Online shopping continues to evolve and the new trend for businesses is to use social networking to engage customers and encourage them to share favorite products with each other. Facebook offers one such avenue, but there are others cropping up as well.
OpenSky recently launched its marketplace, which gives small merchants their own stores on the network that boasts of nearly 3 million members. When OpenSky members follow a merchant or buy a product, their friends can see that purchase and talk to them about it. Members can also talk directly with the merchant, allowing OpenSky to operate a little like the small town stores of old.
“We’re bringing Main Street back,” said Leah Lefco of OpenSky. Lefco says the platform gives small businesses an opportunity to reach a customer base they might not otherwise reach.
“The small cheese maker in North Carolina might make great cheeses, but could have trouble reaching cheese lovers in Wisconsin,” Lefco said. But with OpenSky, that small cheese maker can reach not only the cheese lovers in Wisconsin, but those in California. Those buyers will share with their OpenSky friends news of their new favorite cheese maker. As word spreads, that small cheese maker in North Carolina sees an increase in sales.
“We truly want to help these businesses,” Lefco said.
OpenSky operates specifically for small businesses that might not benefit from Facebook. Facebook forces businesses to pay for some posts and Lefco said that building a business on Facebook might be missing the point – and the customer.
“I’m not on Facebook to go shopping for boots,” she said. “I’m there to see what my friends are doing and then I get off (Facebook).”
But not all agree. Many in business these days see Twitter and Facebook as legitimate and productive methods for reaching customers. For example, in Ramon Ray’s book “The Facebook Guide to Small Business Marketing”, Ray argues that using Facebook effectively for business is a learned skill, but one that can prove highly profitable.
With more than 1 billion members, Facebook is arguably the most energetic and prolific social networking site on the internet, so it stands to reason that businesses would use that lively network to market their business.
But any successful business owner knows that it’s best to rely on a combination of marketing strategies. OpenSky is happy to help small business owners not only reach their customers but also communicate with them in a unique and unprecedented way.
When the marketplace launched May 1, Lefco said, there were 250 merchants live on the site and another 450 were nearly ready to go live. An additional and impressive 3,000 sat on a waiting list.
Are you selling products on social networks? What is your strategy? Let us know in the comments!