Social media is a series of websites and applications designed to allow people to share content quickly, efficiently and in real-time. Most people today define social media as apps on their smartphone or tablet, but the truth is, this communication tool started with computers. This misconception stems from the fact that most social media users access their tools via apps. In fact, 50% of online users never engage social media.

The ability to share photos, opinions, events, etc in real-time has transformed the way we do life and it is also transforming the way we do business. Retailers who engage social media as part of their marketing strategy have seen great results. But the key to success with social media is to treat it with the same care, respect and attention you do all of your marketing.

In the early days of social marketing, there was little competition for the dollar. Today, there is tons. You can spend thousands of dollars on a Facebook ad campaign, for example, and get no return on your investment. Just like competing for space in the newspaper years ago, you are not competing for eyes on social media. And since social media by its very nature is a “short attention span” media, it is 10 times harder to get their attention than it was with a newspaper ad. The ad headlines and copy are harder to write on Twitter or Instagram than in print.

For retailers, most case studies involving social media are either about very large organizations who have very large budgets or a food truck who tells its customers what street corner it will be on. The fact is that for the majority of retailers, social media is a virtual and literal black hole.

One of the biggest mistakes retailers make is to open up an account with every social media platform they think is relevant and then leave them with no activity.

Having an account with social media does not make you “into” social media any more than owning golf clubs makes you ready for the PGA tour. in fact, social media users are turned off by the retailer who opens accounts and does not engage and therefore becomes labeled as a pretender. The truth is, it is better to not have a social media icon on your website if you are not going to actively engage it. 

The other big mistake retailers make is by using social media to talk about what is important to them rather than talking about what is important to the customer. As a retailer, you may think it is great to shout that you have a sale going on – and in some regards this would be true. But if that is the reason you are getting involved in social media it will do nothing for you.

Your goal should be to provide content that is relevant to your customer and engages them to the point that they want to share your post to others. If you engage social media, engage your customer. Involve them in a dialogue. Ask them their opinions. Post a picture of two items you are considering to carry in the store and ask your customers which one they like better. It creates a conversation and a dialogue which leads to shared posts which leads to engaged followers.

Plus with the example we just shared, it also leads to enhanced margin because it might prevent you from buying that item that you end up practically giving away to sell it.

Another thing to consider is that the most commonly shared content on social media involves an image. So always include an image with your post. It dramatically increasing your chances someone will share it with their network. While building up a large network of followers is great, ultimately what you are after is for the followers you do have – however many that is – to share what you are posting with their network. It is the new form of “word of mouth” advertising and it still costs the same – FREE!

Think of it this way, a post or tweet that you put out there might get read, but when it has been shared or forwarded or favorited by someone who got it, it now has that person’s endorsement.

And we all listen to our friends a LOT more than we listen to a retail store.

Feature Image Credit: Getty Images

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