Many businesses now class social media as an essential part of their overall marketing strategy, but is social media marketing really worthwhile for small independents when you consider the time and sustained effort it can take? In my experience social media can be very rewarding for small businesses that use social media channels well, but for many it can be too laborious or confusing to invest time in, and neglecting active social media accounts can actually have an adverse effect on a brand.
There are some small independents out there that are using social media well and keeping the “vibe” of being a smaller, more personal company. Here are a few examples of Manchester’s indies that are currently making good use of social media channels, and some tips to take from them.
Create an integrated customer experience, but add value
It is crucial to ensure that all of your different channels work in harmony. A company’s website, bricks-and-mortar store and various social media channels should all be integrated through consistent branding, imagery, tone of voice and messages. At the same time there should be added value in each individual social media channel, otherwise your customers may not see the value of engaging with you through them.
Manchester independent garden centre Bud does this particularly well using Twitter (938 followers) and Facebook (142 likes), both of which link well with the company website through clear and consistent imagery and branding. Both channels offer additional value to the website, with up-to-the-minute news about products, holiday opening times and local events, as well as a more personal experience. Twitter is currently the most popular channel and offers relevant conversational topics (such as feeding birds) and useful links. The Facebook page offers a degree of customer service with one-to-one advice provided by Bud’s experts, often linked to a customer’s purchases made in-store. The Facebook page also “shares” relevant links and images, features photo albums of products and offers instructional videos. The overall experience is integrated, but there is clearly some value in engaging with Bud through each of the different channels.
Create conversations – Have Your Ideal Customer In Mind
One of the main benefits of using social media is being able to interact with your customers, and deliver marketing messages you lose the “social” aspect of social media, whereas engaging in relevant, topical conversations with other brands and consumers can build trust and loyalty, as can talking about your products with people who use them and delivering customer service by responding to customer communications. Being a smaller company can be a benefit in this regard, as it really is an opportunity to deliver that personal touch. The key is to have your ideal customer in mind. What are they interested in? What are they talking about?
Manchester’s popular cupcake store in Spinningfields, Hey Little Cupcake!, uses both Twitter (5197 followers) and Facebook (3488 likes) to provide up-to-the-minute information about daily specials (including gluten-free options) and cupcake classes, snapshots of newly-made cupcakes and to provide an insight into their world. In addition to this they also engage with the local community by promoting local events and being involved in conversations about the Spinningfields complex, and they tap into a key interest of their ideal customer by posting photographs that provide baking and cake-decorating inspiration. On Facebook they interact with their customers who have tagged photographs of the cakes they have bought from the store and start discussion topics such as “Guess what our new collection will be”. Hey Little Cupcake! also has a Youtube channel, using instructional videos such as “Making sugar paste decorations”, which tie into their cupcake class offering, as well as their “Sponsored by” videos which introduce their newest products in a quirky and personal way.
Consider the whole customer experience
For a successful social media campaign your brand needs to be visible and stand out. Social media is a great way to enhance your brand experience, so make the most of the chance to use images and video and to promote anything that you do particularly well. You should also consider brand voice and whether you really want your personal social media profiles to be the voice of the brand. This can end up being confusing, or worse, could be damaging to the brand, and it is recommended to have a dedicated brand/company profile.
In addition to using both Facebook (809 likes) and Twitter (1979 followers) to deliver consistent offers and messages, Manchester premium ladieswear boutique Black White Denim really creates an enhanced brand experience using Pinterest , their own video channel (BWD:TV) which showcases in-store events, introduces collections and shows behind the scenes of photoshoots, as well as a brand blog, with features including “Get the look” and event reports. Pinterest is a visual social media channel where users “pin” images to their profile, grouping them into themes (or “boards”). As images can be pinned directly from URLs, companies can use this to drive traffic to their website as well as interacting within the Pinterest domain. The key with Pinterest is to make sure your brand is being social, not just using the site as a visual sales pitch, by viewing other peoples’ pins, liking them and re-pinning them to your own profile where relevant. Black White Denim’s use of several different social media channels is ambitious, but by keeping them all on-brand, consistent and relevant to their ideal customer, they are able to make social media really work for them.
About the Author – Jennifer Scrafton
Jennifer Scrafton is a Manchester fashion and lifestyle blogger with a background in marketing, having worked for companies of varying size and industry. As a writer for The Fashion Network in Manchester she has written features for audiences of fashion industry professionals profiling local fashion companies, including analysing the social media strategies of some of Manchester’s fashion boutiques and brands.