Firms shown how to profit from social media

Firms shown how to profit from social media

Businesses need to explore ways of using Web 2.0 applications, according to experts

Businesses attending last week’s E-commerce Expo in London were urged to explore ways of using Web 2.0 applications to strengthen relationships with customers. However, delegates were also warned of the potential legal risks of adopting social networking tools.

Speaking at the event, Steve Jay, e-business manager at the AA’s Roadside division, said the motoring organisation is looking to reach out to its members through social media, including user-generated product reviews on its web site. This would allow the organisation to highlight the “breadth and importance of what we do, using customers to advocate that”, he added.

Gareth Gaston, head of e-commerce and distribution at Ramada Jarvis Hotels, said the firm had implemented a monitoring system to search the internet for comments about the hotel chain, before scoring and feeding the information back. “But figuring out what to do with the information is much harder,” he added. “It’s about looking at a paradigm shift in culture and in the industry itself.”

Also at the event, Google director Matt Brittin advised firms to consider trying YouTube for marketing campaigns to improve their web profile. But he warned that any efforts should be co-ordinated to present a clear message to the consumer.

“We need to think how to become more flexible to keep up with the consumer and ask ourselves, ‘Is this a core opportunity for us, should it be run by a separate team, or outsourced’,” Brittin argued. “A good way to approach [web sites] is as a work in progress ­ that mindset works well and is why many pure-play online vendors do well.”

However, Kolvin Stone, a senior associate at law firm Fox Williams, argued that firms hoping to exploit Web 2.0 applications such as user-generated content need to mitigate against users uploading copyright-infringing or defamatory content.

“If you didn’t know about it or you act to take [illegal content] down as soon as you find out, you won’t be held responsible. But if you moderate content, your system must be robust because if you miss this kind of content you could be taken as the publisher,” Stone explained.

For user-generated video content, Stone recommended companies use software analysis tools to vet material. He also advised firms to display clear guidelines about unacceptable content on their business-to-consumer sites.

Elsewhere at the event, James Roper, chief executive of online retail body the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), argued that poor fulfilment strategies are still undermining many online retailers’ efforts. “When we look at what people disapproved of, the top issue is always delivery ­ it’s just not good enough and we all know that,” he said.

Roper said the IMRG would launch an initiative in the next few weeks that would provide internet retailers with cheap multi-carrier options to offer their customers. The scheme could have “a huge impact on the quality of delivery”, he added.