Imagine if every month dozens, or perhaps even hundreds, more people found out about your store and products. What would that mean for your sales? Increasing the amount of people who know about you can happen without you ever leaving your computer. It’s all due to the prevalence of social media, a communication phenomenon that is here to stay and growing by leaps and bounds.
The power of social media is evident in the statistics. Facebook has more than 750 million active users, Twitter has 200 million users, FourSquare has 10 million users, LinkedIn reports 100 million professional members, and most recently, the rapidly growing Google+ emerged with around 20 million users. YouTube boasts 3 billion views a day, up 50% from just a year ago. With all the millions who are frequenting these sites and others such as Yelp, MySpace, Groupon, SocialLiving, and more, retailers can benefit by understanding how to be heard above the noise, how to get in front of potential customers, and how to engage in two-way conversations.
Be aware that for social media to work, daily attention is required. You will become better known if you post regularly and if your content includes keywords, the words people use to search for your business and your products.
Thinking through what you want to say and who you need to say it to also will help put you ahead. With a social media marketing plan, you’ll be more likely to reach some of those millions and increase awareness and possibly sales. Before getting started on social media sites or adding content to sites you already have, jot down the key messages you want to communicate, and define your target audience (who you want to talk to) and your goals. Typical goals might be: Increase brand awareness, come up higher in search engine rankings, increase traffic to your website, get more customers through the door, improve your image, and of course, increase sales.
Goals need to relate to action and be measurable. Defining success is based on what actions were taken. For instance, how many more customers walked through the door? How many more visitors came to the website? What was the amount of increase in sales? Goals should also have a specific number or percentage tied to them, such as one year after starting a consistent social media campaign, visitors to the site have increased by 20%.
Unless something you create becomes viral—meaning it spreads because thousands of people send it to each other, and it results in boosting your business—success will not happen overnight. It may take a year to see significant results. If you don’t achieve results, then the strategy needs to be reviewed, or you need to work on increasing your followers.
Build a following
Margaret Ann Lembo, owner of The Crystal Garden in Boynton Beach, Fla. (www.thecrystalgarden.com) increased her Facebook followers by taking advantage of her existing contacts. She offered friendship connections through her store’s customer mailing list, the Facebook Friend Finder, her Yahoo! email list, industry and trade association connections, and alumni from grammar school through college. Lembo also used her blog and other social media sites, including Twitter, to successfully promote her store’s events and classes.
“I noticed a significant increase in attendance at my events because of comments I make on my social media pages. I provide information, uplift, give positive energy, and raise consciousness. My hard work and daily diligence is paying off,” Lembo says.
It took her nearly a year to build a strong following, but it was a following that represented Lembo’s target audience, not just a long list of those who had no interest in her products.
For many retailers, social media alone doesn’t achieve desired goals, but is one part of an entire marketing plan that includes a strong Web presence, advertising, email and direct mail marketing, publicity, and promotions.
Filter and focus
Once goals and measurement tools have been defined, it’s time to determine where to focus your social media efforts. Begin by “listening” to what’s being said and getting a feel for whether those who are on specific sites are, in fact, your target audience. Sign up for Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) to see where on the internet people are talking about your store or showing interest in the products you sell. You also can find out which sites your customers frequent by simply asking them through an online survey or speaking to them directly when they are in your store.
When you determine where your customers are, narrow your goals to specifics such as drawing people to your store for a weekend sale or promoting a class, a specific product, or your expertise in an area. Once you’ve decided on the social media sites to focus on and what you’ll talk about each week, month, or longer, make a list of the content you will post. You can write a week’s or month’s list of postings and schedule the postings in advance through a site such as HootSuite (http://hootsuite.com). Of course, you’ll want people to see your postings, so the first task is to build a list of followers.
Use Lembo’s tactics and begin with existing customers, email lists, and friends. When customers come into the store, have them fill out a card with their information for Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. As an incentive, offer a discount or drawing for a gift card.
