Social Media Marketing is often seen by Asset Managers as a necessary evil, paid for by the tenant’s contributions to a marketing fund. This is a mistake; instead, it should be seen as a crucial link to achieving increased footfall, increased turnover, increased rentals and ultimately a higher valuation of the property.

Social Media Marketing in Shopping Centres: what is the problem?

A common problem for Shopping Centres is that the number of people who follow them on their Facebook Pages (or other social media) is just a small fraction of the total number of people who visit the Centres.

The problem is slightly more acute when money is invested in resources to create and publish content into their social media channels (this might be through in-house staff or outside media agencies). If only a small proportion of people visiting the Centre are following the Centre on social media, and even fewer people are actually engaging with the content, then there is a problem.

Because investing resources into something people ignore is not a very sound business practice!

As a consequence, Shopping Centres invest even more resources to “boost” the reach of the content to close the gap between the number of people following a channel and the number of people actually consuming the content. This is an age-old problem and well known in the industry.

So I asked Chat GPT about it and this is what it told me:

The concept of paying Facebook twice for followers and engagement refers to the fact that, in order to maximize the reach and engagement of posts on Facebook, businesses may have to pay for advertising in addition to the organic reach they get from their followers.

Organic reach on Facebook has decreased significantly in recent years, meaning that even if a business has a large number of followers, only a small percentage of them will see the posts published on the page without additional promotion. To reach a larger audience, businesses can use Facebook’s advertising platform to target specific demographics and increase the visibility of their posts.

In this sense, businesses are essentially paying twice: once to build their followership through engagement and organic reach, and a second time to reach those followers and a wider audience through advertising.

It’s important to note that this concept applies to all social media platforms, not just Facebook, as organic reach has decreased across the board and advertising has become an increasingly important part of social media strategy.

So, paying for better reach squares away one problem but what about the initial problem of the disconnect between footfall and social media followers? Simply paying to reach your existing followers doesn’t necessarily translate into increasing the total number of total page followers.

And that is where many Centres are trapped. Paying repeatedly but not growing the total number of people following the page.

So why do all people visiting a Shopping Centre not follow its social media channels?

There could be a number of reasons. So I asked Chat GPT and it said:

There could be several reasons why people visiting a shopping centre do not follow its social media channels

Lack of Interest: Some people may not be interested in following the shopping centre on social media and prefer to interact with them in person.

No Awareness: People may not be aware of the shopping centre’s social media presence and therefore do not follow the channels.

No Incentive: People may not see any value in following the shopping centre on social media and do not feel motivated to do so.

Privacy Concerns: Some people may be hesitant to follow a shopping centre on social media due to privacy concerns or fear of being bombarded with advertising messages.

Already Following Competitors: People may already be following competitor shopping centres or other retailers and do not feel the need to follow additional channels.

No EngagementIf the shopping centre’s social media channels lack engagement and relevant content, people may not see a reason to follow them.

Not a bad stab at an answer but I would add “ data” as another reason. In many countries the price of internet connectivity is high and people are very sensitive to accessing a data-hungry Facebook page.

In so far as No Engagement is concerned, it very much depends on what you are publishing. I have seen many Shopping Centres simply spamming their social media channels with product offers from their stores. That’s it. Retailers craft a product offer and send it out on an email broadcast to all the centres where they are present, with the expectation that it will be published in the Centre’s Social Media Channels.

They do so because, in their lease agreement, they agreed to be charged a marketing fee. This kind of spamming is not going to generate more engagement. In fact, it can be annoying causing the follower to start ignoring the page and consequently, no engagement.

The importance of content which resonates with the target audience

I would also add a reason called “Resonance.”

So I asked ChatGPT for its thoughts on resonating content and here is what it said:

Resonating content refers to content that resonates with a target audience, meaning that it speaks to their interests, values, and needs in a way that connects with them emotionally. Resonating content is often seen as the key to successful content marketing and social media engagement.

Resonating content can take many forms, including blog posts, videos, infographics, social media posts, and more. It should be relevant to the target audience and provide value in some way, such as educating, entertaining, or inspiring them.

The key to creating resonating content is understanding the target audience’s pain points, interests, and behaviors, and tailoring the content to meet their needs. This could involve using a specific tone of voice, style of imagery, or type of content that resonates with the target audience.

Ultimately, resonating content is designed to connect with the audience on an emotional level and foster a sense of trust and loyalty. By consistently providing resonating content, businesses can build a strong relationship with their target audience and establish themselves as a trusted and valuable resource.

The problem with the typical Facebook Page “followers” is that we don’t know very much about their likes, interests, behaviour, or pain points. They are simply “followers” which makes it difficult to create content which connects with them.

Dealing with distraction….

The last reason I would add is called “Distraction.”

By distraction I mean people typically have multiple social media accounts such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Telegram, Signal and more. So, at this high-level view, I asked ChatGPT how having all these different social media accounts can affect engagement with a Facebook post.

Having multiple social media accounts can affect engagement with a Facebook post in a few different ways:

Spread of Attention: If you have multiple social media accounts, your attention may be spread thin across different platforms, reducing your engagement with a Facebook post.

