For many years, decades really, your retail brand was defined by the products you offered, the people you hired, the design of your stores and your corporate values. These were difficult things to master, but they were manageable with hard work.
In today’s online-centric world, where social media and mobile messaging may be the only thing customers know about your brand, one slipup could spell disaster. Furthermore, one employee going rogue on their private social media account could present instant problems with long-term consequences. These situations could lead to waves of protests, boycotts, reduced sales, employee defections and so on.
Transforming your businesses to meet the needs of mobile consumers while controlling your branding message is far more complex than it seems. Businesses must adapt and make changes right now to focus their messaging, so they can compete with more media-savvy retailers in the future.
While engagement with consumers is a big part of attracting new business and relating to the next generation of c-store consumers, simply liking the wrong post on Twitter or Instagram can alienate customers and employees alike. If you’re not a progressive chain on social issues, you will be at a disadvantage in landing talented employees, and customers will not look favorably upon your brand. If you post online about social issues, customers will want to see that you practice what you preach in your corporate policies and practices. Similarly, if you support certain causes that are not in line with the values of your customers and employees, you run the risk of severing relationships that will damage your business.
In short, while the internet offers many opportunities with online ordering and mobile apps, it’s also a minefield that you must learn how to navigate like an expert, so it doesn’t turn on you.
More than ever, your business’ online reputation weighs heavily on your skill as a marketer. Social media is the most engaging, two-way communication medium for customer relations. Because of this aspect, engaging your followers can make or break your brand’s reputation.
Retailers must remember that social media is a long-term investment due to the ever-changing and evolving world. Fortunately, there are tactics for building an audience and gaining credibility to avoid the pitfalls that damage other brands.
For example, while it’s important to post regularly, the quality of content will always trump a handful of meaningless posts. Take the time to find a piece of content that provides benefits, insights and value to your audience to ensure engagement. By publishing quality and engaging content, an appropriate audience will be sure to follow.
Other winning strategies include engaging followers with contests, questions and comments to get their input. Avoid volunteering information that could alienate customers. Everyone likes a winner, so showcase where you and your fans are winning, such as with fundraisers, social programs and in-store promotions.
Most importantly, plan ahead. Strategize about your audience and create a long-term social media plan to make sure you stay on track with your goals. Thinking of social media as a social gathering will greatly benefit your engagement and strategy. Experts say a healthy ratio for posting content is roughly 40% self-promotion (your products, services, events, news, etc.) and 60% interesting and engaging content from outside sources.
It’s not enough to just post content. Monitoring posts, comments and feedback from users will decide the fate of your brand. Customers love social media because it gives them a voice. And their voice can cause damage to your brand. A lot of it. Monitor your profiles and respond back to your followers. Don’t be afraid to take suggestions into consideration.
Engaging your audience and building a community is what it’s all about in the end. Too often, social media is treated as just another marketing outlet by businesses. But it’s also become a powerful weapon that can hurt you virtually without warning. By engaging your audience, listening to your audience and maintaining your profiles, you’ll have a social media presence that will lead to success.