RetailerNOW sat down with Adam Young, RC Willey, and Nick Gates, Gates Home Furnishings, to discuss the ins and outs of social media. While the size of their operations greatly differ (one store compared to 13), their social media experiences were very similar. See what they have to say is happening in social media, today.
RetailerNOW: How do you use social media for your business?
ADAM: We use social media for many different reasons. One of them is to bring potential customers to our social media sites and show them what we offer—whether it is a promotional offer, giveaway, special offers that they can either use in store or online and show that we have a variety of different products in all of the categories we sell, appliances, mattresses, furniture, electronics and flooring.
NICK: We decided that we would tackle one social media outlet and then move onto another one from there. When we tell customers to follow us on Facebook, we tell them that our Facebook page is the inside scoop to everything going on in our store. We cover everything from employee birthdays, promotion (including Facebook only promotions) and new products in the store.
RetailerNOW: So, both of you are using it as a tool to create awareness and generate sales?
NICK: The generating sales part is a sticky question [both laugh]. I just got done having a conversation with my dad about this. He loves the idea of social media and the interactions we are creating, but he hasn’t seen any real sales dollars attached to what we are doing on Facebook and social media in general. It is tough. We don’t have a way of showing on the bottom line how many dollars were generated directly from Facebook. I think it is a pretty big moving target. And Adam laughs too because I am sure he is having similar issues.
ADAM: It is always going to be an issue—and yes, I have that issue too. We are always trying to showcase what it does for the bottom line overall, but at the same time, it can’t just be about sales. This is social media. If you just focus on sales, people won’t stay there, they won’t communicate back and forth, and they won’t want to follow your pages—they will bail on you as fast as they can. You have to make it more enticing for them to come to the pages, see what’s new and what you have that will be important for them to follow.
RetailerNOW: How do you show the ROI of social media since social media is about building relationships as well as sales?
NICK: We have taken an approach that we need to combine our traditional forms of media with our social media campaigns. Any piece of traditional media that we are sending out, we are promoting that if you go online then there is supplemental material that you can only get online. It enhances the whole process. We may never be able to attribute a certain amount of sales to a social media outlet but we can use this to enhance and see if a promotion does well or not. It is hard to do a social media only promotion at this point so we are trying to get into the mindset now that it is a collaborative effort between our traditional and social media channels.
ADAM: It is a truly sticky subject. We actually did try a social media promotion just two weeks ago. We only promoted it on Facebook and nothing else. We were successful on that. It really just depends on the offer, the variables, and how much extra you put into it, and in time, it will show that there is success in it. We had good numbers overall for just a one week promotion. We offered fans $50 off a $399 purchase of furniture, mattresses and flooring.
RetailerNOW: How many Facebook fans do you have?
Adam: Right now we have 74,139 as of right now.
Nick: 2,024! That is a thing. With social media, the more people you have following you, it is easier to create a groundswell for promotions. We can only get as big as we can and then it just becomes harder to get more people to like you. But if you have 75,000 people following you then you can make a bigger impact with those following you—it is all relative to where you are. The numbers and having a large amount of people listening to you—there is no substitute for that. Our goal is to make sure we get enough of a following that when we do put a promotion out on Facebook only, people respond. With 1,500 or less, you won’t see any results when you have less than 900 people following you, cause you know at least a hundred are friends with other stores throughout WHFA that aren’t going to really come and buy anything from our store.
It is only now though with that many people that we feel like we have some weight in this and can influence Facebook, at least a little in our community.
RetailerNOW: What did you do to get people to like your page?
Nick: In the past it has been event related and cross promotion. The thing that kicked it off for us was about a year ago, we were one of the sponsors of an Extreme Makeover of a house in the area. That’s what sort of kicked it all off for us. That was our kick off point for growing our social media. It was just natural that people saw our trucks at the build area and we just hopped into the conversation and grabbed a lot of followers just because we were a part of that experience. We would post photos of what we were taking over to the home, and shared the experience with our followers. Jumping into conversations that are community related, it could be about anything, was a big start for us. We used that momentum and we just kept visible in other areas. We talk about things other than furniture and a lot of nonprofit things we are involved with has really helped. You go through our insights on Facebook, the things that get the most virality and the things that get the most likes and conversation are things that aren’t related to furniture half the time. Sometimes it is things we are doing in the store, or highlighting organizations we are involved with.
Adam: We focus on what do you prefer, light or dark wood. What kind of TV do you prefer? Asking a question makes people think. What do you have, or what would you like to have in your home? Focusing on what the customer prefers, let us be more personable.
