "We don't know who they are so we don't know how to market to them," he said. "You could be speaking to half of the people and alienating the other half," he said. "Using it to market is a tricky proposition."
But whichever social media channel a retailer embraces -- Facebook, Twitter, foursquare or a mobile app -- the most important thing is to be embracing something.
"There is no single bullet. The challenge is not to limit yourself," Lawshe said. "There are a lot of people who aren't doing anything and that is bad. Then there are people who are only doing one thing and that's just as bad."