There's a whole lot of buzz about social networking these days, both positive, as with this video that I linked to recently, and negative, as with this video with very NSFW language. Social networking is the way to go, or so everybody says, but how do you monetize it?
With retail real estate, I believe the potential benefits are easier to see than with some other industries. Retail spending remains a critical piece of our economy, even if the way people are spending is undergoing a dramatic change. With less spending to go around, there is an immense amount of competition now to squeeze every dollar possible out of consumers. Herein lies the promise. The potential for mall owners today is that if you can create a real community around your property, you can win long-term allegiance from shoppers. A back-and-forth conversation between owners and the people going to properties could be hugely important.
It is something that can separate you from the mall down the road. It will be necessary to work with tenants to do this. But I can envision scenarios where malls are able to connect with their patrons in a real way. If you deliver content that engages them and keep them coming back to you online, that can translate into trips in the real world. As it stands, mall companies are at the very beginning in embracing Facebook and Twitter.
One of the most creative so far is the Mall of America, with some 47,000 fans or so on Facebook. It has done some other edgy things as well, such as the MOA Fashion Sense blog. It's true that since the Mall of America is an icon in its own right it has an advantage over a more run-of-the-mill center. There are still lessons to be learned here and things that can likely be improved upon. So it's for this reason that I'm starting to track mall Facebook and Twitter pages. You can see the list—a work in progress--here. Please submit more suggestions. I envision this as a way to monitor what different companies are doing on this front—a way to figure out best practices for how to use social media to engage with consumers.
Aside from that, I also think there's a place for Retail Traffic on social networks. I would like to hear more from our readers. I also see social networks as a way of meeting our readers where they are at. Do you prefer Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, getting email or reading blogs? We want to be in all of those places.
Each of these features a feed of our Web site content, blog posts and posts to the Retail Traffic VideoWire. In addition, the Twitter and Facebook pages on most days will have links throughout the day to content from around the Web that Retail Traffic's editors thought would be important to you. The content shared via Twitter and Facebook is then posted here on the blog in regular roundup posts.