Small businesses step up holiday social media game

AP News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2014 10:59 AM
Small businesses step up holiday social media game

NEW YORK (AP) — Monif Clarke didn't have a social media strategy for her women's clothing company until this year, when she hired a consultant to help her build one.

The holiday social media marketing plan for New York-based Monif C. Plus Sizes includes contests promoted on Facebook with prizes like a $1,000 wardrobe. When Facebook users click on a link about a contest, they're taken to the New York-based retailer's website and their email addresses are recorded when they enter the contest. Those addresses are key to increasing Monif C's business — it gets nearly 30 percent of its sales in response to emails.

Clarke will also use social media to promote a program giving customers a $25 discount if they recommend friends who buy from Monif C. The friends also get a $25 discount. And Clarke gets another customer for email list.

Previously, Clarke relied partly on a Facebook page that 180,000 people "like," but used it only for the basics: posting pictures and promoting sales. She realized she needed to do more.

"We need to reach the customers we have in a more effective way and attract new customers," says Clarke.

There's more to a retailer's holiday social media strategy than posting photos and advertising discounts. Small and independent retailers are getting more aggressive in using Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram in preparation for the important holiday sales season and beyond.

"All of this is new for small businesses. They've not been used to using social media actively," says Christina Shaw, chief marketing officer at Blue Fountain Media, a marketing consulting company. Like Clarke, many are seeking help from consultants.

REWARDING CUSTOMERS

At Peter Kate, a women's clothing store, owner Sissy Harris recently signed with a customer rewards program linked to social media. Customers get points for posting comments about the store on Facebook and Twitter. They also get points when they use social media to refer friends to the Greenville, Delaware, store.

Harris switched from a traditional rewards program with no social media link. In her first month with the new program, about 50 new customers signed up. The program also helps her track its success. She gets daily reports on how many program members are shopping, and whether they come back.

PICKING THE RIGHT SOCIAL MEDIA SERVICE

Vivian Sayward forecasts a 50 percent jump in 2014 online sales because of her new social media campaign, which includes contests, special posts and discounts timed for the weekends when most online shopping is expected. Sayward, owner of San Diego-based Vivacity Sportswear, is focusing on selling her women's golf and activewear to online customers this holiday season after spending the last three years marketing to retailers.

Sayward recently hired a consultant to run her campaign. She's concentrating on Pinterest and Instagram because her customers use those services. Women make up over 80 percent of Pinterest's users, and 60 percent of Instagram's, according to Nielsen, the market research company.

Social media creates a buzz that makes users want to visit Vivacity Sportswear's website, Sayward says.

"Just by creating a website does not mean that the shoppers will come," she says.

FINDING TARGET CUSTOMERS

Divas SnowGear will use Facebook to promote a "buy one, give one" program to increase sales of women's snowmobiling wear from its website. Customers who click on a link on its Facebook page will be taken to the Divas SnowGear website; when they buy a jacket, the company will donate one to charity, says Travis Gavinski, who handles social media for the Madison, Wisconsin-based company.

If the company doesn't get the results it wants, Gavinski can pay Facebook to send postings to users likely to buy from Divas SnowGear — for example, women whose profiles say they like snow sports.

"My opportunity to get out in front of our audience is much greater on Facebook than on our website," Gavinski says.

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg