Tag Archives: Foursquare

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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Is Your Social Media Strategy One Size Fits All?

When you’re dealing with what goes on in the virtual world, all things are not created equal and just because one type of social media platform works for your neighbour’s business does not necessarily mean that it will work for yours.  I’ve had clients run into my office terrorized by the blinding statistics and numbers about these platforms and why they need to be using them to grow their business:  Facebook is the equivalent of the third biggest country, Twitter has 175 million registered users, Foursquare has nearly 7 million.  The facts are incredible.  However, just because the statistics are there, doesn’t mean your customers are.  It is crucial to remember that a generic approach should not, and cannot, be taken toward social media.

So  how do we combat the panic that often follows these statistics?  The answer is simple.  Research, plan and strategize when, where, how and who your customers are interacting with.  Let’s say you’re a small business that sells knitting supplies.  You’ve done your research and you know that your demographic is women in their 40 and 50s.  Using a tool like the Forrester’s Social Technographics Tool, you can determine when, where and how your clients are using the Internet.  In this case, the tool shows that women in their 40s and 50s are using the Internet, predominately as spectators, sometimes as joiners and occasionally as critics.  They are not the creators, meaning they are primarily using Facebook and online forums, but they rarely tweet and have probably never heard of Foursquare.  So what should you concentrate on in terms of a social medium for getting your name out there? Create a Facebook Fan page and try to grow their presence through relevant and interesting content, follow online discussions on sites like Ravelry, create contests and giveaways would likely be the best approach.  As well, using YouTube and Flick to highlight their products and create tutorials for others would likely be more effective that trying to reach the audience through twitter.

In this world of ever-changing social media, it is important to remember that a company’s success comes from recognizing what makes your clients different from one another.  Truly understanding your target market, through analysis and evaluation, can help you to build the most effective Internet Marketing Strategy possible.