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By : Karen Lasser, 05-06-2015

The ins-and-outs of social media marketing for retail business owners. Learn how to leverage social media to best reach customers and promote your products.


Over the past several years, social media has changed the marketing landscape for retail businesses. Many of the conversations retail business owners once had with customers through traditional marketing channels like pamphlets and catalogs, are now taking place on sites like Facebook and Pinterest. Social media’s growth has affected just about every industry with 93% of marketers saying they use social media for business. Way more important than marketers, studies show that 40% of users have purchased a product after interacting with it on social media!


Social media marketing might sound confusing and even seem intimidating when you think about all the different social networks out there. Though with so many of your customers active on social media, it has not only become a necessity for retail businesses but can also be an invaluable tool if leveraged correctly (Just think, last year Beyonce launched a new album entirely over social media without any sort of traditional marketing campaign. It sold 365,000 copies on the first day in the US alone!). With a bit of strategy and a few tips, you’ll have a much better understanding of social media marketing and grasp on how it works.


What should I be posting on Social Media?


Retailers can use social media to connect with customers and promote their products! Here are some ideas as to what you should be posting:


Share new products with your fans: Whether you run a pet shop, online shoe store or bakery, you should be showing off your new line of merchandise. A lot of times, a cute picture of a puppy looking for a new home or a freshly baked loaf of bread is all it takes to drive traffic to your store.


Anytime you post a picture of a product, make sure you include a caption. Let people know what makes this necklace so special (are the beads made in some far off Island in the Pacific or is the design one-of-a-kind), why this dress needs to be part of your wardrobe or why this is the best sandwich in town. You should be funny, insightful and most definitely passionate about your products.


If you're a local store, consider tying your posts into different community events. For example, if there is an annual marathon in your town, start posting about a new shoe you have in stock that would be great for the race. Similarly, if you own a restaurant, post mouthwatering pictures of your lunch menu every morning to try and attract the business crowd.


Advertise in-store events: Are you holding a book-signing or offering a fitness class? Is your wine shop having a tasting? Does your shoe store have a running group that meets once a month? Spread these events around as much as you can on social networks! Make sure you don’t only post about them before hand, but put up pictures as they’re happening and afterwards as well. This can make great promotional material and get people excited for future events at your store.


Offer exclusive sales and promotions: The only thing people like better than a good sale is sharing one with their friends over social media! Rewarding your followers with exclusive offers and deals over your social networks is a great way to  increase fan engagement and build loyalty.


One of social media’s biggest advantages is the fact that it’s so easy and quick to post. You can use social media to offer deals “on the fly” when your restaurant is slow or if you really need to sell some merchandise quickly. Let people know when the deals will be over (for example, “Until 6 PM today only) as it will create a sense of urgency and encourage people to take advantage of them right away.


Employee exposes and product recommendations: Your employees make up a very important part of your business. This includes everyone from chefs and baristas to sales people and cashiers. Introduce them over your social networks and share details such as how long they’ve been at your store, what their hobbies are, backgrounds and so on.


Talk about their favorite item on your menu or favorite product on your shelf. If you own a bookstore, ask one of your employees to recommend a book and write a short review for social media. If you own a coffee shop, let your followers know how your baristas like to drink their coffee.


Sharing about your employees will not only make you followers feel much more connected to your store (and it’s personnel) but will give them some great product recommendations for future purchases.


What social networks should I be on?


Pinterest: There is no questions that retailers are flocking to social networks to drive sales and chief among them is Pinterest. According to a recent study, Pinterest is putting people in stores and is responsible for a phenomenon called “reverse showrooming” where people first browse online and then head to the brick-and-mortar retailers to purchase. 36% of users under 35 said they have purchased an item in-store after first interacting with it on Pinterest.


If you have great pictures from your store, as Pinterest is a very visual social network, you should definitely sign up and start pinning your products. For some more tips on how retailers are using Pinterest to promote their products, take a look here and here.


Twitter: With Twitter, you’ll have to learn to be concise as each post consists of no more than 140 characters. While 140 characters is not a lot of text, it is exactly why Twitter is so unique and loved by hundreds of  millions of users worldwide.


A very common use nowadays for Twitter is customer support beleive it or not. The character limit almost forces brands & businesses to respond to questions with answers that are straight and to the point. Consumer like that!


To get a better understanding of how to use Twitter to promote your products, it’s worth taking a look at some of the larger retailers, like Best Buy.


Facebook: Facebook is the largest social network and it’s definitely recommended you have a page for your retail store. One of Facebook's biggest advantages for retailers is the viral nature of the site. That means when one user “likes”,“comments on” or “shares” a picture you post, the friends of that user will see it. When one user interacts with your post in a positive way, it’s basically a stamp of approval for your business that all the users friends can see!


Small businesses have even begun utilizing Facebook for actual sales. The retailer, Lolly Wolly Doodle, based in North Carolina,  is seeing most of it’s sales come through Facebook.


If you’re retail store has an actual location, make sure to add your address, hours of operation, and contact details to your pages profile which will make it possible for people to “check in” when they visit you. People searching on Facebook will be able to see how many of their friends have “liked” your page and “checked in” at your location.


