Social Media has opened up an entirely new way for people to relate to one another. As consumers continue to use social media networks to interact with stores and retailers evolve to more digital channels for customer service, retailers have to get even more comfortable with presenting themselves and their stores digitally. A First Friday Focus event presented by the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce featured Anne Cull of ThinkViral and her tips on how to use social media as a business development tool. Social never takes the place of a face-to-face conversation, as Cull calls networking events the “real life social networks” and those still are essential in building trust because according to Cull, “people don’t pay people they don’t trust.” But you also “need free sales people to talk about you”, she says. As all small businesses are looking to increase their consumer base, these tips particularly resonate with independent grocery retailers.
Cull addressed Google first as 97% of consumers search for local companies online. If you as a business owner are talking to people, you also need to talk to Google because that’s where consumers look for guidance. They search for their needs in their city. But Google is search, not social. Retailers have to think of Google like they do the phone book. You can’t just put your information there and hope people find it, there needs to be a reason to go looking and if there are customers out there who are shopping elsewhere, it is because that company has a better relationship with that customer. Social media can help build that relationship with the customer, but
Cull says if you aren’t on Google+, that’s ok, no one else is either; take that channel out of the mix if you’re pressed for time. She also notes that it “doesn’t make you look cool” to have a website full of social icons if those social properties are neglected or all automate from just one platform. Retailers need to ask the question “Where can I do the most good?” and “Where are my customers?” You should only be on the networks your customers care about. People won’t care about your stuff until you care about theirs.
Mostly considered a social platform for career connecting, LinkedIn isn’t as directly understood as a selling platform when related to grocery retailers. Cull was presenting to a wide audience, mostly geared toward developing their own business, but I’ve adapted the takeaways to fit grocery. Retailers must remember that everyone in their network on LinkedIn is a potential customer. Everyone shops for groceries. That doesn’t mean though, that retailers should connect with everyone. Cull noted “If you don’t know who is in your network, they don’t know you, which means they don’t trust you.” To clean up LinkedIn connections, Cull recommends exporting the connections and using the spreadsheet to sift through who should still be there. The community has to be curated because there isn’t enough time for junk. LinkedIn is a business networking event, you have to like pages of other groups in the community, connect with people who you know and who have influence, then you have to participate, even if just for 30 minutes each week.
Twitter is still a mystery to many retailers. According to Cull, twitter is all about the hashtag: the topic you want to talk about. She says if you don’t want to talk to people, twitter isn’t for you, but that tweeting is online texting. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t text it, don’t tweet it. As with LinkedIn, Cull notes that you have to participate. With Twitter, tweets can be scheduled, and sometimes should be, but that can’t be all it is. There has to be interaction. Think about what people care about and what people want to see. To remind yourself to tweet, make calendar invites for when you know something is going to be happening, then take pictures, give some insight and join the conversation.
As the most widespread network, facebook is still essential, but it falls out of the realm of traditional advertising in some ways. Cull reminded the group that peoples’ buyer’s hats are not necessarily on while they are on facebook. They are on break from actively searching for information. Instead, they are looking at friends’ pictures, playing games and catching up on life. To inspire someone to take an action on facebook is important though, as that’s how facebook curates content. Inspiring a like or a comment gets your information in the mix and makes sure you aren’t forgotten.
As she wrapped up her talk, Cull left the group with some general points. One was to make calendar events for social posts. Spend 15 minutes per day seeing what is going on, then one to two hours during the week scheduling content. More time strategically networking online means less money spent on advertising in the long run. If you don’t have a schedule, you don’t have a process, but the best thing you can do online is be useful. You don’t have to be fancy, but share other people’s stuff, interact with other pages, know grammar and spelling and ultimately, build trust. People don’t spend money with people they don’t trust.