Like us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter..! Then what?

Small business retailers need to answer this question.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and #Hashtag logos are now all common place with small business retailers. They are fast becoming synonymous with the shop front window and the advertising space on an endless stream of motor vehicles.

Yet, when you visit the social media channel of a small business retailer the majority falls short. A 45 second review highlights the common pitfalls of poor branding, poor photography, inactivity, poor online voice, ill conceived content, direct selling and a minimal understanding of what social media can achieve.

In essence, the small business retailer fails to convey online, the high quality face-to-face experience they create in store.

For the small business retailer with limited resources this question should arise. Is it critical to treat a social media presence with the innovation and pride of the shop floor? Absolutely.

The motivation to engage with brands, products and services continues to gain momentum with the maturation of social media and mobile devices. The eyeballs are online and the influence of social media continues to grow.

In Australia, social media ‘is now a significant path to purchase. Overall, 30% of social media users report that they use social media to research products and services that they want to buy, with 63% of those that use social media to research purchases reporting that their last research resulted in a purchase, up from 58% last year. Of those purchases, just under half were made online, with the majority made “offline” highlighting the importance of social media for “bricks and mortar” stores’.

Yellow (TM) Social Media Report 2014 – http://bit.ly/1oLvfKX

Social media is now key to the online research process for a discerning buyer. A small business retailer’s social media channel is potentially the first touch point and information source for a buyer.

The words of author, Harlan Hogan apply, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’. An ill conceived, inactive, poorly branded social media channel is treated with the same disdain as an outdated or poorly designed website, with a click to somewhere else.

As more small business retailers move into the space, what will differentiate one from the other over social media?

At the heart of a successful small business retailer is a value set that resonates with a customer focus on physical layout, the quality of their goods and face-to-face service. The challenge for all small business retailers is to make the heart and soul of their business pulse online, with the same care and attentiveness they give to their in-store operations.

A high quality social media channel starts offline. For long term, ongoing engagement small business retailers should be:

Placing social media in context.

What will be the role of social media? What are the pros and cons of social media? Who and where is my audience? What are the best channels for use? What financial and human resources will my social media presence require? What is the knowledge base of social media in my business?

Using benchmarks for a quality social media channel.

Are the graphics/logos, consistent and the correct size? Is there a structure and tone inwriting and engaging with my customers? Are the appropriate security settings in place? Are the community guidelines for participation explicit? How should the social mediachannels, integrate with my website? Who will be the administrators?

Continuously building a social media knowledge base.

Who has the skill and experience in social media in my business? Is there a need to buy-in outside expertise to support skill development? What content will my business post? How will my business capture, sustain and present content to highlight a point of difference? What will be the mix of information and direct selling via my social media channels? Where can I focus on people?

Offline planning that considers the above will produce an online presence where consumers will watch, click with a ‘like’, support with a ‘share’ and ultimately interact with a ‘comment’. The online conversation creates offline conversation, which is at the core of developing your community and your word of mouth.

Take a long-term view of your social media presence as it, too, is your shop front.

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