Social Media: Demystifying

The buzz surrounding social media is palpable, but most retailers want to know exactly how much actual value it generates and how much is just noise. Beyond the basics of setting up a Facebook page and Twitter account there are tactics that can help you maximize the benefits of social media. This is the first blog post in a series that will hopefully give you some insight and tools for successful use of your social media endeavors.
Why use it?
Customers are interacting with retail brands at all times and in many different places — on their iPhones, on their work computers, on television. Social media attempts to reach shoppers at many of those points.
Relative to social media use, recent data shows its worth: Forrester Research revealed that one out of five adults ages 18 to 24 spend a fifth of their online time at social media sites.  When you look at ages 25 to 34 that percentage drops to one tenth, which is still significant. Among the total population, a third said they visit social networking sites at least once per month. Below are some insights for maximizing your effectiveness in the world of social media.
Social Media Marketing 101
First thing’s first: in order to gain social sales, you need to actively participate in social marketing. This means you should have profiles on such social sites as Facebook and Twitter. Personally, I don’t believe you have to do all the social sites, but you should be a part of a couple to be effective. It takes time to build an active following so be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to social marketing, otherwise your profile will just sit there.
In general, to be effective with social marketing you should do the following:
1. Update your profile often with news about your business, photos if applicable, contact information and general profile information as necessary. Do not create a profile and then just let it sit without updates. Tell your audience about news of your business, what is new to your store, recent merchandising changes, exciting plans for the future and more. That’s key.

2. Be involved in your social marketing. If you have a profile on My Space, for example, and don’t use it, it’s no longer a social marketing tool for you. (Disable the profile if it is not being used actively.) You must be proactive in using the individual social sites you sign up with so that you gain recognition from your profile.
3. Most profiles will allow you to invite or be invited to gain “friends,” “followers” or “connections.” Don’t just wait to get invited – invite away! Look around the site to find the right connections for your business and reach out to them.  This means individuals and complimentary businesses, the vendors you represent, the community organizations you have worked with etc. This is how new people learn who you are.
4. Sell yourself, not just your business. Whether you are tweeting or posting updates on Facebook, get a little personal with your connections. This is what makes social marketing social. You don’t need to tell the world about your lousy afternoon at work due to being in the red from too many returns, but you can let them know about something fun you did over the weekend. This makes you real and, ultimately, more approachable. Find balance in what you share about your business, promoting sales and sharing details about yourself.   — Tami Snow, Marketing and Communications Specialist