10 Quick Tips for Retailers to Engage in Social Media Right Now

In the last year I’ve immersed myself in social media, Chris Brogan has been a continual source of inspiration and guidance. His blog, chrisbrogan.com, is a virtual treasure trove of nuggets for social media junkies and new folks alike. Chris recently published an eBook called: Fishing Where The Fish Are: Mapping Social Media to the Buying Cycle. Today I was in a discussion with some colleagues about a client who is interested in “getting into social media.” While reading Chris’s eBook, I was inspired to jot down some very quick tactical tips and suggestions. I spun this toward retailers since it’s the space I work in but it really could apply to any company or industry. Thanks to Chris for the inspiration, who likely has written a similar list already for getting folks “plugged in.”  

10 Quick Tips for Retailers to Start Engaging in Social Media Right Now

1. Do a Google Blog search on your company’s brand, category and industry. Start doing this on a regular basis and read through the content. Start to get a pulse, subscribe to some Google Alerts on the topics.

2. Do the same search using search.twitter.com. There are lots of resources and guides on using Twitter and other microblogging platforms – but creating an account and getting acclimated is a longer term investment of time. I would start with looking for mentions and understanding what is being talked about. For that matter, Marc Meyer has a great post on many ways to listen to many sources in social media.

3. Join Facebook. Connect with friends, colleagues, get to know and understand how it works. Look for colleagues from your company and see how they are representing themselves. Are there Facebook groups mentioning your company? Does your company have a page? What about your competitors?

4. Join LinkedIn and set up your profile. Also connect with friends and colleagues. Get to know how the social network works. Understanding social networking will be important – as will the ability for customers and business partners to know you exist.  Learn about who you should connect to and who you should avoid on each network.  Here’s my view of how I scrutinize connections, but many people use social networks differently.

5. Ask around your company and find out who blogs, who is on Facebook, who is on Twitter or who is using other social media tools. You can learn a lot about social media by observing what they see and do in this space. I think you’d be surprised at how many folks in the organization already have a blog, even if it’s a personal one.

6. Start using a RSS reader like Google Reader. Search for reviews of your products or services. Find 5 sites where people are talking about them, in forums/discussions, blogs, or other sites. Subscribe to feeds from those sites to start listening.

7. Start using a bookmarking site like Delicious or StumbleUpon. Create a category or tag for blog and press mentions, and start to save/accumulate links about your company and industry.  Connect to colleagues with similar interests and see what they find.

8. Find 5 blogs in a related industry by searching in Technorati, Delicious or another bookmarking service. Read through posts, and comment on them. Be sure to disclose which company you are with if you are promoting or voicing an opinion on a product or service, including a competitor’s.

9. Go talk to Legal. Is there a corporate policy on social media? Does your industry have specific concerns about participating representing the company? Understand the guidelines and policies if they exist.  Scott Monty has talked about how this step was crucial when he joined the team at Ford as to lead their social media effort.

10. Go talk to PR. Chances are they are wrestling with understanding blogs and the importance of reacting timely to concerns. Let them know you are interested to and willing to share a voice.

a bonus tip:

11. Understand this is a journey, not a flash in the pan. Social media requires commitment and a lot of listening well before you will be in a position to come up with a case study in the space.  Just executing against this list will require some time investment.

What did I miss?  Was this helpful?  What has helped you ramp up in social media?

Photo credit: StephanGeyer via Flickr

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  • http://dannybrown.me/ Danny Brown

    Adam,

    You summed this up perfectly – not just for retailers but for any business looking to use a social media strategy.

    As you say, it IS a commitment that’s needed. It’s all about building two-way relationships, and like the best girlfriends you ever had (or boyfriends), the best ones take time to nurture.

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    Adam,

    You summed this up perfectly – not just for retailers but for any business looking to use a social media strategy.

    As you say, it IS a commitment that’s needed. It’s all about building two-way relationships, and like the best girlfriends you ever had (or boyfriends), the best ones take time to nurture.

  • http://www.recruiterguy.net/ Recruiterguy

    “Understand this is a journey, not a flash in the pan. Social media requires commitment and a lot of listening…”

    Perhaps the best tip out of any of the above – and all were good.
    Solid advice and a fantastically simply to read starting point for anyone, retail driven or otherwise. Good nuggets of wisdom. 100% agree on Brogan’s material as well – a must for anyone even thinking of dabbling.

    Thanks for the post.

  • http://www.terencechang.com/ Terence Chang

    Nice post!

    That’s where I am heading to. Knowing what your company is doing in the retail business is as important as doing your own customer services.

    I use Google alert a lot. It does help me identify what discounts other competitions is offering. So I can adjust mine as well.

