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Social Media: Using Instagram to find new customers

February 27/March 6, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 19

By Ayme Sinclair, Stanton Carpet

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.47.25 AMIf you look at the top 100 brands in the world, 90% of them have an Instagram account. More importantly, customer interactions with the brands that are on Instagram are 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times greater than Pinterest and 84 times higher than Twitter. Statistics prove Instagram is by far the best platform for staying connected with your customers.

Using at least one hashtag (or keyword) increases the likelihood of these connections, making them an important feature to use on this platform. Users can tag their images with keywords to describe things about the photo to make them searchable. These keywords can be a variety of things such as the name of the park where the photo was taken or the type of animal being shown.

But how would this help a retailer? Dealers can use these keywords to find customers who are looking to make renovations. It’s a great tool to help you identify users who have visited a nearby furniture or big box store. The beauty of the hashtag is it also works in reverse. Users can search hashtags, and if you use them properly they will find you. Once you identify and start using the correct set of keywords, your customer will easily find your Instagram page and see the images you’re sharing.

However, utilizing social media isn’t just about sharing photos. It’s a platform that allows you to talk and interact with potential customers to help you build a relationship with them. Remember, hashtags will only increase these interactions. For example, Stanton Carpet recently helped one of its retailer partners develop an effective set of keywords. At the start, Cove Carpet One Floor & Home, based in Summit, N.J., was receiving about 10 “likes” each time it posted a photo on Instagram. Stanton was able to boost this number to 68 after using the hashtags in only a single post. That represents an increase of nearly 600%. But what’s more important than the sheer number was the quality of the audience. Reports show 30% were designers or contractors with another 30% comprising home improvement enthusiasts; 10% were real estate professionals.

“We connected with more people in this post than we’ve ever had before,” said Donna Dwyre, president, Cove Carpet One Floor & Home. “The results were not only fantastic, but they were instant. It helped us start conversations with customers who had not been in the store for months.”

Which leads me to my last point: The best part about using social media marketing is you can see the results immediately, and all the interactions are documented. These interactions, also known as engagement, are golden nugget leads that your sales associates can use to follow up and get new and returning customers back into the store. And the best part is it can all be done for free.

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 10.53.12 AMAyme Sinclair is the marketing director at Stanton Carpet. Her innovative social media programs in the home industry have provided explosive growth and revenue-generating leads prompting case studies from companies like Architectural Digest and General Electric. For more information on how to use social media to grow your business, join the Stanton Retailer Facebook group: facebook.com/groups/stantonretailers.

 

 

 

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Social media: How to create a consistent Instagram feed

January 30/February 6, 2017: Volume 31, Number 17

By Ayme Sinclair, Stanton Carpet

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 4.26.57 PMWith over 50 million photos being uploaded daily, Instagram is the most powerful platform you can use to engage directly with your audience.

When someone comes to your profile he or she will not only see the bio we talked about how to create in my last column, but a collection of the last photos you’ve posted. If your photo gallery is a mash up of posts with no consistency, potential clients and customers may overlook you. Having a consistent feed is really important. Followers gravitate toward cohesive feeds.

Create a color palette and give yourself some guidelines for those images to follow to keep your posts consistent. This is key, but you definitely want to start with great photography. Most retailers don’t have the resources to shoot professional photos of their finished installs after the space is designed. Therefore, a lot of the images used in your advertising come from several flooring manufacturers. So one might ask how can you pull images with the same colors from various places without drastically reducing the options at your disposal? Easy. If you stick with tones rather than specific colors it gives you a lot more choices. Can’t think of a set of tones you’d like to use? Then choose tones that consistently sell well. This allows you to pick images from your manufacturers that fit your rules. If your color palette is more neutral with grays and blues, then stay on the cooler side and pick photos that consist of cooler blue tones along with grays as opposed to warmer, reddish browns.

Now that you have your colors worked out, next you want to focus on the type of posts you’ll feature. Stay on brand. Resist posting photos that are too personal. If this is your business account, don’t add in photos from that time you went on vacation at the lake. That is unless you took the whole staff along. The best posts are the ones that either encourage your audience to engage with you, solve a problem for them or create an emotional response. For more specifics on the type of posts that work well for retailers, visit our Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/stantonretailers.

