Should Retailers Hire Twenty-Somethings to Sell Stuff on Facebook?

Discussion
Jul 19, 2013

As the first generation to grow up on personal computers, Millennials often have lessons in technology they can teach people from the preceding generations. Many of us know that from personal experience in our family lives. But what about the workplace? Are retail businesses, often run by Boomers, putting the technological talents of twenty-somethings to full use?

Adweek ran an interesting report, albeit anecdotal, that suggested that when it comes to selling on social media, particularly Facebook, putting Millennials in charge may be the key to success.

The challenges that many major retailers have faced using Facebook as a selling platform have been well documented. Many have concluded that F-commerce simply won’t work. A February 2012 RetailWire poll found only seven percent were more optimistic about social media as a sales tool than they had been a year earlier. Thirty-six percent were less optimistic.

Alison Young, who owns an Apricot Lane franchise with her sister, is one of those in their twenties who believes there is an advantage that comes with age, or lack thereof, on Facebook.

"We started using Facebook marketing before we even opened our business to the public," Ms. Young told Adweek. "And when we did open it, we immediately started incorporating the store into Facebook by taking pictures and posting them. People started immediately calling and ordering over the phone. The next step was adding a shopping cart."

The shopping cart came after the sisters added a "shop" button to their Facebook page. The result was that online sales have jumped from 25 percent of the business to 33 percent.

Ms. Young said that they also use Facebook as a means to assure new item success. They post photos of items they are considering carrying and ask their 36,000 Facebook fans for opinions. "We really try to involve them in the buying process, and we get a feel for what they want us to carry in the store," she told Adweek.

Is putting Millennials in charge the answer to succeeding in Facebook commerce for those retailers who have fallen short? Do you think there is something to the age equation when it comes to achieving success with social media and new technologies?

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16 Comments on "Should Retailers Hire Twenty-Somethings to Sell Stuff on Facebook?"

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Tony Orlando
BrainTrust

Knowledge of Facebook can be attained at any age, but guys like me have no patience for it. I have several younger employees who love posting pictures of new items, and maintain this for me. It isn’t hard to learn, but they were born doing this stuff, and enjoy doing it way more than me, so why not let them help me out? I monitor it just to make sure that no old slicks or out-of-stocks are left on the page, but other than that, it takes less than 2 hours a week to keep it fresh.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

This is an interesting topic that I started writing about a while ago. There is no one answer, but there is something to giving people skilled in the medium or platform responsibility for using it. Millenials that are trained in the company culture and products, have a sense of what’s appropriate and what’s not from a brand perspective, and have experience creating living networks are worth exploring as a FB marketing/sales team.

We comment on many situations here at RetailWire where the consensus is that management “just doesn’t get it,” be it SM, e-commerce, or mobile. So I say bring in people that do get it, that have business acumen, and can think on their feet, give them responsibility and see what they can do. It might just pay off!

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I suppose we should put Millennials in charge of the user interface for most all technologies. The world of apps and social media has changed expectations for almost all people. As an industry “we” can’t get away with the interfaces we’ve built over the years.

It’s time to change.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

If a retailer is unwilling to explore social media and experiment with how it can help its business, it should hire people conversant with that media to manage those advertising functions. The young can teach the old, just as the old can share wisdom with the young.

Joe Devine
Guest
Joe Devine
4 years 29 days ago
Is putting anyone in charge of commerce on Facebook a good idea, right now? Social is certainly an important aspect of the marketing mix for a lot of brands. It is great to see that an Apricot Lane franchise is seeing some successes attributing revenue to Facebook. However, after looking at the attribution mix of a ton of brands in many verticals, the only folks who typically see double digit attribution percentages on Facebook tend to also have big gaps in their marketing mix. The gaps I see I typically define using ROI. Facebook can be expensive to manage, both in time and resources. There are marketing options that some retailers miss. Maybe they are unaware of the opportunity, maybe they missed the marketing buzz surrounding the solutions because they just started selling, or maybe, because it is most familiar for younger marketers, Facebook is the most comfortable. If a brand has other proven revenue channels dialed in, then going whole hog into social, focusing on revenue and ROI in addition to cultivating community, probably makes sense. If you are missing some of the proven revenue opportunities, then you could improve your marketing ROI by putting less effort into selling… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

Millennials are far better and faster at picking up the nuances of social media. This is a prime example of older not being wiser.