  • http://www.recruiterguy.net Recruiterguy

    “Understand this is a journey, not a flash in the pan. Social media requires commitment and a lot of listening…”

    Perhaps the best tip out of any of the above – and all were good.
    Solid advice and a fantastically simply to read starting point for anyone, retail driven or otherwise. Good nuggets of wisdom. 100% agree on Brogan’s material as well – a must for anyone even thinking of dabbling.

    Thanks for the post.

  • http://www.terencechang.com Terence Chang

    Nice post!

    That’s where I am heading to. Knowing what your company is doing in the retail business is as important as doing your own customer services.

    I use Google alert a lot. It does help me identify what discounts other competitions is offering. So I can adjust mine as well.

  • http://www.naturalmarketingblog.com/ Rebecca Blackwell

    Great post – thanks so much for this “practical application” kind of post that is difficult to write, but so useful for readers. I know it is written for retailers, but I forwarded it to a current client who is a personal trainer. She could (and is) implement 8 out of 10 of your tips even though she is providing a service. Just goes to show that a good idea is a good idea no matter it’s application.

  • http://www.naturalmarketingblog.com Rebecca Blackwell

    Great post – thanks so much for this “practical application” kind of post that is difficult to write, but so useful for readers. I know it is written for retailers, but I forwarded it to a current client who is a personal trainer. She could (and is) implement 8 out of 10 of your tips even though she is providing a service. Just goes to show that a good idea is a good idea no matter it’s application.

  • http://www.geekmommy.net/ Lucretia Pruitt

    Fabulous list!
    The only thing I think you missed was “listen to your actual consumers – if they’re blogging about you or your product, that’s 10x more powerful whether positive or negative than getting the attention of a-list bloggers who aren’t passionate about your product.”

    Passing this along to some places it will do some good. :)

  • http://www.geekmommy.net Lucretia Pruitt

    Fabulous list!
    The only thing I think you missed was “listen to your actual consumers – if they’re blogging about you or your product, that’s 10x more powerful whether positive or negative than getting the attention of a-list bloggers who aren’t passionate about your product.”

    Passing this along to some places it will do some good. :)

  • http://adamhcohen.com adamcohen

    @Danny – thanks very much, I appreciate it. Great analogy – it’s a long term commitment and don’t get caught up in the short term excitement.

    @Recruiterguy @Terence – thanks to both of you for your comments!

    @Rebecca – glad to hear the post applies outside of retailers and I appreciate the feedback. I hope your client finds her time immersing in these tools workwhile – I’d advise some patience too…

    @Lucretia – Excellent addition, thank you! It is important to differentiate who you are listening too. A-list bloggers have influence, but so do individual customers.

    Thanks all – would love to hear more ideas if you have them.

  • adam

    @Danny – thanks very much, I appreciate it. Great analogy – it’s a long term commitment and don’t get caught up in the short term excitement.

    @Recruiterguy @Terence – thanks to both of you for your comments!

    @Rebecca – glad to hear the post applies outside of retailers and I appreciate the feedback. I hope your client finds her time immersing in these tools workwhile – I’d advise some patience too…

    @Lucretia – Excellent addition, thank you! It is important to differentiate who you are listening too. A-list bloggers have influence, but so do individual customers.

    Thanks all – would love to hear more ideas if you have them.

  • http://digitalstreetjournal.wordpress.com/ Jonathan Trenn

    I’d add a couple of things.

    I’d tell them to learn online marketing as a whole, including SEM/SEO and display. They’re going to have to implement integrated campaigns as a whole. Their customers may be headed to Google, etc. to search for info on the products they sell…so it would help them to take look at trends that may not appear in conversations.

    I’d also monitor the competition and see what they’re up too. Plus, pick a few related industries to see how they are using social media.

    And, frankly, I’d suggest they get someone on board to read blogs like this…ones that talk about the use of social media but may not mention their product lines or industry categories. Join the social media conversation with the likes of all of us. They could learn a lot that way.

  • http://digitalstreetjournal.wordpress.com Jonathan Trenn

    I’d add a couple of things.

    I’d tell them to learn online marketing as a whole, including SEM/SEO and display. They’re going to have to implement integrated campaigns as a whole. Their customers may be headed to Google, etc. to search for info on the products they sell…so it would help them to take look at trends that may not appear in conversations.

    I’d also monitor the competition and see what they’re up too. Plus, pick a few related industries to see how they are using social media.

    And, frankly, I’d suggest they get someone on board to read blogs like this…ones that talk about the use of social media but may not mention their product lines or industry categories. Join the social media conversation with the likes of all of us. They could learn a lot that way.

  • http://elevenmoms.com/ john andrews

    excellent post, just forwarded to the next phase of folks beginning to take a look at this in my world. I’ve also found attending social media conferences like Blogworld and Blogwell helpful.

