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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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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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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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Mohawk’s License to Spill campaign trends on Twitter

 

Liscense-to-SpillDalton—Mohawk Flooring reached social media stardom when its License to Spill Twitter Party trended on both a national and global level, which means more Twitter users were talking about the campaign than any other topic.  Capitalizing on its successful “License to Spill” national tour featuring SmartStrand with DuPont Sorona carpet, Mohawk worked with prominent online bloggers to host an equally successful #LicenseToSpill Twitter party. Continue reading Mohawk’s License to Spill campaign trends on Twitter

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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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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

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Social networking becomes tool for success

by Emily J. Cappiello

Social networking is no longer an added part of success; it has become one of the main tools to help businesses thrive. Social networking allows companies to get closer to their customers and can even help consumers find local flooring stores, since Facebook is becoming an ever-increasingly popular search engine as well as social networking site. YouTube can enable people to network with each other but can also be used to supply partners and potential customers with educational information about products. And with new additions like Pinterest, social networking is growing by leaps and bounds. Continue reading Social networking becomes tool for success

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MAPEI gives away 75K in honor of 75 years of excellence

Deerfield Beach, Fla.As part of its celebration of Mapei Group’s 75 years in business, MAPEI Americas is rewarding its loyal customers with a sweepstakes worth a total of $75,000 in cash and prizes. During 2012, contractors in the tile, stone and floor-covering installation sectors and in the concrete restoration sector will have a chance to enter the “$75K Giveaway” sweepstakes each time they purchase select MAPEI products. Entry forms and rules are available online at http://www.mapei.com/adv/us/75k_Giveaway/. “We’ll keep everyone updated on the promotion via our Facebook and Twitter presence, in addition to regular communications through our sales force,” said operational marketing manager Steven Day. Continue reading MAPEI gives away 75K in honor of 75 years of excellence