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While the reports of death may be greatly exaggerated, it certainly looks like the organic reach of social media is in critical state. With practically every business having a presence in social-media and far more content being created than anyone has time to absorb, it does seem that the marketing platform is about to experience the same fate as every other platform before it, from the first paper ads in La Presse 1836 to search engine marketing few years ago. The number of people who see your post has been in decline already for some time and, for example, the organic reach of Facebook posts declined close to 60% in 2016. And when, on average, 1,500 stories could be published in the news feed when the person logs in - 10x more for the social media influencers – your message and the content needs to be personally relevant for anyone to pay attention to it.

Not All Sharing Is Equal
And at the same time the reality is that social media is a great opportunity for the furniture retailers. Social media has become the primary source of information (or alternative facts, if you will) for many consumers and the furniture buying cycle lends itself naturally to sharing ideas and discussing around furniture items in the social media platforms. This trend has been confirmed by multiple studies which have shown, for example, that the platforms like Pinterest are already used by over 30% percentage of consumers for finding decorating ideas and that the social-media conversations play a significant role in the consumers’ decision making. However, based on our observations on how the consumers share interior design ideas in social-media, all sharing is not equal. While the ‘traditional’ sharing of images, e.g. liking and voting on the retailer’s images of various living room sets, creates traffic peaks and build follower-communities, the conversations are often short lived and do not build real brand affinity (not that surprising as your customer is most likely following also most of your competitors).  On the other hand, when consumers share material which has personal relevance to them, for example, images of product configurations and combinations they created with your products, the conversations often take place in smaller communities but are personally more involving and tend to last longer. The best results, we believe, are achieved by combining these two tactics and bridging the conversations between the brand focused and personal focused sharing. Examples of this are competitions which allow customer to relate your products into their own home (Fagmoebler, DHY.com) and ‘theme rooms’ (e.g. La-Z-Boy) which do not just provide decoration ideas but enable the customers to translate the ideas into their own home environment and modify them to suit their own taste. And once the customers have a personal connection with your products they often continue the conversations within their own social-network (after all, it is now about their own home decoration) as well as later return to your brand, for example, when someone else in their social network is choosing new furniture. 

Collaboration As A Social Object

Every conversation and marketing campaign needs a social object, the thing which brings people together and gives them something to talk about. Sharing images of decoration ideas within the social-network often serves as a great conversation starter but, unless the person happens to be an interior decoration aficionado, the unfortunate truth is that the ‘likes’ are cheap. The conversations tend to end after one or two comments. And this is the reason behind our focus on the design-collaboration and sharing features. When the customers can share the actual interior designs, not just images of them, their friends can participate in the design process itself, i.e. suggest and visualise different material choices, product alternatives, or completely new interior designs, and become personally more involved. Not only does this deepen and extend the conversation around your brand but also exposes the customer’s social network more to your products. We also believe that, even though only a small percentage of consumers may engage in the ‘social interior design’ on regular basis, these consumers often are also the opinion leaders in their own social networks and hence very effective long-term promoters of your brand.

Moving To Social Business Models

Focusing on social collaboration instead of just social sharing brings businesses also another significant advantage. By fostering a direct connection between the customers and business’ personnel it does more than just creates product awareness. It enables the business to engage in an ongoing conversation with the customers, offer real expert advice, and assists the customers in their buying choices, that is, to replicate across the different channels what the good salespeople have always done in-store. In segments in which the sales cycle already traditionally involves multiple parties, like high-end furniture, commercial furniture and home improvement, the social business model can also be easily extended to include 3rd party service providers, like interior designers, consultants, architects and builders. By enabling these service providers and customers to meet and collaborate over your sharing platform you can become the center of the wider ecosystem, create more exposure for your brand and, at the end of the day, sell more.

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