The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Social marketing is the next tsunami about to strike the retail business. Other businesses, too, who want to market and sell services on the web. Is your business ready to capitalize on the opportunity?

Two red-hot companies in the Triangle are teaming up to share their knowledge with entrepreneurs and executives who want to better understand how to exploit the business selling opportunities of Facebook and other social media.

ChannelAdvisor, a world leader in ecommerce and a big tracker of social media trends with its Facebook commercial index, is teaming up with Argyle Social, whose whole business revolves around data mining and understanding social media, will present a webinar on Thursday about social marketing. (Read details here.)

The Skinny talked with Argyle Chief Executive Officer Eric Boggs about social marketing and working with ChannelAdvisor. Boggs pointed out that the vast majority of retailers have yet to cash in on the social media phenomenon as a sales channel.

“On the whole, the data we’ve aggregated reflects that it is still very early in the social commerce game and that retailers are still finding their way,” Boggs said. “Most retailers have not made significant social commerce investments.”

He then noted some pretty startling statistics to stress how big the opportunity is for service providers and how many retail execs still have a great deal to learn about the social space:

“Only 17 percent of the Internet Retailer 500 have integrated product catalogs into their Facebook presence.

“Only 4 percent have integrated a Facebook-native checkout process.

“91 percent of the IR 500 are using free or very inexpensive (sub $50/month) software to manage their social programs.”

What do you visualize as the hot trends in social commerce and why?

Social as a new channel was the hot trend just a couple years ago. Today the hot trend is integration – weaving social throughout the customer experience from consideration to transaction to retention.

For retailers in particular, Facebook storefronts and mobile shopping experiences have been hot trends, though consumers are just beginning to adopt both. Consumers spend an awful lot of time on social networks and mobile devices and retailers are moving heaven and earth to develop these platforms into revenue-producing channels.

What are some of the top ways companies/retailers can capitalize?

There are some very easy quick wins that companies should act on. And they all begin with the mindset to approach social with the same rigor as that used to manage paid search, email, and other marketing channels.

For example, marketers should make sure to embed trackable share buttons throughout their sites makes it easier for visitors to share and socialize content. Tracking these shares can surface amazing marketing insight.

The long-term opportunities for social marketers – retailers in particular – comes from the recognition that social isn’t just another marketing channel. Marketers that understand how and why their customers are hanging out on social networks and then add value to the experience will be the ones that see out-sized returns from social.

Can you cite a couple of examples of successful social media practices by local firms?

I think that Kylie and her team at Larry’s Beans do a great job – They use Facebook as a means to reflect their company culture and to activate their passionate customer base. Their wall is full of great behind-the-scenes photos and stories from their growers around the world.

Caroline and her team at Bronto [in Durham] also run great social programs. They’re a B2B software company, so the tend to spend more time on Twitter than Facebook. They’re a great case study for using social as a content marketing amplifier.

Many don’t realize it, but one of the most important social media agencies around is based in Cary. Jim Tobin and Ignite Social Media run social for some of the biggest brands around, including Chrysler, Microsoft, and The Body Shop. His team is about as good as it gets.

Why did you decide to work with ChannelAdvisor on this webcast?

We’ve had great success in the past by co-presenting webcasts with partners like Convince & Convert and Ignite Social Media. As we started thinking about a webcast around the social marketing practices of online retailers, ChannelAdvisor was #1 on our list of desired marketing partners. They have a massive presence in the retailer market and they share our approach to data-driven content marketing – their Facebook Commerce Index is a perfect illustration.

Plus – we’ve known Scot [Wingo, ChannelAdvisor CEO and founder] and his team for a while. I’ve always hoped that we would find a way to work together.

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