  • http://elevenmoms.com john andrews

    excellent post, just forwarded to the next phase of folks beginning to take a look at this in my world. I’ve also found attending social media conferences like Blogworld and Blogwell helpful.

  • http://adamhcohen.com adamcohen

    @Jonathan I couldn’t agree more. Social media presents a series of new tools for today’s marketer, the challenge is learning how they can be effective. Your point on competitive info is important too – you can use all the same social media tools to listen and observe what the competition is doing. Thanks for your feedback and comment!

    @john Thanks very much for the feedback – I’d love to connect and understand more how your company is approaching and engaging social media. In terms of conferences, there are so many to choose from that I’ve found picking the right ones to be challenging. In addition to bigger events, to date I’ve found you can learn a lot from small events like the Social Media Breakfast series too. Thanks for your feedback!

  • adam

    @Jonathan I couldn’t agree more. Social media presents a series of new tools for today’s marketer, the challenge is learning how they can be effective. Your point on competitive info is important too – you can use all the same social media tools to listen and observe what the competition is doing. Thanks for your feedback and comment!

    @john Thanks very much for the feedback – I’d love to connect and understand more how your company is approaching and engaging social media. In terms of conferences, there are so many to choose from that I’ve found picking the right ones to be challenging. In addition to bigger events, to date I’ve found you can learn a lot from small events like the Social Media Breakfast series too. Thanks for your feedback!

  • http://liz7.wordpress.com/ Liz

    Great list, I’ll be passing it on. Thanks Adam!

    Liz

  • http://liz7.wordpress.com Liz

    Great list, I’ll be passing it on. Thanks Adam!

    Liz

  • http://www.geekmommy.net/ Lucretia Pruitt

    adam: John is one of the people I forwarded this on to – he’s very accessible. Don’t know if he’s following the comments thread, but if he’s not, I’ll be happy to fwd him your reply.

    Walmart is very much on the cutting edge of Retailers entering the Social Media space and interacting with their customers. They are embracing the Groundswell and moving forward… You will be hearing a lot more from them. :)

  • http://www.geekmommy.net Lucretia Pruitt

    adam: John is one of the people I forwarded this on to – he’s very accessible. Don’t know if he’s following the comments thread, but if he’s not, I’ll be happy to fwd him your reply.

    Walmart is very much on the cutting edge of Retailers entering the Social Media space and interacting with their customers. They are embracing the Groundswell and moving forward… You will be hearing a lot more from them. :)

  • http://adamhcohen.com adamcohen

    @Liz thank you!

    @Lucretia thanks very much for passing this on to John – it’s great to see a brand like Wal-mart take on social media, I’d love to hear about how they are proceeding. They have some unique challenges with their brand in this space. The Eleven Moms site (some great background at your blog) looks like a great program and I look forward to seeing the outcomes. Thanks again!

  • adam

    @Liz thank you!

    @Lucretia thanks very much for passing this on to John – it’s great to see a brand like Wal-mart take on social media, I’d love to hear about how they are proceeding. They have some unique challenges with their brand in this space. The Eleven Moms site (some great background at your blog) looks like a great program and I look forward to seeing the outcomes. Thanks again!

  • http://erickarofsky.com/ @ekarofsky

    nice list adam. an item to add: after you start listening to your customers, create a call to action. wholefoods, for example, creates coupons in facebook, and announces them through twitter. its a great combination of online and offline, and helps track metrics of success.

  • http://erickarofsky.com @ekarofsky

    nice list adam. an item to add: after you start listening to your customers, create a call to action. wholefoods, for example, creates coupons in facebook, and announces them through twitter. its a great combination of online and offline, and helps track metrics of success.

  • http://elevenmoms.com/ John Andrews

    @adam, thanks for the response. The breakfast event looks great. Let’s connect when you have time. btw, check our #15days and jessicaknows.com, she is doing a great job on marketing in the space.

  • http://elevenmoms.com John Andrews

    @adam, thanks for the response. The breakfast event looks great. Let’s connect when you have time. btw, check our #15days and jessicaknows.com, she is doing a great job on marketing in the space.

  • http://www.SmallBusinessOnlineCoach.com Matthew Hunt

    Adam,

    I work with small businesses on a regular basis and if they just do what you listed they will find huge successes with their online marketing and improve local branding awareness in their community.

    Thanks for providing quality content!

    Matthew

  • http://www.SmallBusinessOnlineCoach.com Matthew Hunt

    Adam,

    I work with small businesses on a regular basis and if they just do what you listed they will find huge successes with their online marketing and improve local branding awareness in their community.

    Thanks for providing quality content!

