With local storefronts having e-commerce sites and Amazon opening pop-up stores, there is no difference between brick and mortar vs online for holiday business. Everyone is seeking customers. There may be a difference in the volume of sales, but the one common thing is that all businesses are using social media to grab attention during this crucial holiday season. This week, I did a random walk through downtown Decatur, which is a suburb of Atlanta and walked into a several stores. In three places, I overheard conversations about social media for small business. A gift shop owner talked about the difference between his personal Facebook page versus the store’s business Facebook page. In a record store, the salesclerk who is also a musician mentioned that he sells his music online using Bandcamp. I walked into a new ice cream shop and the hashtag was written on the board along the list of ice cream delicious flavors on the menu.
The power of social media when it comes to growing a business cannot be denied. The problem for most small business owners and entrepreneurs is not to be overwhelmed. There are so many channels to use, but a social media strategy is not one size fits all.
First, start with your base. Many stores and restaurants have a clipboard with a sheet of paper inviting customers to join their email list, just as big chain stores ask for your email at checkout. Building a email list is essential, so that businesses can reach out directly to people who are already existing customers. Give them insider information on new menu items or new inventory in stock. Use your newsletters as a way to tell your business story. There are several email newsletter services like Mailchimp or MadMimi that you can use to send newsletter out to your customers.
Second, find out where your potential new customers are online. Look for niche groups on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Do hashtag searches on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Don’t overlook older online communities like Meetup.com For example, if you have a baking supply store, look for cake decorating meetup groups and offer a discount to them.
Third, decide what content to share on social media. Photos posted on Instagram are good, but research shows that tweets with photos also fuels engagement. If your business is selling food and fashion, then Instagram is definitely a social media channel you should employ.
Twitter is great for spreading information like discount codes, specials, and news. Hashtags can expand your reach as people are searching for things like #blackfriday, #giftguide or #shopping. Facebook can be effective as well, but only if you spend money to promote your Facebook page. If you have the budget to do that, then take the time to target your audience by location, gender, age and more.
Pinterest can be very effective if you want to provide curation for potential customers. For example, if you are independent bookstore, you can create Pinterest boards for different book categories like Young Adult books, cookbooks, or mysteries. Have fun with it and use descriptive names for the Pinterest board like Reads Like Teen Spirit, Cooking The Books, or Whodunit respectively.
Most of the social media advice I have detailed above was for consumer retail businesses, but the holiday season is also good for B-toB and service businesses. If your business is focused on B-t0-B, the holiday season can be advantageous since some companies may have room in their budgets to spend before the end of the year. Whether it is professional services or office equipment, this is an excellent time reach out. LinkedIn groups within your industry is a good place to find potential customers. It is also good to reaching to existing customers and to see if they need to re-order. Use your CRM to your advantage.
My dad who is retired but worked in retail for many years said, “When price is competitive, customer service is key”. Use your social media channel to not only promote your business, but also deliver good customer service.
For more digital marketing strategies, check out Xero’s small business guide.