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Marketing Online: Creating a solid social media strategy

May 9/16, 2016; Volume 30, Number 23

This special FCNews’ Marketing Online series, sponsored by 3M, is designed to help retailers build their social media presence and, by extension, strengthen the connection with consumers.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.07.24 AMIn today’s world it seems that just about everyone uses social media—from a 7-year-old child to an 80-year-old grandmother. With that, these online networks provide a platform for widespread exposure for businesses. People may follow major companies like Wal-Mart or Betty Crocker, but consumers seeking to do business close to home are going to engage the most with local dealers to see what they’re all about.

To that end, flooring retailers need to make sure they have an efficient and effective marketing strategy that involves a tangible social media presence. FCNews spoke with Paul Friederichsen, marketing expert and owner of BrandBiz, and Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier and digital marketing specialist at Simple Marketing Now, to get their advice on building a successful social media strategy. Following are the six steps they identified.

 

  1. Learn the playing field

The world of social networking may seem daunting as the latest social media trends seem to change on a daily basis. The best way to navigate the waters is by simply experimenting with these various tools. Or, as Friederichsen puts it, “do you homework. This means taking some time going online rather than going strictly off of what a friend, relative or business associate has told you. Explore the different platforms.”

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,” Whittemore said. “It really helps to understand the network from a personal point of view before getting involved with business perspective.”

Other social networking platforms are also useful. Pinterest, for instance, is helpful as it is visual in nature, which correlates nicely with flooring—an industry based on style and design. “More than 80% of people signed up for Pinterest are active users,” Friederichsen said. “You want to share eye-catching pictures, room scenes, close-up product shots, etc.”

Whittemore shared similar advice. “Pinterest can be incredibly effective because flooring is a visual business and this is the platform where people go for visual inspiration.” Once Pinterest boards are active, account administrators can track which pins send traffic to the dealer’s main website.

Regarding Twitter, Friederichsen suggests using it as an “intelligence-gathering tool.” Because posts are limited to 140 characters, only so much can be shared on this particular network. Less text with a link to a longer article or a website is typically best for Twitter. “It is a great tool to keep tabs on the competition by following their accounts,” he explained. You can also learn what’s trending in the industry by following manufacturers, suppliers, decision makers, etc.

 

  1. Know your audience

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. “Most dealers should have a good handle on knowing where most of their customers come from, what age bracket they’re in, what income level they are at and what there interests are,” Friederichsen noted. “That’s a good indicator as far as what platforms they’re really going to want to look at seriously.”

 

  1. Understand analytics

Setting up a Google Analytics account is easy and incredibly helpful for tracking website traffic. By connecting social platforms with a website link, dealers can determine which networks are truly attracting customers. “You can spend a lot of time on social media and get nothing out of it,” Whittemore said. “A great way to monitor a platform is with Google Analytics through your website. You can see which networks refer traffic to your site. You are starting where people go to build relationships, but at some point some of those people will want to do business with you. Facebook and Pinterest are quite effective for this when you utilize them correctly.”

 

  1. Create a budget

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.07.33 AMOne of the best things about social media 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 to 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, 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.”

 

  1. Be transparent

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.”

It’s a good idea to set up some guidelines for social media pages, particularly Facebook. In the “About Us” section, the profile administrator should list some rules for comments. This will help the team be prepared for any negative feedback that may come up on the page. There should be some scenario planning to determine how to respond to unfavorable comments. “As a business owner you want to encourage reviews but you know you’ll get bad reviews,” Whittemore noted. “Sometimes there’s a customer who is difficult, but you want to acknowledge her and know how to respond. Consider it an opportunity to show how your business reacts and deals with people.”

 

  1. Utilize LinkedIn

Most people think of LinkedIn as a way to get their résumé out to people they’re connected with in the industry. However, LinkedIn is actually a great way to gain exposure for your business and your team. It is also an effective vehicle for a dealer to showcase his approach as a businessperson.

“LinkedIn gives you an opportunity as a businessperson to talk about issues that are important to you and share those kinds of things that will get noticed,” Friederichsen explained. “There’s an opportunity there to stake out your territory in a social forum as far as what’s important to you and your business—integrity, honesty, quality of service.” Here you can tout accomplishments and successes including high-profile installations or awards.

Individual LinkedIn profiles should be complete and thorough for both the dealer and his team members. From there people can be connected to a business’ LinkedIn group and its website. “Having an individual LinkedIn profile is like having a business card; it indicates you’re a professional,” Whittemore said. “It’s also important to create a LinkedIn page for your company and make sure everyone in your business links to that profile. Remember: everyone is an ambassador for your business.”