Are you there, Internet? It's me, Kristen.
April 20, 2010, 1:59PM
Never thought you’d have to refer to that business plan again, huh? Think again. Remember the section that asked you to describe your customers, the business’ look and feel and your marketing approach? Well, as you begin to look at social media as a marketing opportunity you’re going to want to keep all those key areas in mind.
In a way, your customer base dictates your business and vice versa. For example, I’m the owner of a lifestyle store in downtown Jersey City. My customers are mostly women between the ages of 20 and 40 that enjoy shopping at stores like Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and independent vintage shops. Just as I gear Kanibal Home’s products and events to target their tastes, I also need to keep in mind that same branding when utilizing social media.
But sometimes it’s a trial and error process.
One downside of social media is the ROI. In this case, it’s mostly time and energy, not dollars and cents, but to a small business owner that’s just as valuable as an actual monetary investment. Marketing and public relations initiatives run into this problem often. As a business owner, if you comment as an expert in a magazine or do an interview with a radio station to promote your business, how can you tell you’re reaching the right audience and, secondly, how can you be sure it will bring you business? The return on investment is somewhat uncertain. It’s a blind faith. The same is true with social media.
This is where the trial and error comes into play. By increasing your knowledge base and doing research you can guarantee that whatever you toss out into the blogosphere or social media universe will at least orbit around the correct audience.View full size
Here’s the fun part: I’m encouraging you to be a social media voyeur. Look at what other businesses are doing and don’t be afraid to be a bit of a copy cat. Let’s say you own an independent hardware shop, then take a peak and see if Home Depot has a corporate blog, Twitter and Facebook Fan Page. Keep track of the kinds of things they’re posting, tweeting and messaging about and apply those same ideas to your business.
Twitter and Facebook make it easy to attract an audience, but blogging is a little harder. With Twitter you can “follow” other people within your same industry. Start locally by looking up the Twitter accounts of your local paper, chamber of commerce, neighboring businesses, etc. Follow their tweets and then look at who they are following. On Twitter when you follow someone you are increasing your likelihood of that person or entity following you back. It’s like a never-ending game of tag. Next reach out to national companies, brands and personalities that have a similar objective to your business. In Kanibal Home’s case, I would want to follow people involved in the fashion, home décor, vintage, jewelry and general style field. You’ll find that you can build up a following quite quickly. Keep your customer in mind, though, throughout this whole process.
With Twitter and Facebook you can see quite clearly how many followers or fans your have and who they are to an extent. With blogging, that’s not necessarily the case at all. If you have a public blog, people can choose to tune in at their leisure or they can register to follow you. So you never really have a clear sense of who is reading your posts. I’ll have customers who come into the shop regularly and tell me they saw this item or that item on my blog, but – unless they told me – I would never have known.
A lot of my blog posts for Kanibal Home deal with the shop and what new products we’ve gotten in. That’s great, because it focuses on what I’m selling, but some of the most popular blog posts have been personal entries or posts about local artists who sell their jewelry at the shop. How do I know these are popular posts? By the amount of comments readers leave. If I hadn’t branched out of my typical routine, I would have never realized that this was of interest to my audience. That said, it’s also important to make social media a two-way street. As much as you throw out, take in. Comment on other blogs, reply or re-Tweet applicable news and interact with your fans on Facebook. This will not only help you build up a following, but it will also assist you in developing a confident and consistent voice when using social media.
Kristen Scalia is the owner of Kanibal Home, a lifestyle store offering new and vintage home goods, apparel and gift items in Jersey City, NJ. She can be found in the social media universe over at kanibalhome.blogspot.com, twitter.com/kanibalhome and kanibalhome.com.