For most retailers there’s a good chance that many of your bricks and mortar customers and prospective customers are all online. Not necessarily online to buy products from you, but online through various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
It’s always surprising how few retailers take advantage of Twitter and Facebook to help drive traffic to their retail stores. The costs are low, the risks are manageable and, of course, you have the advantage that a great many of your customers are already using these platforms.
Here are five ways that your small business can use social media to drive traffic to its retail outlet:
1.Build Your Audience
Once you’ve set up your Twitter and Facebook accounts you should spend some time finding and building your audience on these networks. Many retail stores might find themselves ‘geographically challenged’ meaning that they can only do business with local people, or those who are within driving distance, so it’s essential to reach out to your local customers first. So how do you find them?
For Twitter it’s fairly easy as there is an advanced search function where you can limit your search to tweets within a geographic area and refine it further by searching for a specific term. For example, a florist could search for ‘anniversary’ within five miles of Cambridge, or a restaurant could search for anyone nearby and could find some tweets such as these:
The advanced search would have brought up all the recent tweets which met your criteria with the handle and avatar of the person who tweeted as shown above. From the results page you can then follow these people, or interact with them, so that they can see the types of services you can provide.
With Facebook you do this a little differently. Instead of using a search function to find nearby accounts you can use targeted Facebook ads, leveraging your Facebook page and creating a compelling landing page to build your audience. Of course Facebook’s option to build your audience can be rather costly, so if you don’t have a marketing budget already in place you might want to consider applying for additional finance, such as a merchant cash boost advance, for the additional cost needed.
2.Create engaging content for your audience
Once you’ve built your audience you need to help encourage them into your shop; it’s unlikely that just by following you on Twitter will encourage them to visit you. However, you’ll need to create plenty of content to engage them and to grab their attention. Whatever your business, you can create content which is compelling and relevant to your audience.
For example, if you run a restaurant you can post your ‘specials’ menus to Facebook and Twitter, complete with a photo, to get your audience’s attention. Tweets with photos tend to achieve 35% more retweets than those without, so that’s worth keeping in mind when writing your social media updates.
As your fan base grows you can also use your social media following to ask for suggestions on what they’d like to see as specials, or you could run a completion to name the sandwich of the day. Getting your followers involved with these parts of your business will help them to feel valued as a customer with the ultimate aim of having them come and visit you.
3. Talk to your followers
Of course, creating content that will engage your followers is important, but you can also take your engagement to the next level by talking to your loyal customers.
On Twitter, it’s as simple as replying and mentioning their Twitter handle in a tweet. It’s not just about replying to the tweets that they mention you in, but you should make an effort to talk to the accounts they follow. For example, by replying to tweets that you have seen your followers post will make them feel valued and can help turn them into loyal customers.
Rather than just using Twitter you should be doing a similar exercise on Facebook. Since Facebook has a much broader audience base than Twitter, it’s likely that your updates will be seen by more people, especially if the person comments on your initial post.
4.Make your posts fun
Do you know what else makes your followers interested in your social media accounts? Having interesting posts will give your followers a good impression of your business as well as giving your audience something to engage with. You might see a retailer post a picture with a description such as ‘new product from our spring collection’, but posts like this generate very few likes as there is no context, no creativity, or any effort to get the reader to engage. You should always add something creative or witty for the viewer to respond to.
For example, the image above is from a sewing and crafts café, who are advertising their sewing courses. Not only have they used a clear, colourful photo to do so, but it also has an engaging description to go with it.
5. Give your followers an incentive to visit
Building loyalty and connections with your customers is a great long-term success strategy, but how can you make your social media followers visit your store? There are plenty of ways you can provide incentives for your online audience to visit you in person.
You should also think about what it is exactly you can offer to your followers. You can create Facebook or Twitter-only discounts or coupons that people can print and bring in with them. To create a sense of urgency, you can make these available for one day to generate more visits. For example, if you have a last minute cancellation, or an appointment becomes available, let your audience know about it so that anyone, who might then be interested in visiting, can contact you.
Another great incentive which you could offer to your followers is a voucher for your business. For example, depending on the cost of your products, you could offer a £10, £20 or £40 voucher to be used at your outlet. Or you could offer a voucher to save money on any of your products and run this on your Twitter account for your followers to retweet and follow your account. Not only will you then be growing your social media audience but you will also be rewarding them with a prize that they will have to visit you to claim.
When offering a prize on social media it’s important to be aware of the value of what you are offering. If you offer too little by way of a prize there’s a risk that you might not get many responses from your followers meaning it won’t gain a lot of interest. However, if you offer too much of a prize, for only a little effort from your followers, you might get a lot of fans, but you may also create unnecessary suspicion amongst your followers and online trust is crucial for small business owners. Getting the balance right is crucial.
Article written by: Rob Stratthof, the CEO of Liberis
Rob is responsible for the leadership and management of Liberis, with a focus on providing fairly priced, flexible finance, delivered responsibility.