You can use Facebook’s insight data to start seeing who and how people are interacting with your page and posts. Over time you’ll be able to see actual trends showing when to post and which types of posts work best.


Google+: For local retailers with storefronts, Google+ has a lot to offer! Not only will your page have a lot of SEO value (Being the social network that carries Google’s name definitely helps here) and show up high in search results but it will also place your business on Google Maps. That means people in the neighborhood, looking at Google Maps on their smartphone will see your store’s location.  


You can open a page for your business here: http://www.google.com/+/business/. For tips on setting up your Google+ page and getting started with the social network, take a look at this blog post here.


Don’t think Google+ is only about SEO though. Plenty of big name fashion retailers are using Google+, from Burberry to H&M, to promote their products.


YouTube: Another very important social network, and also owned by Google, Youtube has a lot to offer from SEO value to a very large user base. With over 1 billion unique visitors per month, YouTube reaches more US adult viewers than any cable channel (see some more really cool stats, here: http://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html).


As a retail business owner, you can use Youtube to show a promotional video for your store, demonstrate how to setup and use your products and offer expert tips and tricks. For example, If you own a wine shop, you can film short clips talking about different wines and what foods they go best with. If you're selling sports equipment, you can create short films showing how to best use each piece of equipment to improve your game. These videos will give your customers a lot of added value after they purchase your products.


Keep in mind  that you do not need to produce professional quality videos to be effective. The same way people take countless photos (and selfies) with their smartphones, you can also capture great video too- with your smartphone! Here’s a very informative piece from the New York Times with tips for shooting better quality videos on your smartphone.



Instagram, Vine & Snapchat: Whether you use these apps or not, you should know that the most popular trends in social media today are mobile only networks. Which means social networks that are accessed strictly through mobile apps.  Instagram, which was bought by Facebook last year for over $1 billion is the largest, with over 150 million users and is becoming a very popular and powerful selling tool for retailers.


Retailers use it to post unique looking photos of their store and products. Here’s one example of a local New York retailer using Instagram to show off it’s clothing line.


Other popular mobile apps that marketers are paying more attention to include Vine (which is now owned by Twitter) & Snapchat (which recently rejected a $3 billion buyout from Facebook). Vine let’s you shoot short, 6 second video clips that loop and snapchat let’s you share photos and video that disappear after a short time. The fashion industry has fallen hard for Vine, and many types of businesses as well are adding Snapchat to their mobile marketing mix.



Shhh… Listen!


Think of social media as an on going 24/7 conversation about pretty much every topic imaginable. Just by listening you can find out lots of information about your own business, products and even competitors. While posting can be fun and is definitely important, listening on social media can be priceless!


Try searching for relevant topics (including your store’s name) using Twitter search. Make an effort to respond to relevant tweets.


It’s also important to pay close attention to comments left on your social media pages by your own customers.  It’s important to read their feedback and respond (within 24 hours) to let them know you’ve heard them. While there is a tendency to ignore, or even delete, the critical comments, there are better ways to handle the comments that go negative. Take a look here and see what happened when the CEO of Liberty Bottleworks responded to a complaining customer!


Finally, when using social media you can get a great idea as to what products customers like more than others. By watching the number of “likes”, shares and comments on Facebook posts you’ll see what items your fans prefer. This information can then help you decide which products to place where in your store or how to promote certain items. Retailers, such as Nordstrom, have even begun marking items in their stores that have been highly “pinned” with a Pinterest symbol.  Additionally, Target last year created an online storefront called the “Target Awesome Shop”  that organizes item based on their popularity on Pinterest.


How can I make posting on Social Networks easier and less time consuming?


There is a great tool you should know about called Hootsuite (https://hootsuite.com/) that will save you a lot of time and stress when positng on social media. With Hootsuite, you can send posts to several social networks at the same time and even schedule them in advance. So for example, you could sit down on the first Sunday of every month and plan out your posts for the entire month.  The posts that you scheduled will then be published automatically on the date and on the specific social networks that you selected.


How can I get more “likes” and followers?


The first thing you have to know, is that “likes” and followers won’t come overnight. When you commit to a social media marketing strategy, it has to be a long term commitment. The more consistent you are with posting and the better content you put up, the easier it will be for you to attract new members.


Don’t be embarrassed to promote your business pages on your own personal social media profiles too! Post a link to your new page and ask your friends to give it a “like” or “share”. Send your friends and family (via email, whatsapp, sms, facebook, twitter, etc) links directly to your new social media pages.


Additionally, it’s a great idea to put links to your social media pages on your website, in your email signature and even on your business card. Put a sign in your store window with the logos of the different social networks you’re on and give customers a card with your social media links together with their receipt.


Finally a word of caution: watch out for social media activities that can annoy people and cause them to “unfollow” your page.  Here’s a list of 9 things not to do on social media as suggested by Forbes.


With that said, what are you waiting for? Good luck and let us know if you have any questions!



Have questions about Social Media? We’d love to hear them! Send them directly to biznetwork@ezbz.co and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. You can also contact us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn where we are always listening!

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