Social Cyber Monday

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I was talking to Amanda this morning about the role social media might have played in the growth of Cyber Monday traffic this year. There’s plenty of questions about what kind of role, if any, social media has in driving to purchase, but a couple of posts I happened to see begin to point to how social media is becoming a growing force in retail, as well as some potential pitfalls.

The first was this update on the PayPal blog:

“As of 11 a.m. PST, PayPal is already seeing a six-fold (514%) increase in more mobile payment volume on Cyber Monday 2011 compared to the same time period on Cyber Monday 2010.”

When I see mobile growth like this I have to believe that there is a strong social element involved. Mobile is an accelerant, and an especially powerful accelerant for social. The ease of getting a tweet from brand a friend and then acting on it is all about how mobile can accelerate the decision process.

Which brings up the role of Social Proof which was covered very nicely in this post by Aileen Lee. What’s particularly relevant here for Cyber Monday is Lee’s postscript mention of Fear of Missing Out or FOMO. FOMO is really what Cyber Monday is all about. The fear of missing out on a great deal, (even when studies are showing that these deals may not be the best), incents shoppers to follow brands and more importantly incents them to tweet out their deals to their friends so that they can generously make sure that they won’t miss out either. Its easy to imagine how the immediacy of mobile combined with FOMO converted many hesitant Cyber Monday shoppers.

With all this potential the real problem brands face is how to convert today’s frantic Cyber Monday social shoppers into sustainable, loyal year round social media consumers. Today’s McKinsey Quarterly sheds some light on this challenge by pointing out that of  the marketers it surveyed “few are taking the structural steps required to benefit from selling online or engaging consumers through new technologies such as social media.” And while they may understand the potential of mobile and social tools, most of them only plan to deploy them in the next 2-4 years. Part of this gets into everything I hate about Black Friday and Cyber Monday; the fact that they are just celebrations of rampant materialism. But if marketers and brands can learn how to take the mad, social rush for deals and turn it into a beneficial social relationship between themselves and consumers then maybe we’ll have inched forward just a bit.