Rosie Akenhead is manager of local business outreach at Yelp, one of the world’s largest consumer websites. She works directly with European businesses to identify best practice strategies for online reviewing, social media and reputation management.
Social media is here to stay. It’s a portal for customers to post freely about all kinds of things: their family, dogs, delicious food, glorious sunsets and, of course, the obligatory funny video clips. However, it’s also a place for them to talk about their interactions with local businesses. Most small businesses have created a Facebook page, an Instagram account or a Yelp profile for themselves. However, once these are up and running, how do business owners make the most of them?
The key with Facebook and all social media is to post content that is interesting to your clientele.
Don’t fill your page with stuff that’s only about your business, or the current deals you’re offering. Be quirky, and always be original. You can include local news, information about causes you support (with reasons why) or wider industry happenings. Just make sure that it’s something that your customers will want to read. As a general guide, make sure 25 per cent or less of your posts are sales related. Also, be sure to post a caption with any photos or updates and actually ask your customers to engage with you.
Twitter is another great social media option for boutiques and shops.
It’s best used for posting little bits of news and communicating with customers that have tagged you in their posts. It’s good practice to reply to everyone who mentions you on Twitter, even if it’s just to say thanks. If you get a complaint, be sure not to let tensions fester. Asking the individual to DM (direct message) you their email address is a good way to take that conversation offline before it gets too heated. Happy or positive tweets about your business should always be retweeted or favorited. Nifty tip: You can connect your Facebook page to Twitter if you’re short on time so that you post to both sites simultaneously.
Last but not least, don’t forget about review sites!
Whilst not traditionally included with social networks, these are one of the most important places for businesses to have a presence online. In fact, according to a recent Nielsen study, 78 per cent of people turn to review sites like Yelp to find local businesses. That means it isn’t just folk browsing on Yelp; we’re talking about individuals looking for a product or service who are actually going out and buying something.
Shops are the highest reviewed category on the site (above even restaurants and bars). Here are two examples of excellent Yelp pages for boutiques: Laden Showroom and Paper Dress Vintage. Both of these businesses have packed out their pages with tons of content, useful photos and relevant information. You’ll see they also respond to reviews, which is a great way to start a conversation with your customers.
To conclude, it’s a well-known fact that business owners are always short on time. Social media does not have to take up much of your weekly working schedule. Set yourself aside thirty minutes each week to schedule posts for social media and to check your online reviews. In short, we know that customers are writing about businesses online. You need to make sure you’re listening in on what they have to say in-person, on the phone and on social media channels, too.