Getting a great feed strategy takes time. Remember these are just guidelines so don’t allow not having a photo with the right color to stop you from posting. Trying new things allows you to figure out what your audience is more responsive to. Coming up with the right look is a process, so keep tweaking it until you find the right balance. Some of the big box stores can get away with posting content that comes off real salesy while a smaller retailer might see a huge drop in engagement. The key is to figure out what is right for you and then be consistent.

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 10.53.12 AMAyme Sinclair is the marketing director at Stanton Carpet. Her innovative social media programs in the home industry have provided explosive growth and revenue-generating leads prompting case studies from companies like Architectural Digest and General Electric. For more information on how to use social media to grow your business, join the Stanton Retailer Facebook group: facebook.com/groups/stantonretailers.

 

 

 

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Social Media: How to create an eye-catching Instagram profile

January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15

By Ayme Sinclair, marketing director, Stanton Carpet

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 10.52.57 AMNow that you know Instagram and its 500 million-plus users is the best platform to use to build an audience at virtually no cost, the next step is to set up your account.

It all starts with a good profile. Remember, first impressions are everything, so if a user isn’t already familiar with you, then your profile is their first experience with your business. It’s tempting to just set this up quickly and enter in basic information, but if you do that you might miss a few golden opportunities.

Within the profile you can show how your business will solve their next home renovation problem. You can also use techniques to push them to your website. It’s great to have a lot of followers but it’s risky to keep them on one platform. Vine, for example, was a video social media platform with 200 millions users, but it recently shut down. All of the popular accounts completely lost their ability to communicate with millions of their followers. If Instagram goes away, so does the audience you just spent a great deal of time building. Having them on your website and email lists allows you to push them to the next big thing. In the land of social media, the only constant is change.

First, you need to select a username. It’s important to choose one that is consistent with your business name. You get 30 characters so use them. Because Instagram does not allow you to use spaces in the username it’s tempting to want to abbreviate. I strongly recommend you don’t do that; you don’t want to make it hard for your current customers to find you.

You get a second opportunity to expand on your username by entering in a name. Both your username and name are considered when someone types a keyword into Instagram’s search field. So in addition to listing your business name, add in words that will increase your chances to be found such as your specialty and your location. For example, if you specialize in selling carpet and rugs in Dallas, then your name should look something like this: “BUSINESS NAME” | Carpet & Rug Store | Dallas.

The next step is to create your bio. This is the area where you get to talk about who you are. Ideally, you should break up your bio into three separate lines.

Note: By default, Instagram won’t recognize hard returns if you type them into the bio on the app. There are ways around that; to learn more about how to do this visit our Facebook group, facebook.com/groups/stantonretailers.

Line 1 should consist of what you do. Many simply write in their mission statement, but I recommend trying something more creative. For example, state how you can solve a particular homeowner’s problem.

Line 2: This should be your phone number. Instagram recognizes emoticons so include a phone icon in front of the number to give it some personality and pizzazz.

Line 3: This should be your “call to action.” You get one link and it shows up directly underneath your bio. Utilize the last line to encourage users to click on the link to act on a request. I recommend including a directional emoticon to further emphasize this is what you want the user to do.

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 10.53.12 AMAyme Sinclair is the marketing director at Stanton Carpet. Her innovative social media programs in the home industry have provided explosive growth and revenue-generating leads prompting case studies from companies like Architectural Digest and General Electric. For more information on how to use social media to grow your business, join the Stanton Retailer Facebook group: facebook.com/groups/stantonretailers.

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Social media: Leveraging Instagram to build your target audience

November 21/28, 2016: Volume 31, Number 12

By Ayme Sinclair, marketing director, Stanton Carpet

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-3-01-36-pmWe’ve all heard that social media marketing is something today’s retailer can scarcely afford to ignore. But with so many options, where should one start? Usually Facebook is the No. 1 answer. After all, it has the most amount of users (1.31 billion) and is the one most retailers already understand. But building an audience of fans through targeted ads on Facebook will cost you and then, once you have them, you’ll have to keep paying to ensure they see your content.

