Social Media Creates Customer Inclusion

Social Media Collage | Chute Gerdeman - award-winning retail design and branding.

Social Media Creates Customer Inclusion

Social Media Creates Customer Inclusion 800 649 Chute Gerdeman


It seems that you can’t go anywhere these days without being barraged by Facebook “likes”, Tweets and status updates, Instagram and Pinterest posts, all of this further flamed by constant, in-the-moment, access to and notifications from social media sites on mobile devices. I, for one, can barely comprehend the jump from the Myspace page my friends made me create at 15 – which I checked no more than once a week – to waking up every morning knowing who I need to wish happy birthday to on Facebook and feeling more closely informed about the lives of my peripheral friends than some of my family members.

Beyond the way that social media has dramatically changed social and personal relationships and communication, it’s also beginning to reshape commerce and the role of retail and brands in consumers’ everyday lives. Retailers are utilizing social media platforms to communicate to customers with traditional objectives: posts depicting new products or upcoming sales, even links to blogs or sites highlighting content that represents their brand aesthetics. In a step beyond this, retailers are issuing calls to action from shoppers, crowd-sourcing content from consumers in a way that humanizes marketing campaigns.


West Elm’s website asks its visitors to upload pictures of their products in the consumer’s context, with the hashtag #westelm, to show an individual’s “west elm style.” Gap has been creating contests via Instagram and Instagram Direct where users can comment on posts and upload photos of their outfits for the chance to win prizes. Pepsi Max has been soliciting Vines from consumers “doing something unbelievable” for the opportunity to have their videos broadcast on a public billboard – there is allusion that the unbelievable act may also include Pepsi products.


As these activities become more prevalent, a couple of questions sit forefront in my mind. First, what are the big drivers for content on the consumer side? In some cases, there are material incentives in exchange for uploads, but not always. Is it vanity, notoriety, or a desire to feel influential? Second, what impact are these campaigns really playing in brands’ business? Are they driving traffic (online and/or in-store), boosting sales or just increasing brand awareness? Are they expanding or changing consumer demographics? Hopefully, we can continue to see an investment in new and creative social media campaigns that leverage consumers in interactive ways.

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