Tag Archives: Business

How the Small Retailer Can Use Social Media

Using Social Media for the Small RetailerAs a social media coach, it always baffles me when I hear the small business owner question how and why they need a social media strategy.  And I do hear it a lot.  Especially from retail owners.  As I was getting ready today, I picked up a bottle of Sephora lotion.  Holding it in my had, I looked at the name Happy Birthday Beautiful Vanilla Birthday Cake Lotion.  As I stared at the bottle, it hit me.  Sephora had it right.

The reason I had the body lotion was because my birthday is next week and I received my yearly, happy birthday e-mail from Sephora letting me know that I could come in and pick up my free birthday gift (the lotion).   I’m always excited to get a free (no purchase necessary) gift so this past weekend I braved the Christmas crowds, went down to the mall and walked into Sephora.  I’m not sure if you have ever been to Sephora but (for me, anyway) it’s impossible to walk in without taking way too much time to look at tall the new beauty products, creams, lotions, nail polishes and stuff.  So, before I went to the register to get my free (no purchase necessary) gift, I had a look around.  Needless to say I left the store with my free birthday gift, along with a big bag of other (not so free) goodies.  I had done well. But so had Sephora.

Retail use of social mediaThe Gap has it right, too.  I get weekly e-mail coupons from them ranging from 15-60% off products storewide. I use these coupons religiously when I shop. By incorporating social media as part of their marketing strategies, these large retail owners have made sure, through accumulating large e-mail lists and offering low and no cost incentives to those who frequent their store, that they are always on their customers minds.

But how, as a small business owner, can you compete with these retail giants? One of the benefits of creating and maintaining an effective social media strategy is that, with a bit of hard work and perseverance, it doesn’t need to cost a lot.  Whenever I go downtown, I make a stop at my favorite ice cream shop.  By using Foursquare to check in, I get 10% of my order.  By liking the Facebook page of an independent gas station in my area, I receive updates of when the gas is going to be offered at a lower price. I can print out online coupons from a pretty good (not the best – but the best offers no incentives) Chinese restaurant that range from 5-15% of my order.  QR codes can go a long way in getting your online and offline marketing strategies in synch. These are all concrete ways that the local small business can use social media to reach, engage, and capture potential customers.  Using tools like Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp can increase your visibility both online and offline.  It seems silly NOT to use social media.

Now I’m not going to lie to you. Using social media, until you can find your footing, is time consuming and a bit scary.  Most business owners don’t really know where to start or think that if they put up a Facebook page, thousands of Fans will flock to their page and their business will increase overnight.  This will probably not happen.  Just having a Twitter account but not having anyone to tweet regularly and effectively will likely not benefit your business at all. However, with a well thought our strategy with a clear goal of why you want to be online, will definitely help propel your business in the right direction.

So today, as I use my free Happy Birthday Beautiful Birthday Lotion from Sephora, I am reassured again of the power of social media.  The lotion, to me, is proof of how well it can work.

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How To Create A Social Media Plan That Will Stick

I was talking with a friend the other day, trying to explain what I did. I told her that as a social media strategist, I create and implement a social media plan that a business can use to increase their online visibility and, therefore, increase their offline business.  She asked if I had a template that I follow when creating a social media plan. I told her that while every company is different, I do tend to follow some general guidelines when beginning with work with any business.  Her next question was how do you know it will work?  A good question.  How do I know that a social media plan created for a business will work?  In my experience, the best-laid plans follow some common guidelines but allow room for flexibility and change.  I explained to my friend that creating a social media strategy that will stick  starts with a conversation, and while each conversation is different, it usually follows these 7 steps:

  • Determine your goals for starting a social media plan: Every business has different reasons for wanting to start using social media. In order to create and effective strategy that will stick, you need to sit down and determine the who, what, why, where, when and how of what you see as your goals.
  • Who is the demographic: Using a tool like the Forrester Social Technographics ladder, it is critical to determine how your audience is using social media. What platforms they are on, are they the creators, users, participants or observers.  This will help dictate which tool and which medium, such as video, chat rooms, or microblogging, would be appropriate to use.
  • Get the word out: Through family, friends, colleagues, co-workers. Any way you can. Use online tools such as PitchEngine to help take your press releases online and allow people to share your releases through social networking.
  • Spend time building relationships online: Even before you set up your business on the different social platforms, you need to spend time – lots of time – building relationships. Once you have chosen the platforms your business will be focusing on, you need to strengthen the relationship with your Fans, Followers, Circles and Connections.  It is through your relationships that the word-of-mouth about your company will spread. In any strategy, it is critical to be present, be consistent and be engaged.
  • Create Quality Content: Creating great content is the most important part of any social media plan. Success in social media comes from creating online conversations about your business, your brand, your products and promotions. By offering quality content, it allows your audience to connect with you, it allows them to see you and your Brand as human.
  • Set up your profiles: After establishing where your audience is online, you can decide which tools to use.  In setting up these social platforms for your business, you need to fill out profile in their entirety, including pictures. There’s nothing worse than being followed on Twitter by an egg with no bio.
  • Track your results: Once you have a plan in place, it is important that evaluate the impact of your social media efforts.  The success or failure of your strategy is determined by many factors and is directly linked to your company’s social media goals.  The beauty of social media lies in its variability. Social media is changing all the time and therefore, it is critical to continuously monitor and grow what is working and change what isn’t.