In contrast, Instagram is a digital platform with 300 million users with virtually no advertising dollar spend required to build an audience or to reach them with your content. The only currency you’ll need to be effective on Instagram is time. It also happens to be a favorite among the architect and design community because it’s so visual. This is a platform users go on strictly to share and view photos of things they are interested in. In a relatively short time frame you can build a community of engaged followers without spending one dime in advertising.

Social media is a great way to stay in front of your customers with the bonus of it being a two-way communication tool. You get to engage with them, thereby reinforcing your relationship, which is one of the building blocks in creating a more loyal customer. But before you can do all of that you have to figure out who they are and how to find them. Warning: Don’t fall into the trap of buying followers. While it may look impressive to have a few thousand followers right away, Instagram will eventually delete those fake accounts and you will miss an opportunity to get in front of an audience that actually cares about your business. Having 1,000 followers who aren’t in the market for home improvements and barely use Instagram will not help increase your revenues. You want the “right” audience.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-3-01-49-pmThere are two types of audience groups you should focus building on social media. The first group is your “niche” audience; this group comprises people in the flooring industry. Why is this group so important? In the beginning you are looking to build so it’s important to go after the low-hanging fruit and attract people who are already interested in your content. The second group you should focus on is your “target” audience. These are the people who are looking to buy what you sell.

Now that you’ve defined who you are looking for the next step is to figure out how to find them on the platform. The key to this is to figure out how they are using Instagram. Determining their interests will not only help you figure out how to get in front of them, but it will also give you strong direction on how to create engaging content for them. Once you figure out how your audience is using Instagram you can use tools such as hashtags and locations to connect with them.

Want more helpful tips on how to do this? Stanton has partnered with FCNews to create a Facebook group specifically for our retailers and retail sales associates to help them with their business and learn the ropes of using social media to sell. Join the group at: facebook.com/groups/stantonretailers.

 

Ayme Sinclair is the marketing director at Stanton Carpet. Her innovative social media programs in the home improvement industry have proven to be successful with explosive growth and revenue-generating leads prompting case studies from companies like Architectural Digest and General Electric.

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Digital Marketing: Putting social media to work for your business

Expert advice on helping dealers take the virtual plunge

November 7/14, 2016: Volume 31, Number 11

Achieving success at retail in today’s high-tech marketing, media-rich world requires a departure from traditional consumer-outreach thinking. Experts the world over agree that a solid social media strategy should be at the core of any marketing program.

That begs the question: What’s the best way to get started? It might sound elementary, but the first order of business is to get to know your audience. Experts say a retailer’s customer demographic will shed light on where they are spending time online. Facebook, for example, is the most popular social media platform for women ages 34 to 54.

Next, review the various social media platforms to see what might work best for your needs. The possibilities on social media are growing and evolving, with new platforms launching frequently (see graphic). Among the most popular are Houzz, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn. Before deciding on a platform that best suits their needs, objectives and, yes, capabilities, retail business owners and operators should consider how much time they can devote to social media. Many experts agree that about an hour a day should be spent on each social network (at least when first starting out). Next, retailers need to consider the audience and demographics. For instance, which social networks are used most by your customers?

Many online marketing proponents believe Facebook tends to deliver the greatest results given its widespread use across varied demographics. According to Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier and digital marketing specialist at Simple Marketing Now, it’s helpful to start with Facebook as most dealers are already familiar with this social network on a personal level. “I’m hopeful that someone has done some experimenting and is somewhat familiar with one of the networks,” she said. “It really helps to understand the network from a personal point of view before getting involved with business perspective.”

Starting off small with Facebook makes sense, experts say, as consumers often search that platform in much the same way that they look for a regular webpage. At the same time, marketing advisors and professionals only recommend posting something on Facebook that has a purpose. In the case of floor covering dealers that means attracting new customers and retaining customers that dealers have already sold.

On the flip side, many retailers remain hesitant to get involved with social media because of seemingly inevitable negativity, particularly with customer reviews. Most dealers know all it takes is one unhappy customer sounding off on a social network or review site to potentially affect other consumers. However, business owners should take these reviews as opportunities to turn negatives into positives.

