Social Media Best Practices for the Retail Industry

Social Media Best Practices for the Retail Industry

Many retail store owners know firsthand that social media marketing is an effective way to reach and engage with existing and prospective customers. As with any marketing tool or channel, though, you must put a plan in place as to how you will integrate social media components into your marketing mix. Social media can attract attention, provide customer service, be a vehicle for promotion and drive foot traffic to your establishment.

Be Proactive

A strong social media marketing plan starts with monitoring what people are saying online about your company, your competitors and topics relevant to your business. By having presences on popular social media pages, you can thoughtfully engage with others and invite them to be part of your online community. If they’re already your customers, you can turn them into evangelists for your brand. Do this by providing them with content and information from your company to share with their own social networking friends and followers.

Even if you find negative comments in social networks about your company, you have the opportunity to turn them around. Through helpful, non-defensive dialogue, you can transform a complaining customer into a happy one – or at least diffuse a negative situation. Engaging properly and regularly in social networks demonstrates that you are listening and willing to help.

Always root your use of social media marketing in the following:

  • Business Goals. Sales may be at the top of your list as a retail business. Even so, social media is not about making an instant sale but more about brand building and strengthening customer loyalty. This can lead to repeat sales and referrals.
  • Customer Preferences. Ask your customers what social networks they use to get a sense of how best to reach them. Use surveys to discover their shopping inclinations, communications preferences – including email and text messaging – to expand how you deliver your messages.
  • Critical Actions. Pick social media tools that let you or your customers take action. Do you want to distribute coupons online to help drive foot traffic? You can do this through Facebook or Yelp, or use your pages to point to online coupons on your website.

    Do you want to run a contest that helps build your brand? Instagram and even Pinterest can be useful platforms to run photo contests. At minimum, you want people to share the content you publish. Produce quality posts that appeal to your target market and then encourage them to pass it along.

    As a business with a location, chances are your customers are checking in when they shop. Set up business accounts on the social networks they’re using to tap into customer data identifying their habits and preferences. Look for ways to reward your loyal customers, too.

To stay on top of your social media marketing, develop an editorial calendar. Create a plan for communicating consistently, effectively and frequently. Schedule some of your key messages to handle some of your messaging. Make sure to craft messages that encourage your audience to act, especially to share and shop.

Some of the best ways to leverage social media marketing for your retail business mean staying:

  • Focused. Stay on top of message and make sure your updates and interactions reflect your brand in a positive light.
  • Attentive. Consistently monitor what is being said online to stay on top of customer complaints and issues, as well as to thank customers who refer others to you.
  • Responsive. If someone poses a question, make sure you have resources in place to respond promptly. The speed of social network conversations and expectation for “immediate” response is greater than it has ever been.
  • Integrated. Showcase what you do offline in your online social networks, and also incorporate your social media activity into your retail space. Whether you’re encouraging customers to “check in” on Foursquare or to post a selfie to Instagram for a shopping discount, look for creative ways to integrate social media into all your communications and marketing.

Customers are seeking both convenience and connection, and social media marketing delivers both. Provide customers with incentives to connect with you in social networks and use those connections to provide exclusive access to promotions that get them back through your door.

When they arrive, create a better shopping experience for them by leveraging what you’ve learned about them online. With their permission, push messages tailored to their personalities, interests and shopping preferences. Be creative as you harness the power of social media marketing.