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Supplementing Sales with Social Media

Posted By Reprinted with permission by Vitamin Retailer Magazine - November 2016 Issue, , Friday, November 25, 2016

by Terry Lemerond

When that familiar tone chimes on your phone, it's probably an alert from a social media account, rather than an actual call or text. Social communication has quickly shifted from face-to-face interactions, to Facebook-to-Facebook exchanges. According to Facebook's website, the networking giant has more than one billion people that log in on a daily basis, and this upward trend has not slowed since its inception in 2004. Nipping at its heels are other platforms, such as Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest. While each of these sites has its own niche, the synergy created when using multiple platforms can have tremendous benefits, as the saying goes "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

Gone are the days when an online presence solely consisted of constructing a website with your unique URL. While websites are still a necessity, they have shifted from the only source of information to the structural framework that provides housing for social media newsfeeds. Websites are a tremendous resource, but updating them as often as a Facebook or Twitter account is cumbersome and time consuming .Use your website to highlight important information (store location, phone number, driving direction_, showcase your different social media outlets, and make it very user friendly. If possible, generate a mobile version of your website that makes your content more compatible to people on the go, since the majority of web browsing now takes place on smart phones rather than computers. To help understand the role your website is playing, it's important to monitor your website's traffic. This can be done with free tools like Google Analytics that can give you tangible feedback on how many views your website has on a daily basis, which pages people are viewing the most, how long the average person stays on your website, and many other pieces of valuable information. 

Social media is all about engaging with customers outside of your store. But getting them to like your Facebook page, or follow you on Instagram, can take a little effort on your end. There are two approaches to generating more traffic, you can pay to play, or try a more grassroots campaign. By monetarily investing in your social media channels, you can boost posts or run ads with Facebook and Twitter to target a specific audience, and increase your followers. Or you can run a contest for a free product or store gift certificate. There are also many ways to increase your reach without investing money. You can use top trending hashtags in your Twitter posts, share Facebook posts from pages with a large following, join groups that are aligned with your store's mission, add social sharing buttons to your website or newsletter, and  creating posts with media (pictures or videos) are a great way to capture your audience's attention. 

Nothing drives followers away faster than morphing your social media accounts into an online sales pitch. While it's OK to promote upcoming deals and sales, pushing too hard can leave you with more unfollowers than followers. A great rule of thumb for posting on your social networks is the 80/20 principle - 80 percent of the information should be beneficial for your followers, and 20 percent or less should be brand or sales promoting. Learn what your customers are interested in or want more information on. Do they want more recipes? Then post recipes that can be made with items found in your health food store. Do they want more fitness information? Then see if you can partner with a local health club or fitness expert for a how-to video, weekly blog post or inspirational message. 

While we may wish that every person that walks into our store is not only greeted, but engaged in a meaningful conversation, we know that doesn't always happen. Short videos introducing your staff are a great way for your customers (and potential customers) to meet and develop a relationship with your staff members before they even walk in the door. Maybe one of your staff members is open to discussing products or ingredients they used to support a specific health system. Did you recently bring in a new product line? Make short video discussing why you brought that line in, do they use sustainable sourcing, is there something unique about the product? Any additional information you can give to the customer adds more transparency to the customer-store relationship and strengthens the trust between the two. 

Choose a particular day of the week or month to dedicate to a recurring theme or topic. Maybe it's "What if Wednesday?" and you post a "would your rather" question (i.e.: would you rather drink coffee or espresso?) and see what kind of feedback you get. The question itself isn't necessarily the main focus, but rather engaging your followers so your content stays more relevant in their newsfeeds. You could also do a "Trivia Thursday" where you post trivia questions about people or things in your store. You could even off a reward to the first person that comments on the post or comes into the store with the correct answer. 

Managing several social media accounts can be a full-time job in itself. However, you don't always have to reinvent the wheel, occasionally you just need to borrow it. Many of your customers are health experts in their own right, so share their posts, videos or ideas, as long as you receive their permission. Some of your followers may already have a large network of their own, and blending your circle with their circle helps to reinforce existing relationship s and sparks the potential for new ones. 

We all have that family member or friend that shares everything, and we know how irritating that can be. While you want to stay active in your customer's newsfeeds, you don't want to run the risk of having them unfollow you due to information overload. Finding that balance will take time and also analysis of the data available for your social media accounts. Keep track of your top performing and underachieving posts, note their similarities or differences (theme, time of day, account), are they videos, blog posts or pictures? Data crunching will be a key that unlocks the door to the right frequency, topic, and time of day to post. 

There are a lot of free programs that allow you to control the posting schedule for multiple social media accounts. This can make life a lot easier and allows you to plan posts well in advance. Change up the time of day you post and see if that has an impact of the reach.

Be careful of sharing the same information on every platform, as your followers will notice. If it's a really important topic try sharing it on Facebook and Twitter first, then maybe next week re-share on Pinterest or Instagram. Each of your channels should align with your mission and values, but that doesn't mean they have to be carbon copies of each other. Maybe you post more recipes and DIY projects on Pinterest, or staff selfies and daily store pictures on Instagram. The feedback you receive will help tailor each specific social media site to its target audience, but first you need to identify who that target audience is.

With Millennials now accounting for a large percentage of the population, and purchasing power, conveying important shopping information regarding products, services, and upcoming events is amplified with social media. Most Millennials grew up with computers and learned the inner workings of Facebook while the rest of use were busy trying to figure out how to text. Maybe you can employ someone forma  local college or recent graduate to help manage your social media accounts, or act as a consultant.

If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say it at all. Not all the feedback you receive on your social media sites will be positive. Some will warrant a response, but other times it's best to say nothing and avoid a war of words. Serious criticism can be treated with respect and kindness, but should also be resolved or mediated away from the social media account, "I'm so sorry you did not like {insert products, service, or issue here| We would love to discuss this matter with you further, please send us a private message or email." This is a great way to diffuse a volatile situation, without airing the dirty laundry on social media for everyone to see.

You want to be the one-stop-show for not just health products, but also health information. However, this involves a time commitment and diving into market research. Finding the content that is meaningful to your customers and followers will take some experimenting. This also means you need to stay current in market trends, legislation, regulations, and policies, and other important health information. Subscribe to other social media accounts from reputable natural health organizations or websites, but try to avoid posting controversial materials, as this can be a very slippery slope. Positive and uplifting pictures or messages will resonate much better with the majority of your followers. The want for information is there, now capitalize on the demand, and supply the content your customers are searching for. 

A highly regarded leader in the natural products industry, Terry Lemerond is founder and president of EuroPharma, Inc. He also founded Enzymatic Therapy, In. and PhytoPharmica, In. and is currently co-owner of the Terry Naturally Health Food Store in Green Bay, WI, which recently won its sixth consecutive consumer choice award as "Best of the Bay."

With more than 40 years in the natural products industry, Lemerond has researched and developed more than 400 nutritional botanical formulations that continue to be top-selling products int he market. 

Lemerond shares his wealth of experience and knowledge in health and nutrition through is educational programs, including the Terry Talks Nutrition website, newsletters, podcasts, webinars, and personal speaking engagements. He is the author of two books:
Seven Keys to Vibrant Health and the recently updated Seven Keys to Unlimited Personal Achievement. 

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