“More frequently, consumers who are thinking of replacing a floor are looking online for answers: what to buy and where to buy it,” notes Paul Friedrichsen, owner of BrandBiz, a marketing and branding consultancy. “That means she’s probably paying close attention to online reviews. In fact, research says 70% of online customers rely on reviews before making a purchase. So, if you’re not listed on a review site then you’re not in the game. Even worse, if you are online but your reviews are lousy, you’re already losing.”

Ultimately, presence on the top social networks is key, particularly visually based platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Posting original, engaging content on Facebook is paramount, along with short, attention-grabbing blurbs on Twitter. Business listings on Google+, Yelp and Angie’s List will help with search rankings and garnering customer reviews. Houzz—which allows users to express their creativity—is another network rising in popularity in recent years. It works like Pinterest in that it is based on inspirational photos, which falls right in line with the home furnishings/fashion industry. Once a dealer has selected a platform—or group of platforms—the next move is allotting a budget for online marketing initiatives. One of the best things about social media, experts say, is it offers an advertising vehicle for a very low price. You can actually choose to spend nothing, but experts suggest working with a budget—it can be as little as $35 a week—to get additional exposure. “It’s the cheapest media money you will ever spend,” Friederichsen said. “You could spend $10 on Facebook to boost a post or ad and get 1,000 people to look at it. The return on investment for this doesn’t compare to anything you’ll spend in mass media.”

Whittemore also encourages boosted posts. “You are basically paying Facebook for increased visibility. It’s a fabulous tool because you can target certain people in specific locations and you can do it for very small amounts of money.”

But don’t boost everything and anything, she noted. “Before you boost, see if the post gets some organic attention [with likes and comments]. If it’s a dud, don’t waste money on it. You want a mixture of updates—some about you and some about topics that are of interest to your customers. You have to test what works.” social-infographic2015

Creating a connection
At its core, social media is a helpful tool for building relationships with customers. It’s an opportunity to give them a behind-the-scenes view of your business or how “human” you are. It also enables dealers to highlight top-notch customer service and the quality of completed jobs. Experts recommend dealers share photos of their best installations.

“If you want to attract new customers or get the word out about your business, you may want to focus on what’s new in the store or talk about some events you are hosting,” Whittemore suggested. “Think ahead of time to decide what you are going to share and when. And if someone comments on your post, be sure to respond in a reasonable amount of time.”

Experts also suggests dealers get their customer service reps and sales teams involved with social media as well, as this helps with consistency. “It’s not a matter of showing up once; you have to be there all the time,” Whittemore stated. “It’s like joining local business organizations or attending chamber of commerce meetings—you have to go regularly to meet people and hand out business cards. Social networking serves the same purpose, except you’re doing it all online.”

 

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Mohawk utilizes social media for fall sale

Dalton— Mohawk is once again delivering industry-leading savings and special financing opportunities to motivate onsumers to purchase flooring during the annual Mohawk Anniversary Sale. The savings event began Sept. 26 and runs through Nov. 6 at Mohawk’s Floorscapes and ColorCenter retailers. To help boost awareness of the Mohawk Anniversary Sale and direct consumers to their local Aligned retailer, Mohawk is launching targeted social media programming to reach consumers on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. Continue reading Mohawk utilizes social media for fall sale

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More brands joining Instagram – and with good reason

by Steve Olenski, via socialmediatoday.com

Perhaps it’s the “Pinterest Effect” – the social media network that is all about the visual side of life. But more and more brands, especially the big boys on the brand block, are joining Instagram – the mobile only app that, as per Wikipedia “allows users to take a photo, apply a digital filter to it, and then share it with other Instagram users they are connected to on the social network as well as on a variety of social networking services.”

Originally available only to iPhone owners and now available to Android users as well, Instagram has seen a remarkable growth in the first seven months of 2012 – going from 15 million users in early 2012 to 80 million in July – an increase of over 400% in just seven months. Continue reading More brands joining Instagram – and with good reason