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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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Pinterest: Inspiring consumers with visual appeal

July 7/14, 2014; Volume 28/Number 2

By Jenna Lippin 

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 12.00.52 PMThe first half of 2014 has come and gone, and while most people are in summer relaxation mode, this is the best time to refresh your marketing strategy to get the creative juices flowing.

What has plenty of room for creativity? Many marketing and design experts are touting Pinterest, the social networking platform based on visual content. Users are able to create an endless amount of pinboards with photos that focus on the board’s respective theme. Typically when the images are clicked, the viewer is brought to the website from which the picture originated or a related page.

As consumer behavior changes, flooring retailers today are becoming more comfortable with social media. Once Facebook and Twitter are tackled (or attempted), the natural progression seems to be toward Pinterest.

“Pinterest is an incredible resource for design influence and a powerful tool for bringing people to your website,” explained Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier at Simple Marketing Now. “Look at Target and Nordstrom, for example. Their top pins on pinboards translate to products in store.”

Indeed, flooring retailers—though smaller than megastores like Target and Nordstrom—are proving to be successful with Pinterest to inspire consumers and drive traffic. Having a link to Pinterest on a store’s website, which typically appears as a small button with the Pinterest symbol, is a guaranteed way to bring customers to the platform and see what you have to offer.

“We’ve had a Pinterest page for a while, but we just put [the link] on our website,” said Tom Pelusio, general manager at Rochester Linoleum Carpet One, which has six locations throughout upstate New York. “Some salespeople said they’ve heard response [to our Pinterest]. In the next year I expect even more. Consumers love seeing galleries so they can visualize the products in their homes and get design ideas. With more to look at, an extensive amount of content, we keep their interest. We’ve seen lots of activity from our website because consumers are going through it to get to our Pinterest. It’s definitely helping generate traffic.”

Andy Kessler, general manager at Discount Dave’s, with two locations in southwest Missouri, said that the visual aspect of Pinterest is a great help in showing customers what the store has to offer, and aids customers in explaining the looks, products and designs they want.

“Pinterest has helped us meet our clients’ needs more effectively by being able to share visuals back and forth rather than verbal descriptions,” Kessler explained. “We have found this is the best and most efficient way to help guide our customers to the products they need to achieve the style or feel of the rooms they have shown us when looking through images together.”Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 12.01.18 PM

While retailers’ Pinterest boards are providing inspiration for end users, these dealers are getting help with their creative edge from other pinners. Rochester Linoleum, which has enlisted the help of local IT student Austin Bartlett for managing social media, follows not only Carpet One Floor & Home’s main Pinterest account, but also other Carpet One co-ops, industry magazines and manufacturers like Armstrong and Mohawk.

“We get assistance from Carpet One for a lot of web content,” Bartlett said. “Some of the content was organized by them, and it seemed to work well. There is a lot of interaction on Carpet One’s main page, so it seemed logical to go from there.”

Kessler has Discount Dave’s Pinterest profile follow other flooring stores to see the types of content his peers consider relevant. Keeping track of trends from other parts of the country adds some perspective as to what’s hot in design as well.

“I like following other flooring stores so we always keep up to date on what other companies are using as far as ideas, products, etc.,” he said. “I even interact with a few that are on the East and West Coasts to see what trends are happening there so that we can be ready if and when the trends in our area change and know what products people may be looking for in the future.”

Aside from pinpointing trends, Pinterest is also helpful in staying connected with consumers of varied demographics. For example, with the economic upswing, now is the time for young professionals to start buying homes, which, of course, need flooring.

Erica Hughes, who handles social media and marketing for Al’s Carpet, Flooring & Design Center in Machesney Park, Ill., noted how important Pinterest is in attracting customers from opposite sides of the consumer age spectrum.

“There are really two demographics,” she explained. “I’m 31, so I’m that second (younger) demographic we look at for flooring. I have a house, I’m married, we’re improving our home, we’ve had our jobs for a while and we have disposable income now. I’m sitting on Pinterest looking at what we can do.”

But there is also a target demographic with empty nesters in their 40s, 50s and 60s who want to redo their homes; they are all on Pinterest, too. “They come into the store and say they saw something on Pinterest they want to use,” Hughes continued.

Erin Appleman, vice president of marketing and merchandising at Rite Rug, with numerous locations throughout Ohio, also noted how Pinterest attracts the target audience of female consumers age 35 and up. “The photos [on Pinterest] are designed to provide ideas and inspiration for the home,” she explained. “We also want to create a relationship with consumers, so they will think of Rite Rug when they are ready to purchase flooring.”