    Matthew

  • http://blog.cars4causes.net/ Virginia

    Adam, I am also a devotee of Chris Brogan and have been inspired by the work he and others do to enlighten us on the benefits of all types of SM. I am working my way through this list, and can attest to the level of commitment that is needed to see results. We are new to this arena, and have been having a great time discovering the power of networks and the addictiveness of connectivity. Thank you for summarizing these key points into something we can utilize!
    Cheers,
    Virginia Curtis
    Social Media Coordinator
    Cars 4 Causes(R)

  • http://blog.cars4causes.net Virginia

    Adam, I am also a devotee of Chris Brogan and have been inspired by the work he and others do to enlighten us on the benefits of all types of SM. I am working my way through this list, and can attest to the level of commitment that is needed to see results. We are new to this arena, and have been having a great time discovering the power of networks and the addictiveness of connectivity. Thank you for summarizing these key points into something we can utilize!
    Cheers,
    Virginia Curtis
    Social Media Coordinator
    Cars 4 Causes(R)

  • http://blog.angelaconnor.com/ Angela Connor

    I am going to forward this to post to everyone who attended my recent presentation to furniture industry professionals in High Point, NC about using social media to get your message to the masses. They need this type of list and I think having it in hand in addition to some of the information I offered would give them the jump start they need. Thanks!

  • http://blog.angelaconnor.com Angela Connor

    I am going to forward this to post to everyone who attended my recent presentation to furniture industry professionals in High Point, NC about using social media to get your message to the masses. They need this type of list and I think having it in hand in addition to some of the information I offered would give them the jump start they need. Thanks!

  • http://adamhcohen.com adamcohen

    @ekarofsky agreed – a call to action is a great addition.
    @John thx – I just went through jessicaknows.com, really great stuff – thanks for sharing. I’ll reach out to you soon to set up some time to talk.
    @Matthew – much appreciated feedback, thanks!
    @Virginia – Great to here this list is useful for you. I agree, Chris continues to enlighten and inspire, and is also always learning.
    @Angela thanks so much, that’s great to hear. I have family in the furniture biz, will drop you an email about it.

  • adam

    @ekarofsky agreed – a call to action is a great addition.
    @John thx – I just went through jessicaknows.com, really great stuff – thanks for sharing. I’ll reach out to you soon to set up some time to talk.
    @Matthew – much appreciated feedback, thanks!
    @Virginia – Great to here this list is useful for you. I agree, Chris continues to enlighten and inspire, and is also always learning.
    @Angela thanks so much, that’s great to hear. I have family in the furniture biz, will drop you an email about it.

  • http://www.mzinga.com/ Mike Pascucci

    Adam,
    Great stuff. I would highly stress the importance of your last points, 9-11. Getting legal and PR involved as soon as possible will help to streamline any decisions. The longer that you wait to get them involved, the longer it will take to develop a strategy. You may know what you would like to do, but obviously their will be some legal and PR restrictions. All great suggestions though, information gathering is very important to ensure that you are “in-touch”.
    Mike

  • http://www.mzinga.com Mike Pascucci

    Adam,
    Great stuff. I would highly stress the importance of your last points, 9-11. Getting legal and PR involved as soon as possible will help to streamline any decisions. The longer that you wait to get them involved, the longer it will take to develop a strategy. You may know what you would like to do, but obviously their will be some legal and PR restrictions. All great suggestions though, information gathering is very important to ensure that you are “in-touch”.
    Mike

  • http://www.ctpub.com/ Lisa

    Hello –
    I’d like to know if I can share your ten tips with a link back to your blog post here. I am with C&T Publishing, and we have an e-newsletter that goes out to over a thousand of our retail customers (quilt, fabric, craft stores). We have been sharing social media marketing tips with them every month this year and I’d love to share this post of yours with them this month. Please let me know at your earliest convenience if I have your permission to do so, thanks!

    • http://adamhcohen.com adamcohen

      Hi Lisa – I’d be very grateful for you to include my post in your newsletter with a link back here – very much appreciated. I’d love to hear from your readers on how they fare with the tips and what else they have learned. I also am working with a client who may be interested in your newsletter, I’ll reach out to you via email shortly. Thanks in advance!

  • http://www.ctpub.com Lisa

    Hello –
    I’d like to know if I can share your ten tips with a link back to your blog post here. I am with C&T Publishing, and we have an e-newsletter that goes out to over a thousand of our retail customers (quilt, fabric, craft stores). We have been sharing social media marketing tips with them every month this year and I’d love to share this post of yours with them this month. Please let me know at your earliest convenience if I have your permission to do so, thanks!

    • adam

      Hi Lisa – I’d be very grateful for you to include my post in your newsletter with a link back here – very much appreciated. I’d love to hear from your readers on how they fare with the tips and what else they have learned. I also am working with a client who may be interested in your newsletter, I’ll reach out to you via email shortly. Thanks in advance!

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