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Selling social: A new media strategy for retail businesses

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Birmingham Business Journal by John Paul Strong, Guest Columnist

Date: Thursday, May 3, 2012, 12:16pm CDT

Guest Columnist- Birmingham Business Journal

Editor’s note: As part of our ongoing Social Madness presented by Capital One Spark Business, which you can sign up for here, the BBJ is publishing a series of guest columns with social media tips. This column is part of that series. If you’re interesting in writing a column, email Ty West at for the guidelines.

Owners and managers of many companies I consult with act like they consider social media to be something from another planet. Some fear it, some get wrapped up and consumed by it, and others really have no idea what social media does.

The best way to understand how social media relates to a retail business is that social media allows you to promote your brand equity across a group of followers who are interested enough in your goods or service to give you a look.

Retailers who are not actively using some form of social media should realize it is just one of many ways in our diverse media world to make an impression.

It is a facilitator for businesses to gain mental shelf space among previous and future buyers for the products they sell.

The only difference between it and traditional advertising is, instead of running an ad pointing them to buy a specific product, social media is sharing information.

I commonly refer to this as “telling instead of selling” and explain it to retailers who have the traditional mentality that social media is nothing more than the new public relations branch of their company.

The phrase “nobody loves to be sold anything, but people love to buy” is the very heart of how retailers should talk to their audience.

You should not say that you have XYZ product for sale for only $9.95. Instead you show the product, give information about it, tell why people like it and then leave the $9.95 price purely as information for your audience.

Facebook is like a search engine for friends where everyone goes for information and updates on what people are doing and what is important in their lives. A business who is going to expand their brand to the new frontiers of social media, should be sure to develop a clearly defined plan of how to talk to people to avoid talking at them.

Since people want to be entertained and gain knowledge through the power of information, social media strategies should be viewed as informative.

I explained social media strategy to the owner of a car dealership this way: The mass public does not get excited about following a dealership, however people would be interested if they could learn more about their car through your Facebook page.

While industries and services vary among retailers, the common denominator is to make it interesting to the reader or viewer.

However, note that tracking return on investment through social media executions is a challenge because there is no way to put a dollar value on engaging an active follower.

You must accept the fact that this is a continuation of your brand and your efforts are building your brand equity.

The following cultivated through a business’ social media strategy should be thought of as that business’ “tribe.”

They are following because they are interested in what the business has to say.

The ability to promote on an ongoing basis to a group of people that match the core consumer demographics of a business is priceless.

The only thing that you have to do is put together the effort and strategy.

John Paul Strong

John Paul Strong combines his two decades of automotive marketing experience with a team of more than 150 professionals as owner and CEO of Strong Automotive.

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