Retailers wear a lot of different hats, and one of them is deciding how much time to spend attempting to engage customers on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Does posting everyday make a difference in your bottom line? Does social media activity help build customer loyalty? Should you handle posting yourself or delegate to an associate?
Dave Warren operates Dave’s Ace Hardware in Milton and Evansville, Wis., and he has nearly 5,500 people following his stores on Facebook. He has figured out a social media strategy that works for his business.
“When I made posts that asked questions or gave advice, the comments were abundant. Little did I know, but I was starting to learn the concepts of viral marketing,” Warren says. “The more I could get people to engage with posts on my page and with each other, the more they would keep my stores at the top of their minds.”
Social Media Attracts Customers
David Strano of Ambridge Do it Best Home Center in Ambridge, Pa., started with Facebook in 2010. “I got on Instagram last year because I like to take a lot of pictures, but that hits a different crowd,” he says.
Strano says they get great response on Facebook and Instagram. “I have all the power in my hands and can do it at any time. Facebook and Instagram can be done easily on the fly. We just got a great new item in, and here it is immediately,” he says.
Sending circulars reaches a finite number of people, say 10,000, but with social media the sky’s the limit, according to Strano. “I’ve had calls from North Carolina about a post before,” he points out.
He does about 90 percent of the posts himself and has a young employee who does some on the Instagram posting. “You have to keep it very broad and not just about selling an item,” he explains. “I like to post employee anniversaries and birthdays. I shared a picture of our staff around Christmas with a Happy Holidays message and that got a good response.”
Every month he creates three coupon specials that are only promoted with an email blast and on Facebook. “It usually brings in 30 to 40 customers that wouldn’t have come in otherwise. We save the coupons that are redeemed so we know the results,” he says.
Strano comes up with creative ways to engage customers. He will post “Like and Share this picture and you’ll get a $30 YETI gift card.” He will encourage customers to post a picture of their pet and the one that gets the most “Likes” will get a Do it Best gift card.
This past June when the Pittsburgh Penguins were facing the San Jose Sharks for the Stanley Cup title Strano posted a picture of an inflatable shark being dangled by an excavator with the text “Sharks are going down!” That post attracted 26 comments, was shared 665 times and viewed by 80,000 people. “It’s all about keeping it fun,” he says.
Although Facebook is free, Strano will pay to boost a post on occasion. “You can reach out to 1,000 or 100,000 people if you want for $10 to $20,” he points out. He evaluates analytics once a week to see what’s working.
In Strano’s opinion, social media works. “You see sales pick up as a result of what you’re doing. It’s a great way to keep local customers engaged with your business. I love the interaction, such as when customers are asking us questions,” he says.
It has also helped them attract a younger demographic of customer. “We’re located in an older area, but my push is to the younger generation. We still don’t see enough young people in here, but Facebook helps. We have a great store, but the younger generation doesn’t always know that,” he says.
Strano trains employees to talk up the exclusive deals that are only on Facebook and he places signage promoting their Facebook page on doors, windows, by the checkout, on all business cards and on ads.
The biggest complaint about social media is that Strano has a lot of demands on his time and this is one more thing. “I always try to get back to people who ask a question or comment about something,” he says. “I also try to follow good businesses even outside the hardware industry and try to improve on what they do.”