Susan Viamari
Guest
Susan Viamari
4 years 29 days ago

The Millennial Generation is the first generation to be “always connected.” Research has shown that a vast majority of these consumers—nearly all, in fact—use social media, three out of four have created a profile on a social networking site, and well over three-quarters sleep with their cell phones next to them.

User-generated Internet content is a vital piece of the purchase process for Millennials, whether the purchase holds a large or small price tag. And, they are not simply looking for feedback from their immediate social/family circle. Rather, they are looking for input from other shoppers in similar life-situations for assistance in making smart purchase decisions. Millennial shoppers lead lifestyles that empower them to act as ambassadors to the cause.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

Social media is the Wild Wild West that everyone is trying to figure out how to tame. I’m not sure if it’s “in charge” but businesses can definitely benefit from having Millennials give input and direction when it comes to new social media techniques. And backing up their ideas when they are presented. What younger generations think is cool and relevant differs greatly from the boomers so there has to be a meeting of the minds in some respect.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Yes. And, yes. Sure, older folks can be extremely social-savvy, like my 80-year-young mother-in-law. However, Millennials were literally born into this world with an instinct to understand this way of communicating.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

I can appreciate the age equation with any technology. If it’s Millennials using a certain technology, it makes sense for Millennials to be involved with the project. Facebook is easy because it is accepted and mainstream. However, certain social media channels and newer technologies have a narrower audience. Best to get people involved who understand and relate to the audience, and that may be like-minded or similar-aged people.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

It all about the customer! If the customer is a Millennial then absolutely. Or if the retailer is trying to attract Millennials, sure! The Millennial understands what they do and don’t want to see in their social space. What pictures, tag lines, price points will grab their attention.

Now let’s talk about boomers. There are an awful lot of boomers on FB. They use it to keep up with old friends and family. Is a Millennial going to understand what they want to see from say, Chicos? Just ask Cher at Chicos. She’s hardly a millennial!

Kate Blake
Guest
Kate Blake
4 years 29 days ago

The problem I’ve found with Millennials is that they have poor FTF (face-to-face) skills. The ability to connect with people is more than a tweet or post. Make sure they can sell in person before they handle your Facebook campaign. They need to develop an authentic, likeable identity for your brand.

Kim Herrington
Guest
Kim Herrington
4 years 29 days ago

As a Millennial who works in social media as a professional blogger, I can say it doesn’t have to do with age but to the knowledge level. I know other Millennials that really stink at doing social media.

Sure, we grew up doing social media. I came of college age at the tail end of college e-mail address-only accounts to Facebook but it has changed so dramatically since then. We really used it to network with people we already knew, stalk our friends and crushes, and plan parties and events. Branding wasn’t even a thought back then. Casual users aren’t professionals in social media by any means. Using social media for personal use and professional use as a brand are two entirely different things.

I think my boss, Rebecca Haden, is a really good example of the truth in my statement about knowledge. She knows how to use social media for brands because of her knowledge base from studying it and reading others’ empirical studies on social media, not just using it casually. She’s not even close to being a Millennial.

Mark Price
BrainTrust

There is something to placing Millennials in charge of selling to Millennials — they understand the language, tone, context and focus that could drive revenue from this difficult-to-monetize channel.

At the same time, it is the job of any good marketer to market to any psychographic — you do not have to be a senior citizen to sell Centrum vitamins, after all.

But having talent that can synthesize technology is always important, and now more than ever, in this tech-driven marketplace. Age regardless.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
4 years 29 days ago

To answer the question, of course Millennials should be brought in to advise if not outright run the digital strategies in most retail operations. Even those of us who are passionately curious and have been taking on the various digital tools as they have been introduced have had to “learn” the language of digital. For the Millennials, digital is a native language.
The key to remaining fresh and relevant throughout your career is curiosity—passionate curiosity. As we age, it is important to surround ourselves with new ideas and fresh insights—which often come from the next generation. Be curious!

Alexander Rink
BrainTrust
4 years 26 days ago

Age isn’t the only determinant of success for social media commerce/marketing, especially not in retail. A 20 something most likely doesn’t understand how a 50 something uses Facebook, and although they may have a better understanding of all the latest features of the platform, that knowledge may not necessarily help them sell to the older generation. Rather than setting an age profile for hiring social media employees, retailers should hire someone who not only understands the platform, but also uses it personally day in and day out and understands how the target market uses it and what kind of strategies they may be receptive to.

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