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Getting Started in Social Media – the How’s, the Wherefores and Whys

BELGRADE - JUNE 13, 2014 Social media website logos Facebook, Twitter and other printed on paperOnce upon a time, a retailer booked TV or radio spots, took out newspaper or magazine ads or even went big and did billboards to promote their stores and their products. Today, it’s all about Facebook and tweeting, hashtags, Instagram and more. Social media is a great way to get your brand and your business out there — but where do you start? Here are the hows for getting started in social media.

Put yourself out there: The first thing to do is decide where you want to be. There are numerous social networks but if you’re just getting started, you might go for the heavy hitters like Facebook and Twitter, or Pinterest. This way, you avoid having to update numerous sites. But which one should you start with? Figure out where your target audience spends their time. Looking for middle-aged moms? Facebook might be your answer, or possibly Pinterest. Looking for a younger crowd? You might consider Instagram. Most of the sites offer demographics on their users so do a little research before you dive in. Once you choose your platform, create your page, tell the world who you are and what you do, and then put it out there for people to see. It’s fairly easy to do, but if it’s not your cup of tea, your average graphic designer (who may even have an average age of 17) can quickly set you up and have your updates run through your website, Facebook and even Twitter accounts. Magic, right?!

Content is key:   You wouldn’t read a newspaper or magazine that came out once every four months. Likewise, your customers want to see updates and newsflashes, promotions and product info – the benefit of social media is the real-time effect of knowing something as soon as it happens. So, when that new fall product line comes in or the Seasonal Sale is about to start, make sure you’re updating. Likewise, post and promote the little things – a snazzy window display, a fresh new item that you’re featuring this week, or even anecdotes about customers or staff. Your goal is create an interest and keep your followers coming back for more. And, in the world of social media, content isn’t just key – it’s king.

A picture’s worth a thousand words: People love visuals, so as you create and update your content, include photos, photos and more photos. Captions are great and you want your viewers to know what they’re looking at and even more so, why they should be interested. So, don’t worry – you can never have too many photos.

Hook ‘Em: So, when you’re on the right networks and you’ve got great content, full of amazing images, now what? To paraphrase Kevin Costner in the movie, Field of Dreams, you’ve built it. Now, how do you get them to come? Well, the answer is simple – promotion, promotion, promotion! Talk about it in your store. Remind customers to follow you or find you. Post it in your store, send it out in your emails, put it on your business cards. And, don’t just tell them; reward them for listening! Promotions, coupons, drawings or giveaways are a great way to drive traffic to the sites you want and let customers know that they matter to you.

Create a community: One of the main purposes of social media is to create community, a fellowship of customers and prospects with similar interests. You want people “liking” your page, commenting on your status, following your posts, sharing your updates and more. Likewise, as people interact on your site, you want to engage with them. Let your customers feel the human presence behind your social media sites; listen to their comments, talk with them, and by all means, give them what they like to see. If certain posts or updates garner a huge interest, do more! The best part of all this is that you’re staying in your customer’s mind as they check in to see what’s new. And, as a retailer, that’s where you want to be.

Post with a Purpose: Like anything, social media can get out of hand, and it’s all too easy to have too many sites with no cohesive strategy. To avoid this, be sure your social media sites have a purpose and that you’ve got a system for what you’re posting, when and why. After all, your social media strategy will only be successful if you’re relaying information customers want and need. For example, include special events or upcoming promotions; advertise special sales or Shopping Days; highlight any frequent shopper or loyalty programs.

Links, links and more links: As mentioned above, social media can be confusing. So, make sure you’re cross-promoting and cross-posting so that you are sending a cohesive message to your customers. Advertise your social media networks – Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or whoever it might be – on your website, using icons that are easy to understand. Likewise, make sure your social media profiles link to your store’s website. It’s all about sending the same message several different ways so that each customer can absorb it in their own way.

Whether you’ve been in business since before Al Gore invented the Internet or you’ve been on Twitter since you were a teen, social media marketing doesn’t have to be hard. It’s something that you can start – and even manage – on your own. These are some quick, easy steps you can take to have the presence that you want and deliver that personalized, customer experience that today’s consumers expect.

So, get out there! Hashtag, tweet, post and update! Have fun and be relevant, and your customers will love you – and your business – for it!

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