July 20/27; Retailer’s Guide to Digital Marketing
By Jenna Lippin
For dealers first delving into the world of social media, the first and most important step is to develop a strategy. A social media marketing plan should map out which platforms are best, planned content, frequency—essentially doing what is imperative to develop a strong online presence with a reliable voice.
Today the possibilities on social media appear endless, with new platforms seemingly launching every month. Houzz, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+—they’re all out there and they’re all valuable for one reason or another. So, with all these options, where should today’s flooring dealer begin?
Business owners should consider how much time they—or their staffs—can devote to social media. According to Buffer, a site/service that helps drive web traffic, increase engagement and save time on social media, about an hour a day should be spent on each social network (at least when first starting out). Consider the audience and demographics—which social networks are used most by your customers? Also develop your voice and tone, with your voice as your mission statement and your tone the implementation of that mission, Kevan Lee of Buffer explained.
Many experts say Facebook will get you the most bang for your buck, particularly because posts can be boosted for a small fee that will fit into any store’s marketing budget, and because it has the most widespread use across varied demographics.
“If you’re brand new to social media, Facebook is a good place to start,” said Mollie Surratt, senior director of public relations, content and social media for Mohawk Industries. “Oftentimes consumers search for a business on Facebook just as much as they are searching for a regular webpage. It gives credibility and qualifies a business to have a Facebook page. But you can’t wake up and slap something on there; if you post something on Facebook, it has to have a purpose, and the purpose is attracting new customers and retaining consumers you’ve already sold.”
Retailers who have been particularly successful with Facebook note that unique posts are what set them apart from the competition.
“I think that our presence on Facebook is fairly dominant compared to competitors,” said Nick Cinquepalmi, president of Landmark Flooring in Tinley Park, Ill. “We got on Facebook as soon as it started to get popular, and I had a new opportunity to market our company. I knew I had traction with this advertising platform, and [at first] I decided to do about one update a day. Whether it’s a refinish job, a carpet installation, a repair, a promo—I post once a day in the morning and let it go for 24 hours. Or, whatever current project is underway, I’ll take pictures on-site and upload them to our page.”
Jamie Jordan, owner of Jordan’s Flooring in Martinsburg, W. Va., puts extra effort into creating Facebook posts that really stand out from the rest, particularly other local flooring stores. “I think way outside the box in comparison to the competitors in my area. I like to market at the change of a season, and I post some goofy stuff—that seems to be where it’s at. We’ll also do what’s hot in flooring and any specials. I post lots of pictures of finished jobs. We’re a visual world; people want to see things. That’s what we are gearing toward, high quality photos and videos.”
While experts recommend dedicating a portion of marketing/advertising dollars to social media, it is important to remember these platforms are not the place for the “hard sale,” Surratt noted. “It’s a place where you want to engage the consumer on her level. It’s a place to unwind, see what’s new, see what’s trending. It is important for retailers to not just promote their stores, but to also talk about lifestyle, home design trends, share stories about staff members, post photos of projects, etc.”
Many retailers are also hesitant to get involved with social media because of seemingly inevitable negativity, particularly with customer reviews. Most dealers know all it takes is one unhappy customer sounding off on a social network or review site to potentially affect other consumers. However, business owners should take these reviews as opportunities to turn negatives into positives. “My recommendation is to respond within 24 hours to consumers who post negative things [about your store],” Surratt said. “Acknowledge that the customer is unhappy and take the conversation offline to a private message or email so you can handle it. Once rectified to the best of your ability, ask the consumer to go back to your page and post about the resolution.”
Ultimately, presence on the top social networks is key, particularly visually based platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Posting original, engaging content on Facebook is paramount, along with short, attention-grabbing blurbs on Twitter. Business listings on Google+, Yelp and Angie’s List will help with search rankings and garnering customer reviews. Houzz is another network rising in popularity in recent years.
For those unfamiliar with Houzz, this network allows users to express their creativity. It works like Pinterest in that it is based on inspirational photos, which are ideal for any corner of the home design industry. WebTech Marketing suggests creating a Houzz profile that describes any business specialties, such as natural stone or hardwood. A job portfolio should be included with high-resolution photos, which should then be added to Ideabooks, a feature unqiue to Houzz. Sharing these Ideabooks will help garner user interest and, in turn, new customers. Tips for ongoing engagement on Houzz include:
- Using a Houzz badge on your store’s website
- Asking clients to review you on the platform
- Contacting people you are interested in networking with via Houzz
- Answering homeowner questions on the site
- Asking questions on Houzz boards to spark conversation
- Regularly uploading new content (weekly or monthly)
According to WebTech, “All companies need to be utilizing websites like Houzz, Angie’s List, Yelp, etc., to ensure their products and services are visible for targeted customers doing searches both on search engines and these specific sites.” Continued usage of all social networks will help retailers utilize these simple, convenient, affordable marketing tools to their peak potential.