May 01, 2010 9:30 PM  By

EVERY FEW YEARS, something comes along that really moves the e-commerce needle, said Kate Lepow, who handles global payments for Yahoo!, during a panel at the MRC Conference. What’s that something right now? Social media.

So how are merchants taking advantage of social? Panelist Julie Katruska, manager of finance for American Eagle Outfitters, said that the apparel merchant has three Facebook pages. It uses the pages to offer fans unique content and deals, such as “Facebook Friday” promotions, hourly specials and behind-the-scenes coverage of its photo shoots. American Eagle, which launched a mobile site this past September, also tries to get mobile phone numbers through Facebook, she said.

Expedia is using Facebook and Twitter for content creation, said panelist Cyndi Hoddinott, manager, credit card services, for the travel Website. For instance, Facebook users can post the places they’ve visited on a map, she said. “You have to balance activity and relevance,” she said.

Most marketers are still trying to figure out how they can monetize social media through partners or promotions. As a result, says American Eagle’s Katruska, “merchants are going to see more transactions that are not on their site.”