Why should retailers develop a dedicated social media strategy?

Over the past 6-12 months the question I have been asked most frequently by retailers is “Why is it so important to develop a social media strategy?”

My answer is always the same: if you don’t have a dedicated strategy you will not raise awareness of your business to new customers or improve engagement with your existing customers. So where would a retailer start in order to develop a strategy?

Research, research, research is a retailer’s starting point. You need to understand which channel your customers use most. Are they on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? You also need to use free tools like Tagboard, to research what hashtags are trending in your sector.

This is really important because in my experience a retailer who is new to social media should not try to use multiple channels.

You need to start using the channel your customers use most, get really comfortable using this channel and then move on to additional channels when you have mastered the first.

This is a practical approach so you build up your understanding of what is needed to post on social media every day, answer direct messages, review competitors’ pages and advertise on the channel to raise awareness or acquire additional customers.

Do you have capacity?

Another important issue to consider is capacity: do you have the time to dedicate to social media?

I always ask a retailer if you were changing a window display would you leave it half way through the process and come back to it three days later. How would the customer react to a window display that was not completed?

They would question the professionalism of the organisation. The same impression is given to a customer by retailers who haphazardly approach posting on social media.

If you cannot commit to working on social media every day you will not give a positive impression to a new or existing customer.

Developing a Brand voice

So you have researched your customers, reviewed your ability to work on social media on a daily basis, where do you go from here? How are you going to develop a brand voice?

When I talk about brand voice I always ask my clients “What are you going to say to your customers?” You cannot just post about your

products and services every day, social media needs to be more than that; you should never forget the word “social”.

When a customer comes into your premises you do not bombard them with information about your special offers, new products lines, etc. so and the same applies to talking to your customers via your social channels.

Try to talk to your customers as if they were standing inside your store: be interesting, cool, funny and always professional. Remember if you would not write something on your store window, do not write it on your Facebook or Twitter page!

Getting started

After discussing these issues with a retailer, the next logical question a retailer normally asks is “Where do I start when preparing social media content? Do I need to use video; do I ask questions, how many pictures should I include in a post?

The answer is yes to all of these questions. A practical approach is to develop a 12-16 week forward plan of key milestones associated with your specific business.

Some examples of these themes would be, when are you planning a sale, what are you doing in-store for Halloween, when is the next anniversary related to the business, etc. Once you have a plan, you can then drill down into what you want to say on a daily basis.

What I have outlined is only the starting point to developing a social media strategy and in my experience it will take 6-12 months for a business to start to see their strategy embedded in the company. One key thing to remember is that the company’s social media strategy should be outlined to all members of staff in the company.

Creating a strategy

If you’re social media posting is not understood by staff members they cannot answer face to face questions / comments from customers. To recap what the basis of a strategy looks like:

• Research your customers and understand what channel they use most, start using this channel and master it.

• What capacity is available in your business to post daily on social media and can you discipline yourself to maintain this level of commitment for the lifetime of the business? Do not haphazardly approach posting on social media.

• Try to create a brand voice. This voice is what your customers will see and hear in their daily timeline. Once they are comfortable engaging with your company you will raise awareness of your company and give you an advantage over your competitors.

• Do not forget the word “social” when you are developing this brand voice

• Developing a 12-16 week “themed” forward plan will give you the basis for usable content.

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