Don’t Be Like All the Rest: 4 Ways to Boost Your Retail Social Media Strategy

“Connect with people on social media!”

This advice may have been effective 6 or 7 years ago, but these days, simply “connecting on social” just won’t cut it anymore. With millions of businesses competing for people’s attention on social sites, you need to find creative and innovative ways to stand out.

We’ll be sharing examples of how to accomplish that, but before diving into tactics, recognize that the first step to implementing a winning social media campaign is getting to know your audience. Figure out how they use different social networks and how they communicate, and then tailor your efforts accordingly.

Below is a handy table from the post How to Optimize the Customer Experience in Retail Using Social Media by Michael Spencer:

Social Media Network Target Top Tips
Instagram Highly mobile younger Millennials and Gen Z consumers. Post high-resolution original photography with attention paid to professional design and branding.

  • Mix in inspirational quotes, offers, and tips.
  • Delete the lowest-performing 25% of posts in terms of likes and comments, to ensure quality on your feed.
  • Aim to surprise your followers with the occasional off-beat, eccentric or funny post.
Pinterest Millennial women, especially mothers, and people interested in fashion, style, lifestyle and self-improvement. It’s all about amazing pictures of your products.

  • Mirror your target audience and personas of your typical customers (pin as they pin).
  • Create a variety of boards that demonstrate your brand is ethical, cares about the environment, employees, customers and has a sense of style.
  • Post 3+ times a day.
Twitter Influencers, partners and business associates in your industry and loyal brand advocates and consumers. Post more frequently to compensate for the lower engagement and visibility of Twitter posts. Use a post scheduler like Buffer or Hootsuite and post a higher percentage of images with hashtags as tweets.

  • Use images to boost engagement.
  • Use multiple #hashtags in a single tweet to boost reach on topics that are relevant to your target audience and products.
  • Don’t forget to make it a two way conversation – interact with partner brands, influencers and customers to become a thought leader in your field.
Facebook Consumers who are 35+. Create your own 1-2 minute native videos that are highly shareable and post them on Facebook groups related to your vertical, products and store.

  • Post 1-2 times a day, at peak hours when your audience is online.
  • Embed text in images, inspire readers, and keep text brief.
  • Your posts are not readily seen by the majority of your followers unless you tap into Facebook Advertising, which can be an effective tool to grow and better target your audience.

Now that you have an overview of the different social networks, let’s move on to the tactics that you can implement to increase engagement.

Work with influencers

When implemented correctly, influencer marketing can enable you to tap into wider audiences and freshen up your retail social media strategy. Here are a few ways to make influencer marketing work for you:

Focus on micro-influencers

When it comes to influencer marketing, more doesn’t always mean better. Marketing and technology firm HelloSociety recently found that “micro-influencers” — i.e. those with 30,000 or fewer followers — deliver engagement rates that are 60% higher (on average) compared to those with larger follower counts. Not only that but micro-influencer campaigns are said to be “6.7 times more efficient per engagement than influencers with larger followings.”

Why? One reason could be that micro-influencers are seen more as “peers” rather than celebrities, and so their followers tend to trust them more.

As Kyla Brennan, the founder and CEO of HelloSociety told Adweek:

“Influencer marketing is still effective when they’re looked at as peers… When it comes to celebrity accounts, who have maybe millions of followers nobody actually believes that a celebrity is a real fan of a product they’re trying to sell.”

This is great news because micro-influencers tend to charge lower rates compared to social media celebrities with hundreds of thousands or millions of followers. If you pick your influencers wisely, you could implement a highly efficient and cost-effective campaign.

Case in point: E.L.F Cosmetics. Last year, E.L.F rounded up 50 of its top fans and invited them to a weekend in San Francisco, where they were given the opportunity test products and connect with the E.L.F team in person. This allowed participants to build relationships — not just with the company, but with each other.

As a result, E.L.F was able to build a community of micro-influencers who actively shared ideas and content with their followers. According to MarketingDive, the effort resulted in a 25% increase in Instagram followers for the brand. Additionally, E.L.F saw an increase in engagement metrics, like the number of posts about the brand per average user.

Consider account “takeovers”

A good way to reach new audiences and gain fresh content is to hand over your account to an influencer or an industry peer.

This is Retail, the NRF’s Instagram account, for example, is often “taken over” by other retailers. Below are some posts from a recent takeover by Total Wine & More

Tap into messaging platforms such as WhatsApp

If it makes sense for your business, consider using messaging platforms such as WhatsApp in your customer service and engagement strategy. Not a lot of brands are doing this, so establishing a presence on these platforms may help you stand out.

As Renato Mendes, senior product strategist at Huge, told Glossy, “Now is the perfect time for [brands on WhatsApp]… It’s not that early in the sense that it’s not a dark territory, since some brands have already developed some successful ideas, and not too late to be the last one in the party.”

So, how can retailers leverage WhatsApp? One way is to use the app to provide a more convenient and personalized shopping experience. If you have a lot of well-off customers who are “time poor,” they will likely appreciate having direct conversations with associates rather than having to find items on your website or app.

One example of a company using WhatsApp for this purpose is Reliance Brands. Glossy reports:

Reliance Brands, which retails Diesel, Kenneth Cole and Brooks Brothers in the country, engages customers on the app who don’t have access to physical stores. On WhatsApp, customers can select items they want to be delivered by scrolling through the latest updated stock. A Reliance Brand representative said in 2015 that conversion rate was as high as 80 percent, and that “cash-rich-time-poor” customers appreciated the convenience of the direct conversation.

If you provide VIP services, you could add one-on-one WhatsApp conversations as part of your offerings. That’s the strategy of high-end retailer Net-a-Porter. The company employs WhatsApp stylists who chat with Net-a-Porter’s best customers and facilitate sales.

Net-a-Porter’s strategy has worked so well that “CEO Federico Marchetti told Bloomberg some of Net-a-Porter’s biggest sales have been made through conversations with customers on WhatsApp.”

Take video to the next level

Everyone knows that videos perform exceptionally well on social networks, particularly on Facebook. If you often post videos on the site, consider making use of 360-degree videos to spice things up.

REI, the outdoors gear retailer, did just that last year as part of its “Access Outdoors” campaign. According to Digiday, REI wanted to connect with urban, multicultural millennials in Austin, Chicago, and Los Angeles. To do that, the company documented artists in these cities while they working on installations that would make the outdoors more accessible.

But what’s unique about the efforts is that REI shot the video in 360 degrees so viewers can explore and see the installations from different angles.

See for yourself below.

Be real

Social media is filled with Photoshopped and filtered images, so publishing touchup-free photos could be just the thing to help you stand out.

Check out Target’s recent campaign. The department store unveiled a swimwear campaign featuring unretouched photos of models. The campaign, which was promoted heavily on social, received a lot of attention and also encourage conversations around issues like women’s body image.

Think along the same lines for your next campaign. Figure out how you can give your fans and followers a refreshing dose of honesty. Is through an un-Photoshopped ad like Target’s? Or perhaps you can offer an unscripted, behind-the-scenes look at how your business operates.

Whatever you decide, be genuine — your audience will love you for it.  

Your turn

Can you share other social media tactics that retailers can use to stand out? Let us know in the comments.


About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.

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