Social Media & Brand Building | Should malls go social?

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Santana Row Outdoor Shopping Center, San Jose, CA.

An interesting piece by Brian Quinton on Social Media and Mall Owners/Developers, a group which was previously thought less likely to benefit from social media, as it was always the retail brands that were considered suitable for the social media route But as the article points out, there are a few unique benefits for Property Owners as well.

  • … shopping centers are in fact interested in opening up social media conversations with their publics for a variety of reasons and on a number of fronts.
  • It’s not all about discounts. The Washington DC-based Madison Marquette group has 6 to 8 properties that maintain ongoing campaigns in social media, and some of those take decidedly non-pocketbook approaches. For example, the marketing director at the company’s Glen Eagle Square in Chadds Ford PA runs a “Mommy and Me” Twitter page to more effectively engage the mommy shopper niche. A mother herself, she tweets not only about sales and events at the mall of interest to parents but about general parenting topics, and gets a viral boost when other parents retweet those posts for friends.
  • One of the great things about social media is that it’s viral,” Madison marketing VP Angela Sweeney told the audience. “So if I notice my friend is following this page, I may go there and check it out. You may not have been able to speak to that second or third person directly, but your fans can tremendously expand the reach of your message.”
  • Even if they can’t drive merchant deals, operators can publicize them. The Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City, part of the Inland Western Retail Real Estate Trust, runs a Facebook page that has about 3,700 fans and contains almost daily updates on special offers from retailer brands. True, that seems to be all the page has. But if you’ve friended this mall, I’d imagine you appreciate having these deals post automatically to your Facebook wall and accessible via Facebook Mobile. Another marketing director at a Madison Marquette property makes a point of walking through the center every day and finding some deal to tweet about, whether it’s a Gap sale or two-for-one pretzels in the food court.

  • Social media can also be useful to operators’ leasing efforts. Sweeney says a mall in Chapel Hill N.C. put a Web 3.0 spin on a traditional mall development tactic—a petition drive to convince a brand to move into a center—by mounting such a petition drive on its Facebook page to bring American Apparel to the property. More than 600 people signed the petitions in less than three weeks, and as a result Sweeney’s company is now in discussions with the retailer about that location.
  • On the mobile side, the Santana Row shopping center in San Jose CA offers iPhone and iPod Touch users a free app that lets them get daily updates on events at the Silicon Valley mall, along with an on-board directory permitting one-touch dialing to its 70 stores and nearby dining and attractions, and an instant-rewards “Spin & Win” game offering in-store deals as prizes. I would have thought the big request in version 1.5 of this app would be in-stock information for product searches—always a bugaboo of mobile store directories. But this being California, the most requested feature appears to be real-time parking information. The free app is notable, however, for selling ad space; right now Cadillac is underwriting the cost with a banner.
  • Social media can and in fact should dovetail well with offline efforts. Inland came up with a mascot character named Holly Green in the 2008 holiday season and gave her a blog as well as featuring her in offline marketing. The effort was so successful that Holly now has her own Facebook page, where she blogs alternately about shopping and sustainable green ecology.
  • “Success” is still kind of a flexible concept in shopping-center social media. The Holly Green Facebook page, for example, has only 524 friends. And the Web site it points to, http://www.hollygreenguru.com, does not appear to be functioning at press time. Meanwhile Madison Marquette’s social efforts have fan/ follower counts that range from “25 to 12,000”, according to Sweeney. I hope to confirm this later, but i’m fairly certain she said twenty five. If that’s not understatement for effect, it hardly seems worth the effort.
  • And the ICSC audience was interested in pursuing the question of the effort involved, asking how much time was required to keep a vital presence on Facebook or Twitter. The answer from the panelists, who included Ron Brady, president of the Dealey Group agency and Jeffrey Cohn of Cohn Marketing Group: It all depends on operators’ social aims. Those who simply want to publicize sales and events can probably get away with a few hours’ work by an intern. Those who want to engage customers in a deeper, more conversational relationship will have to invest more time and perhaps enlist the help of an outside agency or at least a content management system.

Inspiration: Big Fat Marketing

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About dianhasan

Brand Storyteller, Travel Writer, Speaker, Creative Writer & Thinker - avid observer of randomness in everyday life - Sustainable Business, Eco Matters, Sustainable Urban Issues, Architecture, Heritage Conservation, Innovation & Brand-Strategy, Cross-Cultural Communications, Travel, Tourism & Lifestyle.
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