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Embracing Social Media to Meet Customers Where They Are

As social media continues to evolve, your own social media strategy needs to keep up to meet the needs of your customers in the digital realm. Nearly 75% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, leading 93% of retailers to invest in digital personalization, according to the Salesforce 5th Edition Connected Shoppers Report.

Social media is an effective channel to meet and exceed customer expectations by effectively providing another touchpoint to engage with customers.

Social media also allows customers to become more familiar with your brand and supplies helpful analytics to customize your message and provide the information your customers want to know.

Social media will become even more crucial as more customers look to start their shopping journeys online. The point where your customers begin their buying journey—known as shopping at the edge—has shifted in the last few years, with 50% of shoppers saying they discover new products via social media, according to the Salesforce report.

The importance of social media can’t be overlooked, but like many areas of business, one size doesn’t fit all. As you finesse your social media strategy, or create one for the first time, fellow retailers—of all sizes, from all affiliations and varying levels of comfort with technology—share their best practices guiding their social media usage.

Whether you have a neglected Facebook page or are already embracing Threads and TikTok, these insights can take your social media strategy to that next level.

Mix It Up
Variety is a key component of the social media strategy at Handy Home & Hardware in Valley City, North Dakota. Manager Joel Gortmaker and the company’s social media manager, Maria Frerich, work together to develop, manage and implement social media, focusing on variety to appeal to a broad customer base, share information and have fun.

“We want some social media posts to be purely fun, some informative of product availability and others to advertise promotions,” Gortmaker says. “Our strategy revolves around appealing to customers with a variety of interests and allowing customers to keep our business in their mind, even if they don’t have a project in mind.”

Handy Home & Hardware utilizes its wholesaler’s suggested social media posts and content calendars. To expand the mix of posts even more, Gortmaker says they use websites like NationalToday.com, which provides national holidays for each day of the year, to create posts they can relate back to a store product or store event. They also share social media content from vendors.

“A lot of vendors provide great images, wording and suggestions for their products that match the brand,” Gortmaker says. “Maria also does a great job of talking with employees about fun things going on in the store that we can use as posts.”

At a minimum, Gortmaker says small businesses can enhance and build a successful digital presence by utilizing free tools for editing and creating, like Canva, a free online design tool used to create social media posts. Plus, most smartphones take high-quality photos and videos, putting social media content at your fingertips.

“Customers like to know what is on sale and what’s going on in your business,” he says. “But more often than not, they want to learn more about their favorite employees, see highlights from store activities or interact with a fun piece of information or a joke.”

Tap Into Existing Talent

When Karen Mayer took over as director of marketing for Busy Beaver Home Improvement Centers, which operates 25 locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio, she knew she wanted the company’s social media to focus on the people that make up the operation.

To achieve that goal, Mayer turned to the very people she wanted to highlight and started the Social Media Ambassador Program in 2022. Open to Busy Beaver employees, the program allows them to take a hands-on role with social media.

Currently, half of the Busy Beaver stores have a social media ambassador, and Mayer says they hope to have an ambassador in place at every location soon. Interested employees are approved by their managers to participate in the program and then go through a 30-day certification program to learn the ins and outs of the operation’s social media strategy. Mayer says the training covers best practices, benefits of social media and samples of different types of posts. Employees who complete the training and take part in the ambassador program are given a 50-cent raise.

“Our ambassadors so far are fully engaged with the program and are loving it,” Mayer says. “They are making videos and having fun with it and getting the community involved.”

Although it has numerous locations, Busy Beaver currently has just one main Busy Beaver page on each social media channel. The ambassadors create the content they want posted on the main pages and send it to Busy Beaver’s social media coordinator Molly Collins, who writes the captions and posts to the company’s pages. The ambassadors also post the content they create to local community Facebook pages and groups they belong to personally.

“We have had some tremendous success with employees posting on local sites,” Mayer says. “We had one of our stores sell out of rugs that had been slow moving after an employee posted about them on one of their local pages.”

Rely on the Professionals

When Jason Fank began building a new digital presence strategy at Handyman True Value Hardware, which has three locations in St. Louis, Missouri, he turned to professionals for help. Fank hired Mountain Mojo Group, a marketing agency that specializes in supporting small businesses and independent home improvement companies  with marketing strategies. Content creation is a core necessity of a strong social media presence, but it can be difficult and costly unless you have the talent and the training to do it right, Fank says.

“We aren’t social media experts,” Fank says. “If we tried without help, we probably wouldn’t make a dent. Leaning on professional marketers allows us to focus on other areas of the business.”

Fank and advertising manager Christine Byrne, who Handyman Hardware brought into a full-time marketing role in 2013, approve all the posts Mountain Mojo Group creates. These posts are created six months at a time and include a mix of information about relevant seasonal categories, holidays or other special events taking place during that time frame.

Being consistent and prepared with content has kept Handyman Hardware top of mind with customers who want to interact with the company. The most popular posts have featured employees.

“Our customers love celebrating work anniversaries with us,” Fank says. “Those kinds of posts help establish the culture we want to be known for.”

In just two years, the number of shoppers who have completed a transaction via social media has quadrupled.
Source: 5th Edition Connected Shoppers Report, Salesforce

Help With Social

Tap into these helpful platforms Handy Home & Hardware manager Joel Gortmaker uses to make social media posting a breeze.

CANVA
Canva is a free online design tool to create social media posts and presentations.
“We use Canva to create most of our posts since it is a great and affordable content creation app.”

META BUSINESS SUITE
The Meta Business Suite allows the user to publish, schedule and manage all content on Facebook and Instagram.
“The Business Suite allows us to connect our Instagram to Facebook and schedule and create ads from our posts.”

LATER
With the Later platform, marketers can schedule social media posts across multiple platforms.
“While we sometimes use Later as a scheduler, we mainly use it to add links to our photos and have a place to link our monthly sales flyer.”

About Lindsey Thompson

Lindsey joined the NHPA staff in 2021 as an associate editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. A native of Ohio, Lindsey earned a B.S. in journalism and minors in business and sociology from Ohio University. She loves spending time with her husband, two kids, two cats and one dog, as well as doing DIY projects around the house, going to concerts, boating and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.

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