As a social media strategist, the advice I give businesses when they are starting to create a social media strategy is to listen. Listen to what your audience is saying and where they are saying it.  I encourage them to remember that social platforms are but one small piece of the puzzle.  Building real, honest and true relationships and providing good, quality content are the crux of any marketing strategy and this should be the focus of any social media plan.  Blogging, commenting, liking, following, circling and engaging with others will go much farther than if you simply create a profile on a social platform and hope that others come to you.  In my experience, if you follow these steps to find out the who, what, where, when and how of your audience, you will be well on your way to creating a social media plan that will stick.

How to Market In The Age Of Web 2.0

I had a meeting with a client the other day and as we sat down to go over what his goals were for getting a social media strategy in place, his response was typical: “I want to get more clients and I want more exposure.”  When I asked him what steps he had taken so far, he replied that he had a website.  Having done my due diligence, I had already taken a look at his website.  While it was aesthetically pleasing, it was clear that he had not paid attention to keywords, meta-tags, calls to action or SEO.  Before I gave him my thoughts, however, I asked him if he was happy with his website.  He told me that while he didn’t really know much about social media and what to do, he was very happy with his website.  He’d had it professionally designed and he said that people had complimented him on the design.  He was very proud, he told me, that when you typed his business name into a search, his site came up first.  When I asked him what he typed into the search box, he told me that he typed his exact business name.  Okay.  Here we go…

Despite all the hype out there about social media, it still seems that most small businesses don’t really understand about search, SEO and the Web 2.0 mentality.  Most people still believe that if you build a website, people will come and when they don’t, the business owner will jump on their bandwagon to denounce social media and how it doesn’t work.  Now I love what I do.  I love being able to explain to someone what social media is and what it can help you accomplish as part of your entire marketing strategy.  So I smiled, took a deep breath and dove right in.

I explained to my client that while it used to be that you could design a website and then sit and wait for your potential customers to come to you (the all-knowing businessman who will lead them in the right direction), it doesn’t work that way anymore.  I tried to explain that at it’s most basic level, the Internet was created to disseminate information to the masses but was initially very static and inactive. It was traditional marketing 101, with the seller doing the talking and the potential customer doing the listening.  That was Web1.0.  Today, in the age of Web 2.0, social media incorporates many different technologies to allow people to connect, share, critique, offer opinions, insights and reviews, not only with the businesses themselves, but with other people who will hopefully become advocates of your business.  It’s no longer enough to create a website and wait.  You need to blog, network, share, create content and video and build a large and well-respected social network community. So how can you go about implementing a Web 2.0 marketing strategy? Follow these simple steps:

  • Create a plan: As with any endeavor, you need to know where you’re going. You need to determine who your audience is, what your objectives are and come up with a strategy to put it all into place.
  • Join the conversation: Advertising is no longer a one-way street. With Web 2.0, if you join the conversation, you will encourage others to do so as well. There are many ways to join in: blogging, tagging, bookmarking, commenting, sharing. And as with any good conversation, you must listen when others speak.
  • Provide quality content: If you share good quality content — video, pictures, tutorials, you will be rewarded. Remember that Web 2.0 is not about the sales pitch. You need to be remarkable, be interesting and have something to offer your audience that they can then share with others.

After I explained marketing in the age of Web 2.0, I really think my client understood what I was trying to say.  We were then able to discuss the different social networks out there that could benefit his business and how getting involved in the conversation should not be feared but embraced.  We ended the meeting on a great note, with a step-by-step social media plan in place to bring his business online and create more engagement and with his clients and hopefully more online visibility.   He left the meeting happy – that is until next time when I try to explain marketing in the age of Web 3.0.