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Does your business really need to be online? All the signs point to “yes”


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By Elizabeth Nash
Published: January 10, 2017
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SocialMedia

The world of social media can be overwhelming: Tweets. Likes. Pins. Repins. Retweets. What’s a business to do with all that lingo? Social media can seem daunting for even the most tech-savvy among us. However, the truth is that getting a social-media presence for your business has never been easier­­—or more vital.

That’s why, over the next few issues, Model Retailer will break down all of the major social-media sites (think Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest/Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube) and give you step-by-step instructions on how to make the most of your time online without feeling overwhelmed.

Why should you be on social media? First, understand that the use of social media is all about communicating with your base audience. Whether you are posting news about your store, introducing new merchandise or sharing a video of your products in action (more on that later), in reality you are really trying to start a conversation with potential customers. Regardless of whether they actively engage with your posts or simply view them and move on, you’ve still opened up the lines of communication and got them thinking about your brand.

Traditional media and personal websites can signify pretty high costs, so another reason to be active on social media is for the free marketing and advertising tools these sites offer. You don’t have to pay a dime for the opportunity to showcase your business and the products you offer. Anybody, with any model of business, can be a part of social media. There is no industry that won’t benefit from a presence online.

At its inception, social-media use was limited to college students and lonely hearts. However, in the decade or so following the birth of Facebook in 2004, both large and small companies have embraced social media, employing teams of marketing professionals whose sole job is to manage social-media accounts. According to Forbes, more than 50 million small businesses in the U.S. are now on Facebook alone. Twitter claims to have 70 percent of U.S. small businesses signed up. It can no longer be considered optional to establish a social-media presence if you own a business. If you don’t, your business will likely be eclipsed by others that do as consumers flock to more accessible businesses. In this modern, competitive, fast-moving world, social media is a great necessity for your business to thrive and grow.

 


How you can do it

While Fortune 500 companies employ teams of college grads to manage their online image, that probably isn’t needed for your store. In fact, increasing your social-media presence doesn’t require more than a few minutes a day.

Chances are, if you aren’t online by now, you have your reasons. Perhaps you don’t have a team of social-media gurus at your disposal. Maybe you feel there aren’t enough hours in the day to tackle social media. In truth, though, you’d be surprised how efficiently and easily one person can manage an entire suite of accounts. In fact, keeping up with multiple sites has never been easier due to applications such as Buffer and Hootsuite, which allow you to create content days in advance and schedule it to post when you would like.


These free online tools also calculate the best times for posting, depending on how many people are online and will see your posts at certain times. If your main concern is that you don’t have enough interesting content to contribute, there are other sites such as Feedly that make it easy to find relevant content that your can share with an eager audience.

Creating a vibrant brand online has never been easier. Thousands of businesses have already done the heavy lifting and worked out the early-day kinks of social-media marketing. Your business is getting online at the perfect time to reap the rewards of user-friendly applications that were made to help you succeed.

When in doubt, remember that being online is about connecting with others. You’re giving people content they want, and hopefully that content gets them thinking about your business. Don’t think of it as advertising; instead, imagine that you’re starting a conversation with your customers, the same as you do in your store.

Don’t worry if you don’t know where to start or have had limited experience being online. Look for quick and simple how-to guides for major social-media sites in the next several issues of Model Retailer.

 

Elizabeth Nash is associate editor of Model Retailer.