Growing Your Retail Business Through the Power of Social Media

Nick Rojas
Nick Rojas
Guest Contributor

Listening to your customers, quickly addressing questions and concerns, and using personal, home-grown and down-to-earth content ensures you have a social media presence that drives local customers to your shop.

Just because you’re a brick and mortar business doesn’t mean that social media isn’t an important part of your continuing success. In fact, 72 percent of Millennials check out local businesses online before ever stepping foot inside the store. When your Facebook profile is bare and the competitor has a thriving Instagram with a new photo post every day, it’s easy to guess who the customer’s going to choose.

So, how do you maintain a strong social media presence for your brick and mortar business? It takes a bit of skill, but even if you’re not a marketing guru, you can get the hang of it. Here’s where to start:

Dedicate a Team (Or Your Time)

This depends largely on your resources. If you have the budget to allocate a social media team or even a single social media expert, then that’s a great way to ensure that your social media presence is consistent right away.

If not, then set aside an hour every day to research, write, and schedule a social media post. Or set aside three or four hours on the weekend to do social media for the entire week. You can schedule posts ahead using tools such as HootSuite or Buffer so you don’t have to actually remember to post every day.

Practice Social Listening

What’s social listening, you say? It’s the process of monitoring conversations on social media that happen around your industry, and then leveraging that information to create content that you know your audience wants to see.

Are you running a cafe? Try monitoring what people are saying about #coffeebreak or #iloveyoualatte in your local area on Instagram.

Are they posting cool latte art? Encourage your baristas to experiment and share Instagrams of their creations.

Raving that your competitor down the street finally got coconut milk? Time to check into coconut milk suppliers, or at the very least post a status asking your customers to speak up about what non-dairy milks they want to see.

Social listening lets your customers know that you’re listening, and you care.

Prioritize Response Times

Customers care about hearing back fast, especially when it comes to complaints. In fact, 39 percent of customers posting a complaint on social media want to hear back within an hour. It’s not really feasible to be on Facebook 24/7 waiting for the next negative review, but if your business Facebook account is linked to a personal account, you can receive push notifications to your smartphone whenever you get a new review or message to your business page. That gives you the opportunity to act fast.

Drive Traffic to the Store

Your social media channels are a great way to bring new traffic into the store. One tried-and-true way is to post a social media-specific coupon: customers come in and mention the Facebook post or show a coupon on their phone, and they get a free drink or a $1 off coupon. Other ways include:

  • Posting before and during “happy hour” or other special in-store events
  • Including a call-to-action in your posts (“Come in now before it sells out!”)
  • Sharing photos of new product or menu items

Encourage Selfies

Everyone loves selfies! Whether you’re having employees post selfies on the job or encouraging customers to share and hashtag their own selfies at your store, the very presence of selfies on your social media shows that you’re down-to-earth and personable, a brand that local customers actually want to support and be part of. Plus, customer engagement is very visual in nature, so customers are more likely to have a positive response to a selfie than a plain text review or comment.

Social media is an ongoing, ever-evolving process, so you’re never really done honing your social media strategy; but, these tips give you a good start. Listening to your customers, answering messages fast, and using personal, down-to-earth content helps ensure that you have a social media presence that makes local customers want to come downtown and check out your shop in person.

About the writer: Nick Rojas combines 20 years of experience working with and consulting for small to medium business and a passion for journalism to help readers grow. He writes about technology, marketing, and social media for the aspiring entrepreneur. When Nick is not sharing his expertise, he can be found spending time at the beach with his dog Presto.

Join the #retail, #inspiringretail and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter @NickARojas & @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext