The way we communicate, promote and brand our business has changed forever with the emergence of social media. The old rules are obsolete, and now is the time to embrace the new media and take full advantage of the new communication age. In an increasingly competitive market, retailers need to stand out from the crowd and increase their profile online and offline. Retailers have a great opportunity to connect with current customers and find new customers at a low cost without technical/programming skills.
Over the last few months I have fully immersed myself in Social Media, predominantly Facebook, Twitter & Blogging. The results have pleasantly surprised me! I knew that there was a strong online community but being a part of these conversations and building relationships has enriched my business and me personally.
I have received many queries and questions from retailers and thought this article was a great opportunity to at least introduce the concept, demystify the media and encourage innovative entrepreneurial retailers to get started (or seek help starting!). I have included theory and practical application to help you start creating your Social Media strategy.
Wikipedia defines Social Media as:
“Social media are media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media supports the human need for social interaction, using Internet- and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, Online chess calendar transforming people from content consumers into content producers.”
The objective of a Social Media presence is to:
· establish your business as an authority in your field, be the ‘go-to’ store
· communicate with current customers
· reach out, find and connect with new customers who may be out of your local area (or country)
· create excitement about your brand
· increase your online profile and consumer awareness
· encourage regular contact with your market
· customise communications to suit different groups of customers
To understand where we are now, let’s look back a few years.
MySpace (MySpace.com) was launched in 2003 and quickly became ‘the’ must-join site. It predominantly engaged and was used by Gen Y, artists and musicians. It was easy to dismiss as it did not have an obvious business application, even though it did launch many bands and artists worldwide. It connected them directly with their market and encouraged direct interaction. For the first time, people could have a ‘personal’ interaction with their favourite artists, as well as other people that spanned time zones, countries and demographics.
My Space challenged Gen X and older. We did not share our personal information with perfect strangers! We were more private and did not see a place for this social site in our lives.
Facebook (Facebook.com) quickly followed and was not as easy to dismiss or ignore. Initially, developed in 2004, as a ‘keep in touch’ tool for Harvard graduates, Facebook quickly spread around the world and across many generations. It allows users to have their own FREE mini-website and a voice. Users set up their page, invite people to connect with them and share information, photos, music and videos. It was the photo application that was quickly adopted by users and lead to Facebook’s incredibly rapid adoption among the not so tech-savvy public.
Facebook Applications were added to extend the interactions on the site. There are over 35 000 applications on the site, ranging from surveys, quizzes, petitions, fortune telling & real time chess! In addition to a personal page, Facebook allows business pages, blogging, advertising, creation of group and events. All of these tools/applications can be used to promote your business and develop a close relationship and interaction with current and new customers.
Pages can be public, so that anyone can view them, or private, where connections are made by invitation only. Generally, personal pages are private and people must request or be invited to connect. Business Pages and Events are generally open and can be followed at the click of a button.
Facebook users can post regular status updates, comment about information on friends’ pages or join a conversation on public interest pages. The choice is endless, the result is a closer immediate interaction. The beauty of Facebook is the ability to use images and text to make it more interesting.