Hughes summed up Pinterest best: “Pinterest has a format people will go to for ideas. With Pinterest you are getting a photo, and a majority of the time you are clicking on a photo and going to a link. You can create inspiration boards for different parts of the home.”

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Social networking: Know target audience, keep content current

Volume 27/Number 26; April 28/May 5, 2014

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 3.13.20 PMWhile the flooring industry tends to embrace changes over time, there is not a minute to waste when it comes to social media. Floor covering retailers often tend to be “old school” thinkers, honoring longtime traditions and business practices, but the last several years have brought about many unavoidable modern marketing and sales techniques, the most important being online tools, including up-to-date websites, Google Plus pages, and Facebook and Twitter profiles.

The first step, according to Internet and social media experts, is making a business known. Exposing what a store has to offer is no longer limited to monthly mailers and a listing in the Yellow Pages. A retailer’s initial goal should be creating a store listing online.

“The name of the game is being found,” said Paul Friederichsen, owner of BrandBiz, a marketing and advertising company utilized by several flooring companies, including Novalis, Beaulieu and Kronotex. “If you’re not taking care of [that exposure], you’re at an immediate disadvantage from a competitive standpoint with other retailers in your area. Social media, blogs, etc., all contribute to organic ranking on Google. It’s very important. It is the new battleground that’s really not even new anymore.” Continue reading Social networking: Know target audience, keep content current

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Metroflor announces Facebook contest winner

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 12.03.53 PM
McWilliams created the winning Pinterest board with the theme “Rustic Walk Out Basement.”

Norwalk, Conn. – Metroflor recently announced the winner of its “Engage With Metroflor Corp.!” contest: Annie McWilliams of Hayworth, Ill. She is one of over 1,975 visitors to Metroflor’s Facebook page who “Like” Metroflor and one of the over 50 people who entered the contest by creating their own Pinterest boards, which had to incorporate at least one Engage room scene, as well as other scenes/images found on the web, then posting their entries on Facebook. Entrants were then encouraged to reach out to their social media networks and ask friends and family to vote for their Pinterest boards. The grand prize winner was the owner of the Pinterest board that received the most votes. Continue reading Metroflor announces Facebook contest winner

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Utilizing social networking in your business

Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013

Conversation, not content, is king

by Melissa McGuire

Most companies understand the significance of having a social media presence, however, many are at a loss as to how to use this medium effectively. If you have flirted with any of the more popular social networking sites—LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest—you’ve taken a step in the right direction. But now is the time to buckle down, streamline your social media strategy and understand the infinite possibilities out there for all business types and sizes.

“Social media has matured enough in that everyone realizes it has power,” said Ian Baer, chief strategy and creative officer at Rauxa, an integrated brand marketing agency headquartered in Orange County, Calif., with offices in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and Chicago. “Today the Internet is affecting more purchase decisions than any medium in history. Choosing to participate in social media is really not an option anymore. It’s where the relevant conversation is taking place. You can pretend it’s going away, but it’s not.” Continue reading Utilizing social networking in your business

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Surya launches sweepstakes on Pinterest

Calhoun, Ga. — From April 11 through May 12, Surya invites customers and Pinterest users to enter for a chance to win a Surya rug and home accessory package of their choosing from themes inspired by travel, fashion or nature. The sweepstakes theme is aligned with Surya’s High Point Market inspiration-themed campaign – which highlights the creative inspirations behind many of Surya’s products.   Continue reading Surya launches sweepstakes on Pinterest

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Porter first "Guest Pinner" for Feizy Rugs

Tracy Porter

Dallas — Renowned designer Tracy Porter will be the first in a series of “Guest Pinners” slated to create a Pinboard on the Feizy Rugs Pinterest page.  Tracy’s newest brand, Poetic Wanderlust, features a wide range of products including tabletop items, pillows, poufs, ottomans, and wall art.  In addition, she has collaborated with Feizy Rugs since 2006 on an expansive line of Fine and Home Collection groupings. Continue reading Porter first "Guest Pinner" for Feizy Rugs

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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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Social media increasingly more important in 2011

by Matthew Spieler

Regardless of how you feel personally about social media—love it, hate it or doing whatever you can to ignore it—if you are in business today then you must embrace it for long-term survival.

In spite of how Facebook’s public offering played out, the overall numbers should speak for themselves as to how important a medium social media has become for businesses to connect with existing and potential customers. Continue reading Social media increasingly more important in 2011