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Social Media 101: Ready, Set, Go!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Social Media 101: Ready, Set, Go!(GIFTBEAT)By Natalie Hammer Noblitt

So youíve heard about promoting your store on Facebook and Twitter but havenít committed because you donít have the time? Melissa Galt, social media marketing expert and author of Social Networking Success Manual: Find Profit and Perfect Prospects with Tools and Shortcuts on Social Networks, wants you to rethink your lack of participation. She advises that relationship building through social media sites is critical to your marketing plan and the sustained life of your company.

Q. Why should gift retailers consider social media as part of their overall marketing strategy?

A. Retailers should consider it because it is where their market is. Social media has eradicated the need for consumers to go out and find products and services and news; the products services and news go and find them instead. If you are not out there in the marketplace actively seeking your target, trust me when I say your competition is. It is a no-brainer.

You should remember this is just one piece of your marketing plan. It is not your whole plan; it is an integral piece. Social media is to your marketing plan what Raisin Bran cereal is to a lot of people in their daily diets. It will keep your profits regular when you are consistent with it and persistent with it.

Q. How would you respond to retailers who say they have no time for social media or are too intimated to join in?

A. I am a Boomer and for a long time my laptop was nothing more than an expensive typewriter. It took me years to figure out how to work online. I now have over 40,000 Twitter followers, and I can no longer accept friends on Facebook because I am at the limit: 5,000. The numbers are not important. They do reinforce that I, kicking and screaming all the way for the first two weeks on Twitter and even longer on Facebook, now teach it and train it and show business owners not only why but also how to use social media effectively.

Q. Where can retailers have the greatest impact in the area of social media? Facebook? Twitter?

A. Ultimately you want to be on two or three sites. The reason for that is that there is a three-word formula: visibility + credibility = profitability. Boost your visibility by having multiple presences. Being active and genuine enhances your credibility ó and that equals profitability.

If you donít have a personal page already, skip it and go straight to a business page. Use the sites to share news and views, events and openings, care and maintenance tips and trends in the industry. Consumers love that stuff. You can share a little bit about your family. If you are a mom or a dad, you can leverage that fact. Capture that mommy market or capture that dad market. If you are a grandmother, leverage it. Be sure to include parts of yourself that can be points of connection for someone else in order to be effective. It is developing a relationship, and it is far more than just developing a connection.

Q. You talk about establishing a winning social media routine. Could you share more with our readers?

A. When you only employ social media sporadically, it wonít work. You could even do it once a day, and it would not be effective. It has to be more frequent than that. Retailers are going to have to find a way to carve an hour back into their daily schedule to participate in this, or they are going to be left in the dust. Without it they will be extinct within five years, and probably within three.

The more you use social media sites, the better you become at employing them as marketing tools. You can start out by being a voyeur and just watch the discussions. Itís not particularly useful if youíre not participating ó you really need to be contributing and interacting with the sites. But if you are a little uncomfortable, for the first week say, ďI am going to watch, and then I am just going to jump in.Ē I like to say to people, ďJump in, the conversation is just fine.Ē

Q. When people tell you they canít find time in their schedules to participate in social media, do you tell them to delegate?

A. I ask them, ďDo you have time to go out of business?Ē Here is the thing about delegation. Before you outsource social media marketing, you should understand the basics so you can measure progress. If you outsource something you donít know, how are you going to measure if it is done well and right?

I donít want retailers to go into this blind. It is an incredibly valuable tool. It is not a waste of time. It can be outsourced, and very comfortably so, but you are the experts in your business. You have to know enough to vet the person you delegate to. The key to social media marketing is taking your expertise and your years of experience and sharing it with your audience.

Q. You mention Merchant Circle on your website. What is it and how can retailers benefit from it?

A. Merchant Circle is ideal because it is in your local market. It is social media on a local level, and it is a really good place for a lot of retailers to start if other sites intimidate them.

Merchant Circle has a whole raft of tools they offer to retailers, including a blog. They will also help with website design if you donít have that piece set up, and a whole other host of ways for getting your name out there, including getting your business listed on Google Maps and other sites. I am not suggesting retailers do this instead of the other social media sites. I look at everything as an ďand.Ē But if someone is scared to get going, this is a great place to get their start because Merchant Circleís whole focus is on retailers.

Q. Any additional tips regarding social media marketing and how our retailers can benefit from it?

You must create know, like and trust. People buy from people they know, like and trust. Thatís why when you go into social media, you should not lead with your logo, a picture of your storefront, a figurine or a picture of your pet or your child. You need to put up a picture of you, close up, smiling and showing some teeth. If it is a family business, get a group shot but make sure it is close enough to see faces.

What happened in the last five years with the market crash and everything is that people became more skeptical. Gift is high-touch, and we are living in a high-tech, low-touch world. Share parts of yourself that can be points of connection for someone else. If youíre not sure what you should write, the first place to start is finding your target market. You have to know your target market so well that you could write them a personal letter, and yet most people skip that step.

Q. Is there a level of professionalism that needs to be maintained when posting and interacting on social networking websites?

A. Not so much. Now, hereís the thing: We donít want to know what you had for breakfast because we really donít care. But hereís the important part. It is social media, not professional media. Itís not personal media either. We donít want the gory details of your life. So make your posts 80% social, 20% business.

To help you understand, Twitter is an online cocktail party. Facebook is your backyard barbecue. LinkedIn is your professional networking event. So with Twitter youíre jumping from topic to topic and just giving little snippets. You are not asking for a lot of conversation or information. To get them more involved, you are going to move the person you interact with over to your Facebook fan page. When you layer your networks, they are going to be more effective.

Q. What does the future hold for social media? Do you see it growing in importance, or evolving over time?

This is not a fad or a trend or a temporary glitch in the world system. Social media represents a profound and permanent global shift in communication and consumerism. It is a low-cost or no-cost marketing tool that is infinitely more effective than traditional means like expensive advertising done on radio, in newspapers or in print publications.

The latest stats say there are more than 400 million users on Facebook ó and not all are climbing on every day, but the average user, maybe 100 million of them, is climbing on for 55 minutes a day. That is significant. It used to be 20 minutes, but the amount of time people spend on these sites continues to grow.

Note: For more information on Galtís book, as well as her retailer training and speaking services, visit www.melissagalt.com. You can reach Galt at melissa@melissagalt.com.

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