Time Constraints: Managing multiple social media accounts can take up a lot of time, leaving you with less time to engage with a Facebook post.

Decreased Interest: If you have multiple social media accounts, you may be exposed to a wider variety of content, reducing your interest in a single Facebook post.

Comparison: If you spend a lot of time on multiple social media platforms, you may start to compare your experiences on one platform to another, which can lead to decreased engagement with Facebook.

But there is another level of distraction. And that is in the Facebook newsfeed itself. So I asked ChatGPT what an organic Facebook Page post (from a Shopping Centre I am following) has to compete with to be seen on my Facebook newsfeed. Here is what it said:

An organic Facebook Page post from a shopping centre that you follow has to compete with a variety of other types of content to be seen on your Facebook newsfeed, including:

Posts from friends and family: Personal posts from your friends and family are likely to be given priority in your newsfeed, so a shopping centre post may compete with these for visibility.

Advertisements: Paid advertisements are also common on Facebook, and these can compete with the shopping centre’s post for attention.

Content from other Pages: If you follow multiple Facebook Pages, each post from those Pages will compete with the shopping centre’s post for visibility on your newsfeed.

Videos and Live Videos: Video content, including live videos, tends to be highly engaging and can compete with a shopping centre’s post for attention on your newsfeed.

Stories and Reels: Stories, which are short, ephemeral posts, are becoming increasingly popular on Facebook and can compete with the shopping centre’s post for visibility on your newsfeed.

Relevant content: Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes content that it believes is relevant to you, so posts about topics that you have previously engaged with or shown interest in may compete with the shopping centre’s post for visibility.

It left out Facebook Groups. But you get the picture.

I hope I have framed the problems I have encountered with Social Media Marketing in Shopping Centres quite clearly. Now let me show you how to address them.

The solution: Conversational Marketing

Sitting quietly on the sidelines are just a couple of Apps that people are using many times a day to exchange information with their family, friends, sports team, school groups, etc… They are WhatsApp. Facebook Messenger. Instagram. Telegram. In fact, I would wager dear reader, that you used one of them today.

Conversational marketing refers to the use of messaging, chatbots, and other conversational technologies to engage with customers and prospects in real time. It is a more personalized and direct way of marketing that aims to build relationships with customers.

For the purposes of this article, I am discussing Chatbots deployed into Social Media Channels. There is a massive advantage to using these Apps in that they are very popular and the fruit of billions of dollars of investment in research, development and acquisitions. Low-hanging fruit to be taken advantage of.

I am excluding Chatbots deployed on shopping centre websites and apps from this discussion. From my observations, Shopping Centre website’s monthly recurring traffic and Shopping Centre App download and usage is a small fraction of actual footfall.

Facebook Messenger has over 1.3 billion monthly active users. WhatsApp has 2 billion monthly users mostly from countries outside of the USA. Why would a business not want to be these channels?

I am still surprised at the number of social media marketers and marketing managers who are unaware of conversational marketing and who are not talking or advising their clients about it. It is understandable as it is a relative newcomer to the marketing landscape. Simply visit the Facebook page of any Shopping Centre and try to send them a message such as “what shops sell jeans”. I would wager that you either wait a day for a human to answer or watch the blank white space.

So what problems can Conversational Marketing solve?

  1. Knowing your audience

Earlier I wrote about resonating content which is designed to connect with people on an emotional level and foster trust, loyalty and engagement.

This is simply done by asking someone a question in a chat and saving information to a user’s profile.

Let’s assume you asked someone which was their favourite colour and they replied Red.

An article that resonates with people who like the colour red can then be crafted and posted to the Facebook Page. The segment of people who like the colour red in the chat can be sent a link to read the article on the Facebook Page, driving them back to the Facebook Page to consume the content that resonates with them.

Using chat to ask people about their preferences, and interests is simply done.

2. List building and Message Delivery

List building today isn’t simply about a list of email addresses. It’s also about having obtained permission to connect with users in their favourite Messaging App.

Today we ask for permission to send them a direct personalised message in Messenger, WhatsApp etc once a month, week or even day. When sent, their phones will ping, vibrate or push a silent screen notification and until read, show a red 1 on the Messenger App.

This leads to message open and reads rates upwards of 90%. Depending on the content of the message, click-through rates upwards of 50% are the norm. And these messages in Messenger are sent for FREE. WhatsApp requires a small charge per message sent on what we call an Approved Template outside of the 24-hour window.

This stands in stark contrast to posting an announcement to a Facebook Page or sending an email. We have covered the problems with having your message seen using a Facebook Page but email marketing is just as tough.

Emails have to run the gauntlet of junk mail, hard and soft bounces, images that don’t load and fighting for attention amongst the rest of the users’ emails.

The presence of such a permission-based list, rich in knowledge about user interests and behaviour is of significant value to a Centre and should appear on the Centre’s balance sheet as a non-current asset.

Sending a message out to 100 000 users who gave you permission to do so, of which upwards of 90% get delivered and upwards of a 50% click-through rate leading them into a personalised automated conversation to download a voucher or inform them of an event, will translate into increased footfall and by consequence, increased spend, increased rentals and an increase in property valuation.

