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Social Media Expert Answers Questions

In the February 2016 Issue of Hardware Retailing magazine, we simplified social media for retailers in the feature story, Room for Improvement. At the end of the story, Crystal Vilkaitis, social media expert and owner of Crystal Media, shed light on best practices for increasing social media traffic and tracking your efforts. However, Vilkaitis’s knowledge on the topic of social media runs much deeper, so we sat down and asked her more questions to determine the best ways for retailers to tackle social media. For further social media resources, make sure to check out our Social Media Toolkit.

Hardware Retailing (HR): How can a retailer determine if their social media content is successful?

Crystal Vilkaitis (CV): There are a lot of ways to measure success, so what may be wonderful to one person may be less impressive to the next. However, a general rule of how successful your content is, is how much engagement it gets. Engagement includes likes, comments, shares, clicks, or questions to show that customers are paying attention. While some measure success on the number of likes they have on Facebook, this number isn’t important if these fans aren’t engaged.

HR: How does one know if they’re reaching their customers successfully?

CV: The first step is making sure that the users who like your page are current or potential customers. You can pay a company to get you thousands of likes for cheap, but these aren’t quality leads. They aren’t people who are interested in your store, or who are located nearby.

One good way to make sure you’re getting quality leads is by looking at your past Facebook ads, if you’ve run them. If your ads weren’t extremely targeted, now is the time to reconsider your strategy and start targeting users within a specific area or with specific interests.

When judging whether customers are reading your content, don’t always go off of the “Reach” number. This tells you how many people may be “seeing” your content in their Newsfeed, but it doesn’t tell you whether or not they are actually reading it. One way to engage with current customers is to create ads just for them. For example, you can run a Facebook ad that will display to people on your email list. Remember, whether you’re running ads on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, reaching your target audience is vital to your success.

HR:What are best practices for tracking and understanding analytics?

CV: I recommend having a tracking resource, which can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. With this resource, track your network growth on each active social media platform from month to month. Look at engagement (likes, comments, shares and clicks on Facebook; repins and Pins from website for Pinterest; retweets and mentions for Twitter; and regrams and mentions for Instagram), and add in notes about comments and questions customers leave on your page. For instance, are people asking questions about store hours, location or product information? Those types of questions are meaningful and should be tracked.

If you’re running ads, you’ll want to track additional things like your cost per action, action (coming into the store, clicking, liking, commenting, sharing), which audience group is performing best, as well as which image and copy performs the best.

You can also track website traffic within the same spreadsheet. Important items here include your monthly traffic, where the traffic is coming from (including your top 5 referral websites), how much traffic went to your blog (if applicable), and which of your blog posts performed best. Take a screenshot of your top performing blog posts and analyze why they were successful. This will help you come up with similar content for next month.

HR: How does one know if a post is good and effective? How can a retailer tie social media content to successful sales or increased foot traffic?

CV: While there are a lot of things that can be tracked on social media, it’s not a perfect system. For instance, if someone sees your post on Facebook, comes into your store and makes a purchase, without you asking how they heard about you, you may mistakenly assume that they stopped in on a whim. This makes judging success on social media difficult at times. But there are ways to make tracking easier. One is to post about or advertise for a specific product, rather than the store overall. If you see sales increase for this product, you could make an assumption that your post was successful. Facebook allows you to run an offer campaign, where you post a special and if people come in, you know it’s from Facebook. You can also do this through one of Facebook’s ads called Offers.

We’ve had retail clients tell us that after beginning to consistently post to social media and run Facebook ads (with about a $200/month budget), their stores have been busier each day. One client even told us that they had one of their busiest events in the 12 years since opening their store, and that the only change they had made was utilizing social media.

HR: How can a retailer determine if a paid advertising campaign is making an impact? How can one track results of a paid advertising campaign?

CV: As I mentioned, the amount of engagement that your posts get, as well as an increase in sales of specific products are good ways to measure campaign success, paid or not. If you sell online, you can also add a conversion code to the pages you want people to reach, like the checkout page, and run conversion ads. If these ads create sales – good job! They’re working! If it’s leads you’re looking for, running Lead Ads allows you to build your email list, allowing you to see your email list grow and at what cost. In addition, Local Awareness Ads on Facebook allow you to see if someone checks into your business or clicks on your ad’s button. These are valuable statistics to know!

HR: What are some unique best practices for getting more page likes or followers without putting money into social media?

CV: Many store owners completely forget to send people to their social media accounts! The first step to social media success is making sure your customers know you’re online. This can be achieved with in-store signage including social media usernames or a specific hashtag that users can follow to find home DIY tips. In addition, you can send an email inviting people to join you on social media (if you couple this with a contest, conversions will be higher), and you can manually follow your target audience on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Use Facebook as your business page and network with other local business pages your customers follow on Facebook. Asking people to take action. For example, you could say, “Like this post if you agree!” or “Like/double tap if you’re in the middle of a DIY project,” or ask people to tag themselves or someone who would like the product, tips or blog post. This can help increase reach and exposure to your current network and their friends.

More about Crystal Media:

Crystal Media is a company dedicated to helping retailers integrate proven social media, mobile and email marketing strategies into their businesses. Vilkaitis started Social Edge, an online membership group exclusive to retailers looking to gain an edge over competition using social media, who need direct access to what’s important and relevant when it comes to marketing their store and products online. For more information and to receive free weekly social media tips to your email inbox, visit crystalmedia.co or socialedge.co.

About Hilary Welter

Hilary Welter
As marketing and research coordinator, it’s Hilary’s duty to keep retailers informed about NRHA products and services and to help coordinate industry research projects. Additionally, Hilary is the voice behind NRHA’s and Hardware Retailing’s social media accounts. She appreciates a good book, spicy food, well-made horror films, craft beer and exploring new places near and far.

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