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August 2, 2020
With many flooring companies keeping a by-appointment-only schedule as the pandemic continues its inroads across the U.S., maintaining contact with your customers has become ever more important.
This is where social media can help. Here’s how:
Maintaining a viable social media presence lets you keep in touch with the customers you already have as well as bring in more traffic—and more potential customers—to your website. It’s a great way to widen your market reach without ever leaving the office. No masks and no social distancing required to participate.
For those who have only a minimal social media presence today, the learning curve might seem a little daunting, but it’s a lot easier when it’s broken down into its constituent parts and tackled piece by piece. The increase in traffic to your website and uptick in sales are sweet reward for the effort.
Social media expert Shannon Vogel, who spoke at an education session at TISE 2020, offers some valuable advice on using social media to boost your business’s profile, create buzz, and drive sales.
If you are new to social media, you need to understand how the community wants to be reached. “Sixty-five percent of the population are visual learners, so have 65% of your postings visual, supplemented by text,” Vogel says.
For instance, Vogel advises installers to take before and after photos of their jobs. Visually, those photos say, “I can get you from here to there,” she says. That’s a powerful message.
Build a Relationship
While the goal is sales, engagement with the community has to come first, and that means building a relationship. A company can do that the same way anyone would build a relationship—by sharing information about themselves and offering information they think would be of interest to their listener. Or in the case of social media, your reader.
Vogel believes, “If I connect with you on social media, I’m going to buy from you.” After all, wouldn’t you rather buy from someone you trust, someone you have developed a relationship with, rather than from a vendor you know nothing about?
For social media newbies, Vogel says: “Remember, we are talking to people in a social situation. Now I’m not saying you have to be a Kardashian,” she deadpans, referencing the Kardashian clan who seem to live their lives on social media—“we’re talking about flooring, for gosh sakes. But no one wants to hear that I have fiberboard flooring for $2.99. All people want is to feel heard, and to feel connected.”
When building or tweaking a social media strategy, the most important thing a business needs to do first is to decide what its target audience is. If a flooring company wants to target Millennials, then research that demographic group—how they like to be talked to, the things they enjoy, what they are passionate about, how they like to shop, what causes they are interested in, and how they like to be marketed to. The Internet is your friend here, as there is plenty of of information online about the various demographic groups.
Once a business has targeted the group it wants to reach, the next task is engaging that group, and starting to build a relationship. Vogel has heard the self-pitying cries of, “I don’t have time to do this,” and her sympathy is limited.
“This is something you can do at home in your underpants at 10 pm at night,” she declares.
The social media pro suggests choosing a couple of platforms for engagement, cautioning, “I only want you to do what you can do well. If it’s only Facebook and Instagram, then stay in that lane. LinkedIn is all business all the time. If you want to teach something, go to YouTube.”
Create Original Content
She stresses that organic content—content the developer creates, not content that is passed on from other sources—is absolutely necessary.
“You can’t post about flooring all the time,” Vogel warns, and suggests retailers leaven their postings with the type of content that has a proven popularity on social media.
“Inspirational quotes are great. Be funny. Be real. Be you. If you have a human story, or an amazing story, share it. Share an article from others in the community, and others will reciprocate. Free content and no-strings giveaways are something folks love.”
It’s always better to be positive in your postings, she says, as they get shared more. To help make that happen, Vogel suggests dealers post content when they feel positive.
Companies should ensure they have their social media icons located on their signage so people know how to reach them. “Look at your engagement and see what folks respond to,” she says. “Analyze why, and do more of it. Play to the demographic that you want to reach.”
Vogel also recommends posting about what makes your company different from your competition. “If you have office kittens, post ‘Come in and you can see the office kittens.’” She advises retailers to ask for feedback on content, and if people ask for more kitten posts, do that.
By humanizing your business via social media, retailers can allay a lot of fears some people may have about coming to their business, she notes. For instance, Vogel says, “Women don’t like to feel stupid or not feel in control. Do you want all that anxiety she feels walking into your store? No. But if she feels she knows you a bit from your social media, then you are going to get rid of a lot of her anxiety.” That can make for real engagement, and a sales opportunity.
Vogel says companies should assess what story they are telling on their Facebook page. Staff photos can be an unexpected tool for drawing people in. Vogel, who has a head of pink-hued locks, says if she sees a staff photo and there’s a girl with pink hair in the group, she is naturally drawn in by the photo—“She gets me”—and it sparks engagement. “[Then] you have an opportunity to insert your own message among the postings.”
There’s a whole long journey that leads to a sale,Vogel says, and anything that makes people feel more comfortable with a business and the people who work there can help shorten that journey.
When it comes to building brand authenticity, the social media maven says: “Respond quickly. Answer questions within 24 hours. If someone gives a compliment, thank them. Don’t just hit the Like icon.”
Vogel recommends using Twitter as a learning tool. “You can search Twitter for, say, hardwood flooring in Minneapolis, and that’s like listening to what 100,000 people are talking about.” It’s a good way to see what people who are interested in your industry are curious about, and a great source of ideas for content.
“Just remember to start a conversation,” she says. “That’s what social media is. It’s like high school."