So, where do you stand with social media? Usually it’s one of two places: you’re either all over it, or you just don’t know where to begin. Knowing where to begin can be a daunting task, but one thing’s for sure: it’s the best way to connect with current and potential customers. And it’s not going away.
Social media statistics are over the top: Facebook alone has more than 800 million active users; more than 50 percent of whom log on in any given day; the average user has 130 friends. People interact with 900+million “objects” -- pages, groups, events and community pages; the average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. As of June 2011 Twitter reports 200 million tweets – 140 character posts – per day. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Your choice of advertising used to be so much easier: print, radio, or television; end of story. Those days are over. Traditional advertising methods aren’t doing as well with younger generations. Generation X, Generation Y, and now Generation Z, were all raised on the Internet – they spend more time there than they do watching television. Pages of copy don’t do it for them; they prefer to communicate in shorter “sound bites”.
The list of social media platforms grows daily – you could go crazy trying to keep up with them all! The sites listed below will give you the most visibility. Consider the following:
Start a Blog.
Blogs have been around for years, and with good reason: theygive ordinary people a voice. You may never be on TV but you can reach millions of people online if what you have to say is interesting. Your blog can be an online diary or arunning commentary on what’s happening in your world. Or your store. You can post copy, photos, video, links to websites – the sky, or maybe your imagination, is the limit. Readers can add comments of their own, and even subscribe to your blog via an RSS feed, so they’ll never miss a post.
We started our “Retail Adventures in the
REAL World™” blog in 2005 as a communication tool to help retailers grow their businesses. Since then it’s become a resource read by thousands each month. There are many blog sites available to choose from, we use Blogger.com; WordPress.com is another popular choice. Both are free and easy to use. Create an account and you’ll be up and running in no time at all.
Create a Facebook “Like” page for your business.
This one is non-negotiable: you need a Facebook “Like”(formerly “Fan” page). We said “Like” page for a very good reason: Facebook “Profile”accounts, where you amass “friends” are for individuals; “Like” Pages are for businesses. If you open an individual account for your business, you are in violation of Facebook’s terms of service and sooner or later your profile will be removed. To get started, look for “Create a Page for a celebrity, band or business” on the bottom right of Facebook’s home page andfollow the instructions.
Your goal on Facebook is to attract fans – people who share an interest in what you sell – and interact with them. Take photos of your store and post them on your “wall” – your front page. Tell stories about your store, share your daily happenings, industry observations, product information, what you saw at a trade show, upcoming in-store events, photos, videos, testimonials, what your dog did yesterday – whatever you think your fans will find interesting. We post business ideas and industry observations on our Facebook page, but our personal comments get the best play. Facebook is free and it’s easy to use. Visit Facebook to find out more, be sure to peruse all the available applications while you’re there.
Join the conversation on Twitter
Twitter is a micro blogging platform that allows you to publish “Tweets” – messages of 140 characters or less. It’s kind of like a cocktail party you can read on your computer or smart phone. There are all sorts of conversations going on so it’s easy to “listen in“, “RT” (retweet or forward someone else’s tweets), or add comments of your own. You want to “hang out” with Paris Hilton? Easy! Follow her on Twitter. She’ll probably follow you back – that’s good Twitter etiquette. It’s fun to interact with people you might never meet in person, and if you do, you already have a connection. Watch for “Tweet-ups” – face-to-face Twitter meetings – in your area and at trade shows.
Twitter users used to be primarily adults, but now kids are getting in on the action: 12 to 24 years olds are the fastest growing groups of users. That being said, the most active Tweeps are over still the age of 35. We use Twitter to build awareness for our brand, gather feedback, network, find old friends and make new ones, send updates about where we are and what we’re doing, and photos. You name it. If you can do it in 140 characters orless, you can do it on Twitter. Learn more about this free service at Twitter.com and follow us while you're there: we're KizerandBender.
Lights! Camera! YouTube!
Release your inner rock star on YouTube, a free videosharing website that allows you to easily upload videos. Anyone can watch (and rate and comment if you so desire) the videos you post. Register to create your own channel with a customizable home page. This will allow you to upload an unlimited number of videos and connect with others: people can subscribe to your channel and they’ll be alerted each time your post a new video.
YouTube is perfect platform to showcase your store and the product that you sell. You can film and upload classes, product how-tos, and tips from instructors. Add store commercials, testimonials, footage of events,video circulars, even training videos on how to use specific product. YouTube has changed how we connect with friends, fans, and clients. We carry our pocket-sized “flip” video camcorder everywhere. Shameless plug! You'll find ideas to help you grow your business on the KIZER and BENDER channel.
Help from Yelp
Yelp is acool site that’s designed to help people (potential customers!) find great local businesses – like yours. Set up a free account that lists all of the important information about your business. Dress it up with coupons, offers, photos of your store and more.
Customers participate by adding reviews and comments about your business. These comments – testimonials – are invaluable, so use them to your advantage. Customers are 10 to 20 times more likely to believe what others say about your store before they’ll believe you – you’re supposed to say good things about yourself. If someone posts a negative comment, address it in a positive way. Your professional response shows that you care.
There are hundreds of social media sites available on the Internet, some will actually help you grow your business, and some will just waste your time. In addition to the sites above, the current most popular list includes Flicker, a popular photo-sharing service; LinkedIn, a businesssite that allows you to connect with other professionals; Google Buzz and Google Plus, social networking tools from Google that let you use your Gmail account to share status updates, photos, videos, and more; Digg, a site that helps you find and share content from anywhere on the web; and Foursquare, a site that defines itself as “a cross between a friend-finder, a social city-guide and a game that rewards you for doing interesting things.”
A few more things tothink about…
Many of your social media profiles can be linked together. Our Twitter account, Facebook business page and Retail Adventures™ blog are all linked; we only have to update in one place and that update appears on all three sites. This saves us all kinds of time.
Check out HootSuite or TweetDeck, sites that allow you to easily keep up with what’s what’s happening with your friends, fans and followers right now on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and more. Both sites make your desktop look like a NASA control panel,but don’t let that scare you, both are easy to operate. You can manage yoursocial media accounts, shorten a link, send photos, even record a video toshare from a single location.
Post with care! Use punctuation, check your spelling and make sure everything you post online is something you want out there. Once it’s in cyberspace, it’s in cyberspace. Even if you delete it, chances are Google and other search engines will still be able to find it.
You need aninteractive website, but today that’s not enough. Websites have become online business cards where people can learn more about what you do. Social medias get them involved. You’ll want to link all of your social media profiles to your website.
Here’s the thing: you can’t open a Twitter account or join Facebook and think that you’re all set. You have to participate! This requires a daily commitment. We use our iPhones to update our accounts wherever we go. Check your social media sites in the morning and again at night (studies show most activity around and ). If you can’t do it alone, find someone on your team who can help share the responsibility. Social medias get bigger every day and they’re here to stay. Your customers are already on board. What are you waiting for? Join the party!
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