The cost of creating the list should NOT come from the marketing fund but should rather be treated as a capital item.

3. Relationships

Conversational Marketing is very much about a Shopping Centre having a personalised conversation with users — at scale.

There is a bi-directional learning curve that occurs. The Chatbot learns about the user and at the same time, the user learns about the Chatbot. Specifically, what information it can be used for and on a practical scale, how to use it.

A user only needs to key in “Cinema Guide” or “Events” once, to know what to expect the next time they do it. In this way, the learning curve to access useful information is accelerated and trust is forged.

4. Real-Time Updates

Riots, COVID, Fires and perhaps less dramatic updates such as FREE Parking, etc can be delivered instantly and at scale.

5. Customer Service

Having AI running in these channels and being able to reply 24/7 to customer queries about the Centre is a big boost to customer relations.

A key feature of these Chatbots is the 24-hour window which opens after a user has interacted with it. Taking extreme care not to be annoying, the Chatbot can be programmed to achieve mini objectives such as:

  • Getting the user to follow other channels such as Instagram or TikTok which belong to the Centre.
  • Asking the user for permission to send them a message once a day, week or month in the chat channel.
  • Getting the user to take part in a survey to better understand their likes, interests, etc. By simply pressing on some buttons and using intelligence routing, such a survey can be quickly completed.
  • Getting the user to download the Centre’s App if it has one.
  • Getting the user to buy a gift card.

Use case: South African Shopping Centre uses Conversational Marketing to engage with clients

We recently deployed a Chatbot in the Facebook Messenger channel of a 120-store South African shopping centre. Before doing so, the channel was seeing just a couple of messages each month. The predominant chat App in South Africa is WhatsApp and there was a fair degree of scepticism about the use of Messenger as a channel.

The Chatbot requires acceptance of the Centre’s privacy policy to use it. It offers a Menu including a directory of shops, services, promotions, featured products, events, competitions, cinema guide, and surveys and prompts the user to share it with family and friends.

Using a mix of organic links such as URLs or triggering an invitation to join Messenger after leaving a comment on a Facebook post, as well as a small amount of paid Facebook Click to Messenger advertising — within 3 months we had over 2,500 Facebook Messenger subscribers.

All had opted in to receive communication from the centre by email and in Facebook Messenger. There were additional subscriptions to receive weekly notifications when the Cinema Guide was published.

This validated the hypothesis that even though WhatsApp is the predominant App, it didn’t make a difference as most people had Messenger anyway.

These subscribers exchanged over 60,000 messages in Messenger over the period. Most by following the Menu structure, but some by simply asking a question.

When that happened, we had trained DialogFlow to interpret their question and to reply accordingly. Where it couldn’t, a human was notified — but this was rare.

The Centre has 24,000 Facebook Page followers after 50 years of existence. It is likely that we will reach that same number of subscribers in Messenger in the next 12 months.

I would conclude that having a Facebook Page is a bit like having a free digital magazine for a Centre. The way content is presented is attractive and consuming it is a pleasure. Further, the technology is available in Apps most people already have and use.

But it lacks a partner play tag with. And this is where Messenger comes in. Passing users back and forth between Messenger and the Facebook Page creates a dynamic which is mutually beneficial to both assets and pleasing to the user.

I like Messenger as it is feature rich compared to WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram. But whatever your poison, using conversational marketing together with social media marketing makes an enormous amount of sense.

And a last word on this from ChatGPT.

I asked for a few ways that conversational marketing and social media management can complement each other in the context of shopping malls:

Personalized Engagement: Conversational marketing provides a platform for one-on-one conversations with customers, while social media management helps to reach a wider audience. By combining these two approaches, businesses can provide personalized engagement at scale, which can help to build stronger relationships with customers and increase customer satisfaction.

Cross-channel Integration: Social media management and conversational marketing can be integrated across multiple channels, such as websites, mobile apps, and messaging platforms. This allows businesses to reach customers where they are and provide a seamless customer experience.

Data Insights: Conversational marketing and social media management can provide valuable data insights about customer preferences and behavior. By analyzing this data, businesses can make informed decisions about their marketing strategies, improve their products and services, and better understand their customers.

Lead Generation: Conversational marketing and social media management can be used together to generate leads and convert them into customers. By using conversational marketing to engage with potential customers, businesses can qualify leads and provide personalized support, while social media management can help to reach a wider audience and increase brand awareness.

Customer Service: Conversational marketing and social media management can be used to provide efficient and effective customer service. Social media management can help to monitor customer complaints and provide support, while conversational marketing can provide one-on-one customer support through live chat and messaging.

Conversation Marketing adds a 3rd dimension to Social Media Marketing. Using a Facebook Page and a Chatbot running in Facebook Messenger is a perfect marriage and every Shopping Centre should be taking advantage of.

We offer different levels of service. From a complete done-for-you solution with marketing, content production, Artificial Intelligence training and maintenance, to a simple subscription to our CentreChat content management system and a 3-day intensive Chatbot development training program. If you want to chat get in touch WhatsApp +33671933877

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