Once you have a list of social media contacts, follow them on your Twitter account and “like” them or invite them to be your friend on Facebook. Invite them to your LinkedIn professional network, and give a shout-out on your blog to any customer who made your day. In turn, when bloggers mention you, be sure to acknowledge them with a thank you and link to their blogs. You might want to encourage them by informing them they’ll get all the latest discounts and cost savings information for your store. Show your interest in others, something many businesspeople seem to overlook.
Join the conversation
You may be able to provide advice or answers to questions others pose and connect it to your products. Acknowledging others can also be done by re-tweeting posts relevant to your business or tweets from your customers. You may be surprised that, in return, they will re-tweet your comments, thus spreading your information to their followers.
Comment on blogs your customers might frequent. Technorati (http://technorati.com), a search engine for blogs, lists more than a hundred blogs for New Age music, feng shui, angels, and aromatherapy, and thousands for meditation, dreams, and healing—all possible search terms used by the target audiences of many New Age retailers. When commenting on blogs, it’s important not to be too promotional but to provide some useful or insightful information, briefly mention your promotion or simply provide a link to your website, and always include keywords people will use to search for your business. The idea is to get people to link to your website where they will see all your promotional information.
Ideally new customers will go to your website and then link to your Facebook and other social media sites. A Facebook page provides a forum where new and existing customers can be engaged in conversation. If you post something related to a trend, talk about something timely, or ask a question such as “How have angels supported you?” people will comment and you can then add your own two cents, and perhaps mention a related promotion or event.
The instantaneousness of social media and the internet is a benefit, but it is also something many businesses are concerned about, especially with sites such as Yelp where consumers can hurt a business with negative reviews and comments.
Despite that, Yelp is important for retailers. Many people use it to make purchasing decisions, so it’s important for retailers to have a Yelp page in which they are mostly in control. Using Yelp effectively will bring in business and help block negative comments that can seriously impair a company’s image and hinder success.
To create a Yelp business page, go to www.biz.yelp.com. Once you are signed up, you’ll be able to promote your business. Be sure to provide as much information as possible to give the public a good understanding of what you offer. You can post sales and offers, which then will appear in the “sales and offers” section of the directory for your city so it will be seen by people who may be unaware of your business. Making frequent offers and announcements will increase the chances that Yelp users will find you.
If you do receive negative comments, it’s important to respond by either apologizing for whatever the customer is upset about or correcting what may be misinformation. Make the customer feel valued and explain that you appreciate their comments and are making modifications to improve. Also, Yelp has suggestions on how to respond to negative reviews on its website: https://biz.yelp.com/support/responding_to_reviews.
Today there are more ways than ever to communicate with your current and potential customers. If you are overwhelmed by the choices, start with a site such as Twitter that’s easy to use and build your following. Once you’ve developed a significant following, set up another social media site, such as Facebook or a blog, and invite them to join you there.
While social media needs to be worked on every day to be most effective, you don’t have to spend time writing long postings. Most people today have a short attention span, so begin to think concisely and use the following affirmative tweet when you’re ready to work on your social media program: U will be able to build your biz in 140 characters or less through a variety of social media channels.
Keys to Social Media Success
- To develop relationships, talk with people on social media, not at them
- Let your personality shine through
- Respond to most blog comments, tweets, LinkedIn invites, Facebook postings
- All your social media sites should have a consistent message
- Cross-promote your social media sites
- Do what fits for your established goals
Start With the Basics
With social media being part of your daily routine, don’t skimp on the basics. Make your website, Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts part of your identity. Be sure to include them on your business cards, in the signature block of your emails, and on all marketing collateral materials and outbound communications.
Help your customers get to know you with a tour of your store. With YouTube, you can post a video showing off some of your top features, but most retailers don’t have the time every day to shoot, edit, and post a video. Try using Dailybooth.com, an easy way to click a photo and upload it in seconds.
First published in Vol. 26? No. 6 of Retailing Insight. © 2012 Continuity Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.