How small and mid-sized retailers can leverage social tools to stand out in the crowd and apart from their competitors
BY BRUCE MAYHEW, Professional Development Trainer, Conference Speaker & Executive Coach
YOU are a small or mid-sized business with a limited promotion budget. You also know that if you don’t pay attention to social media you are missing out on customers and revenue. But you are not a social media expert. What social media promotion should you use? Let me help by sharing best practices discussed earlier this year by four social media experts during a panel discussion I moderated, as well as my own experience as a small business owner.
Build a smart website
The panel all agreed a website is critical. Studies suggest many consumers won’t consider a business that doesn’t have a website—even if they have a social media presence like a business Facebook page. A great website has four important duties:
- Offers a safe and convenient way to find your business.
- Provides a level of credibility.
- Outlines your core competencies (what you are great at).
- Begins to build a relationship…a promise.
When developing and writing your website, keep in mind that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is critical to its success. SEO helps people find your website when they are using search engines like Google or Bing. Not using SEO is like buying a new car and choosing not to put gas in it. If you are going to cut a corner with your marketing, don’t cut it on SEO.
The panelists also agreed that to build an effective website, leaders need to know the company values, mission and vision. This is all about knowing your company and knowing your audience. By doing this preliminary research, every image, word, testimonial and link will share a cohesive purpose. You will also be able to use this information within all of your other marketing materials and promotions to ensure customers have a clear, consistent, impactful message and experience.
This preliminary research will also save you time and money in the longrun. Don’t rush this process. Great companies take the time to involve suppliers, customers and employees. I also recommend hiring an external facilitator to assist in this process. Consider two mistakes often made when planning values, mission and vision: 1) the company is impatient, copying ideas from another company (or worse, their competitors), and 2) one person spends an hour writing them without input from anyone else.
Add video to your website
As with most things, one is good and two or more is better. Same goes for your social media mix.
Video is often overlooked, but presents a great opportunity to build trust, understanding and relationships with your customers. “Adding video isn’t too expensive and is an important way to bring your product/service to life,” says Janine Harris from Keyring Media Inc. “Video is also a great way to share key messages and testimonials.”
One important question with respect to video is, ‘Do you want your look polished or more organic?’ Either way, the recommendation is to make sure you deliver quality. Even an organic, self-shot video will improve significantly when it’s edited by a professional who can adjust lighting and clean up audio.
Expand your social media influence
Combining strategies can help keep your brand top-of-mind and give your customers greater value. Expanding your social media influence might be as small as adding a Twitter account or it may be a multi-platform, fully integrated series of internally—and externally focused campaigns and paid promotions.
Blenders Eyewear is a great example of how one company combined social media platforms to significantly grow their brand and business. First, they promoted their glasses through Facebook ads by doing something wonderful; they shared positive customer testimonials instead of talking about their product. Blenders doubled down on their success by asking customers to share photos of themselves on their Instagram feed using the hashtag #blenderseyewear. This zero-cost technique is called User Generated Content (UGC). In this case, Blenders literally turned customers into models and brand ambassadors and added lots of activity to their social media feeds. Blenders then created even more consistency by using this fun, casual approach for their website theme.
“EXPANDING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCE MIGHT BE AS SMALL AS ADDING A TWITTER ACCOUNT OR IT MAY BE A MULTI-PLATFORM, FULLY INTEGRATED SERIES OF INTERNALLY—AND EXTERNALLY-FOCUSED CAMPAIGNS AND PAID PROMOTIONS.”
Social media marketing mistakes
I think it’s only fair in writing this to share two common social media marketing mistakes for businesses to avoid.
When creating a social media campaign don’t forget to make all stakeholders and employees aware of your social media objectives, schedule and intended audience. When you engage your stakeholders and employees, you turn everyone into a brand ambassador.
A second mistake when implementing a social media campaign is to treat social media as a one-way form of communication. Social media provides the amazing opportunity to have conversations in real-time and show your customers you are listening.
You don’t need lots of money to run a successful social media campaign. But you do need to be creative, know your audience, and your values, mission and vision as a business.