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Marketing online: Fearing social media—a thing of the past

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Lindsay Baillie

 

With all of the resources available today, social media should no longer evoke fear of the unknown. However, despite the large shift in favor of social media sites, there are still retailers with lingering fears of how to create, maintain and drive traffic to their social sites.

FCNews spoke with several digital marketing experts to find solutions to some of the common fears associated with using social media platforms.

Understanding each social platform. Before using any social media, sites experts suggest conducting a brief Internet search to learn more about each platform. As Katrina Olson, freelance writer and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications, explained, “A quick search will yield tons of free articles and educational downloads about the strengths of each platform, how to use it and how to build a following.”

When deciding which platforms to use, it is important to recognize the differences among each site. “Facebook users are great at commenting and sharing,” Olson said. “Twitter is good for quick notifications. YouTube is great for demonstrating or explaining a solution or process. LinkedIn can connect you with vendors, suppliers and possibly customers. And blogs can educate while interjecting your company’s brand personality.”

While it might be overwhelming in choosing which platforms to join, social media experts suggest starting with one or two sites and then adding as necessary. “Most residential retailers should use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Houzz,” said Paul Friederichsen, marketing expert and owner of BrandBiz, a marketing and branding consultancy. “If dealers are also selling a substantial share of Main Street commercial, they should add LinkedIn and Twitter to their list.”

Finding someone to run each site. Oftentimes, dealers either run their social sites themselves or have younger people, who are more familiar with social sites, run their social media accounts. However, most experts warn against these practices.

“It’s not that the younger people don’t understand how to use social media, it’s that they probably don’t have a marketing background,” said Lisbeth Calandrino, FCNews columnist and retail industry consultant. “I suggest dealers hire an industry person with retail experience—industry people understand the customer as well as the flooring industry. Companies need someone who knows how to follow the customers, connect with them and understand how to build relationships.”

If an industry person is not available, experts recommend finding or recruiting a freelancer or social agency to run the social sites with the business owner’s involvement. “You (or the employee you designate as responsible) must be involved in reviewing schedules, content and monitoring,” Friederichsen said. “You cannot put your social campaign on autopilot and be unaware of the face of your brand on the various platforms.”

Allocating time to post and interact. Finding time to participate on social media is a major concern for some floor covering dealers. Yet, the solution is quite simple, according to experts. “Devote at least half an hour every other day in the beginning and also be willing to invest some of your ad budget into boosting your select posts—a little goes a long way,” Friederichsen said.

Another way to think of this is by breaking it into small and regular chunks and making it part of the day-to-day processes. “Spend a short amount of time consistently paying attention to what is going on in the network and you can observe and lurk, or you can participate,” said Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier, Simple Marketing Now. “By having these time limits it means you’re not going to get overwhelmed and spend too much time.”

What kind of content to post. When thinking of what content to post, it is important to give people what they want to see relevant to a store’s product offerings. “If I am considering wood floors, I want to know how to clean and maintain them, and which finish will best meet my needs,” Olson explained. “If I’m considering installing wood floors, I’m interested in strength and durability, and the differences between species. If you give me information I want, I’ll keep coming back; but if you just try to push products and services, I’ll get annoyed.”

Another key point to remember is that it is important to empathize with the audience. “Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another—it is the basis for all relationships,” Calandrino explained. “When people talk about their pet, they want more than a ‘like.’ A like doesn’t build relationships—one needs to post comments. We should treat online conversations as if they were face-to-face discussions.”

There are also a plethora of sites available to help dealers who are having trouble creating new content. BuzzSumo is an idea generator for new topics and articles to share. MeetEdgar is a subscription-based site that gives fun content for social media. Hootsuite and Sprout Social are other sites that will link social accounts together to help monitor and post.

In addition to using these services, dealers should also be aware of what their competitors are doing on their social accounts. Find out what they are posting, what times they are posting and how many reactions—likes, comments, shares, etc.—they are getting on those posts.

How to monitor a site’s effectiveness. Before retailers can accurately determine the effectiveness of posting on a social site, they must clearly define their goals. “If you’ve set goals, you can attach metrics and measure the results,” Olson explained. “After testing a few different types of content or tactics over time, you may find some platforms perform better than others. Be sure to do your research and realize that a number of factors can impact success.”

When monitoring social media sites, it is important to look at analytics and not focus on just getting “likes.” In fact, some social media experts equate these sites to office picnics, parades on Main Street, and other social gatherings where communication of thoughts and ideas are necessary. “These are places where people socialize,” Whittemore explained. “You meet people on these sites and that’s great, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be customers. If you have goals, you can monitor the sites and stay focused in your activity. Then step back and evaluate whether being on those sites is time well spent.”

How to promote the business more effectively. Promoting a business on social media can be tricky, experts say, because a dealer does not want to come across as being too self-promotional. The key is to use creative content to remain top of mind for consumers regardless of where they are in their purchasing journey.

“The goal is to build relationships that will eventually lead to sales,” Olson said. “You want to engage with followers and fans by giving them information they want, not by simply trying to sell them. We all have the friend who talks about herself all the time. We also have the friend who listens, cares and wants to help us. Who would you want to spend more time with?”

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Al's Column: Get the most out of social networking

Jan 4/11; Volume 30/Number 14

By Christine Whittemore

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 3.02.36 PMWith today’s consumers visiting different types of social networks, it can be difficult for a retailer to keep a consistent presence across all platforms. Following are some tips to getting the most out of social networking.

