5 Ways Retailers Can Increase Audience Engagement on Social Media

Shouting Bluebird

When your retail business was a startup or boutique (or if it still is!), the idea of managing your firm’s social media page probably sounded easy and fun. However, anyone who’s actually attempted to do it can tell you otherwise, and may sing the praises of a professional social media manager.

When it comes to optimizing social media for a business, retailers have unique needs and challenges. More and more often, you have to “pay to play” on Facebook, or the vast majority of your posts will never be seen by anyone who isn’t actively following you.

However, paying for social media exposure may not be in the budget for smaller retailers … and it shouldn’t have to be. Before throwing in the towel, make sure you’re on the “right” social media platforms for your needs and markets (and no more than that).

Just because everyone’s on Facebook doesn’t mean it’s a meaningful platform for you. Your business may do better on Pinterest or Instagram alone (although you need a Facebook account), or a Web Trends-approved niche site.

Once you’ve identified the right platform, here are a few ways to actually engage audiences and foster relationships:

1. Keep pitches out of the picture

Social media is for building relationships, not hard sales, upselling, or serious pitches. This is where you will put a face to your brand and possibly have meaningful conversations with your audience.

That doesn’t mean you can’t brag about a serious sale, discount, or giveaway, though. As long as your audience sees your postings as informative or entertaining (and ideally both!), your content is good.

2. Make sales/discounts count

What kind of sale or discount announcements would you like to see from your own favorite brands? Chances are, if you’re offering 50 percent off all merchandise or you’re giving away a car at your dealership, that’s something people will want to know about.

However, if you’re talking about a year-round “sale” of 10 percent off a small selection, that’s much more like a thinly veiled sales pitch that has no place on social media. Keep in mind that this is for your fans’ eyes only. (At least Facebook doesn’t allow anyone to ask for likes or shares.)

3. Ask open-ended questions

Don’t be discouraged if nobody replies, but consider open-ended questions at the conclusion of your posts as a “my door is always open” policy you should adopt. At least it shows lurkers that you welcome comments, and if you do get any comments, be sure to reply right away.

You can also link to related stories or videos, offer your (professional) opinion on them, then ask your followers what they think. There are many ways to start a conversation, but you need to ask a question to get the ball rolling.

4. Photo quality counts

It’s exciting when you get in a new shipment or store display, so share those photos with your audience. If your business is brand-new, however, you might not have a system down quite yet for quality photos.

Luckily, Life Hacker is at your service with tips and tricks for high-quality photos on a budget. A poor-quality photo can be worse than no photo at all, so keep quality a priority on social media.

5. Share viral-esque content

There’s no way to guarantee content will go viral, but you’ve already achieved step one by making yours shareable. Embrace empathy and think about it from your customers’ perspective. What kind of content are they most likely to share?

That should guide the content of your posts.

Most important, don’t ever abandon a social media page. If you must, deactivate the account. A retailer whose social media page looks like an online ghost town raises a big red flag.

Larry Alton (@LarryAlton3) is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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