RetailerNOW: Do you use different resources to measure your social media influence?
Nick: We have a partnership with our advertising agency and they manage the backend of our Facebook. They have their own way of measuring the analytics. What we are starting to focus on is trying to get our virality rating up, getting people to not just see something on our site, but to tell their friends about it. That is the next thing we are really working on. We have a good ground base and we will probably always continue to have more people like our page, but we are really concentrating on the content that is being put into the social media and make it applicable to people and make them want to share it with their friends. It was interesting, we had posted just a picture of a sofa on our page and we were promoting a promotion that was coming. Then someone said they had that sofa and started a conversation with everyone they knew, just because they recognized the sofa. They talked about how great it was, then someone came on and asked what the model number was. Sometimes you just stumble upon stuff like that, but it’s really made us realize that we have got to put things on there that will be picked up by our customers and spread around on their own. Don’t just post for the sake of posting.
Adam: A couple of things are important within that that I have found so far. It is the type of question you ask. The way you phrase it. Sometimes tweaking one word and putting it in a different place in the sentence, makes that big of a difference. It also depends on the type of fans you have. If you get some fans which are more talkative and brand evangelists, if you can get them liking and talking about things, it becomes more opportunistic it has more chance to become viral that way.
RetailerNOW: Are you also using social media to deal with customer service issues?
Adam: All the time. The more fans you get, the more customer service issues you are going to see come up. Some fans are just going to be there to complain, and you have to determine what is right to respond to. Sometimes it is just a comment, “I don’t like you.” OK. Do you want to respond to that, or do you not? It is kind of hard. There is a fine line and you have to determine what is right and what is wrong as a company on what to respond to. Sometimes I just let things go and let them make comments, other times I have to respond and address the issue when it is actually a product related issue. Often times, if we can address the issue, whether it is myself directly or working with the store, sometimes you won’t be able to because they just want to complain and don’t care that you try to help.
Nick: Yeah, we have only had a few instances where we have gotten customer service issues over Facebook. One recently was a product related thing and it was weird because the customer that made a comment on there wasn’t even a customer of ours according to our records. We treated them how we would treat anyone else and tried to help them out as much as we could. The other one was really trashing our salespeople, which wasn’t very cool. The big thing was that we responded within a half hour with a message, apologizing for what our salesperson did—even though we don’t think our salesperson did anything wrong. Speed to those responses are huge, and the decision on if or how you are going to respond needs to be made quickly. You need to stay on top of it. I was talking to Kevin Doran, R&A Marketing, recently and the way that Facebook has restructured business pages with the Timeline it makes a lot of those silly, stupid comments disappear when you are just looking at it. It doesn’t make as much of a big deal as it used to on your company page. So sometimes it doesn’t matter because it will be buried in the mix of things. It is nice because it is not as visible as it used to be. It does take a little pressure off of always having to be online and checking. The best advice that I have had is make your decision quickly. Don’t let it sit for a few days and then make a comment. Read it, figure out what you should do, and then do it!
RetailerNOW: What advice do you have for a retailer who is unsure about getting into social media, or they have a page and are asking “Now what?”?
Adam: One thing I would say is either do it, or don’t do it. I recommend that everyone should have something there, but it is almost better off not having anything than having something and never updating it.
Nick: Kevin Doran really pushes that social media is free, and I think that is the bandwagon that everyone jumps on. They say “Yeah, let’s get our Facebook page up, it doesn’t cost anything!” Which is good, but he also says social media marketing isn’t free. While Facebook is free to use, you have to spend a little money and invest in advertising your Facebook. In the grand scheme of things it is nice because the dollars that you put into it are minimal. Even though you have to spend some money, if you are a small retailer, $50-100 a month will get you a long way on promoting your page. You have to put some money into it and you have to fully embrace it. The second piece of advice is what we have really stuck to is pick one social media outlet, and learn it backwards and forwards. Put your energy into one outlet and once you feel like you have mastered it and it is self-sustaining, venture into another one. That is what we are doing with Pinterest now. Our Facebook posts are becoming more natural to us, so we are moving into Pinterest and Foursquare.
Adam: I agree with that, and I wish I only had $50-$100 a month to promote. Ours is a little more than that now.
Nick: That is really as a single store. But, even if you are a bigger store and you aren’t putting at least that amount of money into it, you should start there!
Adam: One more thing I would like to say is if you are going to be advertising, don’t spread yourself too thin. Just like Nick was saying. There are always things changing but