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E-Commerce Offers A New Tool for PR Campaigns

“We never sell ourselves as money-making; it’s much more about exposure. We guarantee foot traffic,” Julie Mossler, Groupon’s director of communications, told mediabistro during an interview for a feature published last week focused on the use of Groupon in PR.

The new social nature of retailing is opening up doors for publicists and marketers who’d like to add an e-commerce element to their campaigns. Groupon has been used mostly by local companies, but there could be opportunities for national brands as well. The key to making an impact is “compelling content,” says Stephanie Agresta, EVP and MD of social media at Weber Shandwick.

For example, Agresta says an offer for 10 first-class discount tickets to London for the royal wedding on April 29 could have been one way for an airline to get some exposure.

“These offers, that model of paid and promotional, could be used in a way that it’s almost in a contest form,” she says.

These sorts of e-commerce offers give the brand “more control” said Agresta, and a way to “tie back to the campaign more effectively.” Moreover, it’s a quantitative way to measure a campaign when, usually, PR campaigns measure qualitative engagement like comments and sharing.

“A lot of time, PR doesn’t get involved with SEO,” she adds. “If you’re starting to use social commerce in your PR plan, you need to understand how what you’re doing affects larger e-commerce efforts.”

Of course, there’s more to e-commerce than Groupon. There are tons of sites like LivingSocial, a new site called Bloomspot, and Facebook. In an email exchange with Vijay Pullur, CEO of SocialTwist, a social marketing consultancy, he notes how large Facebook is: “The average Facebook user has 130 friends and over 70 percent of users choose to friend brands on Facebook to receive offers.” He says the social network is a great place to offer discounts and for those offers to be shared widely.

“Facebook is an ecosystem ripe for group buying, social couponing, and sharing offers through a powerful referral network,” he wrote.

Pullur cautions against bigger brands using Groupon, saying that these large brands should instead drive traffic to their own e-commerce sites. So perhaps marcomms pros will soon have a hand in designing those pages, if they don’t already?

Much like PR, Groupon is focused on a future in mobile. However, CNN points out that many sites, like Yelp, and apps, like Gowalla, have already planted a flag in the mobile space. This might make things tough for Groupon, but with more options, it could mean even more opportunity for brands.

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