  1. Identify your goals for participating in social networks. Will you address customer service concerns? Will you focus on thought leadership around industry issues? Will you focus entirely on building your brand with current and prospective customers?
  2. Be committed to participating in the networks you select. This will ensure you offer quality interaction and content. Social networks are about interacting with people. As with the local Chamber of Commerce or other professional networking groups you join, the more active you are the more value you receive.
  3. Understand your customers and what matters to them.Always try to understand what your customers care about and how they express those interests. Then listen, acknowledge and respond. Online networking and relationship building matter more now than ever so be ready to talk about babies and puppies if that’s what your audience cares about.
  4. Monitor and measure your activities. This will help you determine how well you meet your goals. Analysis will help you understand what kind of content resonates best with your community and which networks send qualified traffic to your website. As nice as large followings are, if they aren’t delivering the results you need they may not be of much importance to your business.
  5. Ask consumers in your store how they found you, where they hang out socially online and what they like to encounter there. Getting this information straight from the source will help you decide where to target your focus.
  6. Gain visibility in search engines. Take a walk in your customers’ shoes. Find out what shows up when someone searches for your company name, category, products and brands. Make sure all of those listings are complete.
  7. Complete a Your Business profile on Google. This listing is important if you have a physical location. It is what shows up in search results with a map for your address and may be the first encounter a customer has with your business. Dress it up with your company information and images, and update it with links to blog content and social media. Regularly encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews.
  8. Decide which social networking personality is true to your business and customers. Each network comes with its own vibe or culture. For example, LinkedIn is the professional network and Facebook is intensely social and personal, while Twitter is more affinity-based and Instagram focuses on visuals.
  9. Invite others in your organization to be involved in social networking for your business. Everyone in your entire organization becomes your brand ambassadors, bringing to life your commitment to delivering an outstanding customer experience. To help introduce the concept, consider developing social media guidelines for your team.

For more information, I will be hosting the Social Media Trends Hub at The International Surface Event. My sessions include “Top Social Media Trends that Will Dominate” on Jan. 20 and “How to Improve Your Website & Online Marketing with Web Analytics” Jan. 21. Visit TISEwest.com to register.

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Educating the industry: Have you walked in your customers’ digital shoes?

December 22/29, 2014; Volume 28/Number 13

By Christine Whittemore

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 10.54.25 AMHave you ever walked in your customers’ digital shoes? The majority of your customers will start the purchase process online even though they purchase in-store. You must ensure they find you online as they do their research.

Identify your customer’s persona.

Chances are you have several categories of customers. Let’s focus on homeowners or, more specifically, first-time homeowners. Think through her needs and how to address them through your flooring business.

Let’s name this persona type “Prospect Patty.” She’s digitally connected, doesn’t know much about flooring and hates to waste her time.

Detail the keywords Prospect Patty will use to search for you online.

Prospect Patty is busy. She has multiple digital devices, is often chained to her desk, yet needs to update the flooring in her home. She can’t imagine life without a search engine and begins her flooring mission online. The words she uses need to bring her closer to you and your business.

Think about the terms she will use. Some are general as Prospect Patty gets the lay of the land for flooring and options available. They become more specific as she learns about product categories and even brands that are specific to your business. Don’t forget your company name.

Think of Prospect Patty’s buying process as a funnel.

This list of search terms, once organized, will represent a type of funnel. At the top, where the funnel is widest, the search terms are most broad. Toward the middle of the funnel, the terms are more specific, and at the bottom of the funnel the terms indicate purchase intent.

Now it’s time to imagine yourself as Prospect Patty online.

Search using those terms in a private browser window. In so doing, you search without your own online history muddying up the waters.

For each search term, take a screen grab; paste the image into PowerPoint so you have a point of reference. Explore the entries. Who shows up in the organic results? In the paid results? Do you? Your competitors?

You’ve walked in her shoes. Now what?

First, do digital cleanup on your own or with the help of your IT department. Make sure you like how you appear in search. If you don’t appear in search, think of how to add Prospect Patty’s search topics on your site.

Check out each entry where your business appears. Claim directory listings. And don’t forget social profiles.

Develop an ongoing content plan so you regularly publish fresh content—ideally via a blog, but also through ongoing website updates, content offers, visual content—and in your store. Completely integrate what you do offline with what happens online since Prospect Patty does the same.

On to Prospect Patty’s brick-and-mortar experience.

Prospect Patty’s in-store experience should seamlessly integrate with her digital one and vice versa. If she finds you via search on her mobile device (because your website is responsive and user friendly), she can easily complete a form or dial your number to speak with you.

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Whittemore at Surfaces: Assess and strengthen online visibility

Kinnelon, N.J. — Getting found online by prospective customers is of critical importance to flooring and stone businesses which will learn how to assess and strengthen their online visibility during “Improving Your Digital Visibility to Better Connect with Customers”, a one-hour seminar led by Christine B. Whittemore, chief simplifier, Simple Marketing Now, at Surfaces 2012.  Continue reading Whittemore at Surfaces: Assess and strengthen online visibility

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Whittemore to offer “Social Media: How To For Business” workshop at Surfaces

Kinnelon, NJ – Flooring and stone businesses have the opportunity to learn firsthand how to use social media for business during Surfaces 2012, the annual exposition for floor covering and stone professionals, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. “Social Media: How To For Business” a three-hour workshop led by Sarah Johnson, managing director, MKG Department, and Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier, Simple Marketing Now, offers practical advice for getting found online and connecting with customers. Continue reading Whittemore to offer “Social Media: How To For Business” workshop at Surfaces