Your Basic Guide to Social Media and Marketing

Social media is one of the hottest buzzwords in retail today, yet far less of the retailers who know the term know how to make it work for them and their business. While social media can be very simple and easy to be a part of, it can also be one of the most complex and least rewarding aspects of your marketing plan if you do not plan accordingly and execute your plan.

What is Social Media?
Social media is a two-way conversation between you, your business and your customers or potential customers about your business and the services available for them.

Social media and marketing have gone hand in hand for years, long before the internet was ever thought of. An easy way to think of social media in terms of your marketing plan is to consider social media as word-of-mouth advertising, but done via the internet. Word-of-mouth advertising is one of the greatest forms of marketing/advertising any business can ask for. It is free, very believable if it is coming for a trusted source and most of all it is timely and effective. Social media is timely, the tools or programs to facilitate your social media marketing plan are free, and hopefully from a trusted source: you.

What programs to use?
Before you worry about what tools or programs to use for facilitating your social media marketing plan, you need to first answer a few questions about yourself and your customers.

What are your customers’ behaviors? Are your customers online, if so when are they the most active? Do you realize most people consume social media during the workday? Also, as a fishing tackle retailer, when do your customers start planning their fishing trips? Being active when your customers are active is equal to fishing with the right lure at the right time; give them what they want and they will eat it up.

What are your customers’ needs? Do they need information on the local conditions, what sales you may have running, what fish are in season or what bite is hot? You need to know what your customers, or potential customers are looking for so that you can serve that information to them.

How do their needs, wants and goals align with your knowledge, your store’s abilities and your goals? Many times we all try to be something to everyone and in the end do nothing for anyone. The 80/20 Rule should always be observed when looking at social media. Target the individuals who will give you the most business and the most exposure for your limited time.

The Starting Lineup
Social media can be quickly broken down into just a few players, and each one has a specific purpose, goal and clientele. Using the right tools at the right time will give you the results you are looking for. The one caveat to remember though, nothing happens overnight, it takes time to build a good following, but you can lose that following just as quickly if you do not remain active. Here are the big players within social media.

This may be one of the most well-known social media and marketing pieces, most everyone has a personal account on Facebook. When you set up your business account, make sure you run that separately from your personal account. We all have a member of the family on Facebook that doesn’t realize their entire life doesn’t need to be posted online; they may tag you in a post, or post a photo from a party years ago. Keep your personal page and your business page separate; you will be thankful you did. Facebook is also popular for those who like to run sales and post coupons. Customers can either print out their coupons, or bring in their smartphones and show it at check out. This is a great way to promote social media-only sales, and an easy way to track your marketing program’s results.

Please be sure to maintain your Facebook page, and post often to it. You must also answer questions that arise on your page; if not you will quickly lose followers. Facebook is about conversation and two-way discussion, so discuss, interact and answer. You can also remove negative comments, and/or respond to them quickly, if you remain active. This is where having someone who excels in customer service handling your Facebook account will pay off.

Twitter may very well be the second most popular social media tool, and most times is the more active one. Finding out who is trending and what is popular in pop culture can become a fulltime job in itself if you wanted it. For most retailers what is trending is not valuable information. Rather what is important is making sure your tweets are being seen by the right people at the right time, and being re-tweeted by leaders in your field. To give you an example, if you send out a tweet that gives a tip on how to fish the new hot bass lure, and the manufacturer or one of their pros re-tweets that to their followers, watch out! This is when you will see your social media’s marketing campaign take off and pay off. At the end of the day, you really want people to think of you and your business as a leader, and a place that can fulfill their needs.

Remember to watch your Twitter feed, you will need to respond to tweets with intelligent responses. Your followers will quickly grow and you will be seen as a leader in your space. Leave your Twitter feed alone for a few weeks though, and you will see it die on the vine.

YouTube is one of the least utilized by many businesses, yet can quickly produce content you can use on both Facebook and Twitter, and provide for many of your customer’s needs. If your customers are looking for topical information and tips this is a great way to provide that information. Realize that almost anyone can produce video and put it up on YouTube, the key is to produce quality videos. For a few hundred dollars, or with equipment you and your employees already own you can create your own videos. Many manufacturers and fishing pros also produce videos sharing tips and highlight pieces of gear. Share this content with your clients; it will amaze you how many times it is viewed and shared.

The least utilized, most often forgotten about and poorly designed aspect of social media and marketing is your website. Your site is many times the first way a new client will discover you – it can also be your last chance to interact with a potential client if your site is not designed correctly. If a potential client discovers you via Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, they need someplace to find out more about you and your business. This is where having a quality website will pay off; your site should also have active links to your other social media sites.

Blogs can be one of the trickiest aspects of social media; most times blogs are one sided and lack conversation. They are though a great way to convey tips, advice and prove your knowledge base. Blogs are one area where you will see how well SEO can pay off. A well-written blog should be discovered by anyone who is searching the internet for an article based on your subject matter. They also need to be shared via your website, Facebook and Twitter account. If you write them correctly they will take on a life of their own.

Hootsuite is not a true social media site, but is rather a great way to streamline the process. Hootsuite is free, and can make planning out your Facebook postings and Tweets much easier. As an internet-based program, you can access it either via their site or as a downloadable app. You can plan your postings for the day, the week or the month, pre-load them onto Hootsuite and let the program post for you while you work. It is easy though to quickly have only one-sided conversations if you rely on Hootsuite too much. You still need to comment and re-post Facebook postings on your own. You will also need to re-tweet, and respond to tweets on your own. But Hootsuite will keep you active and keep you visible during the times you are busy working.

Social media is not difficult if you plan accordingly for it, but if you disregard it you will suffer in the end. While many of your clients may not be online today, your future clients of tomorrow are, and you need to start planning on becoming their trusted source before your competition does. You have formulated a good marketing plan, now formulate a great social media marketing plan – you can do it! If you have questions, comments or concerns, or just feel like bragging about what you have done, please do. You can brag on our social media sites, we’re on Facebookand on Twitter, follow us and we will follow you, and post some great tips as well!