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Monday, June 29, 2009

Smart Retailers will use Social Media to enhance Marketing and Customer Service!

Twitter, and Facebook and MySpace...OH MY! Digg this, Stumble that....the vast technology that is available to those of us brave enough to jump in can be very daunting. Seriously...who Tweets? Who can even say "Tweet" with a straight face? Everybody, apparently! Yup, it seems that the whole world is Twittering!

What is the crafty retailer to do?

Many businesses are successfully using social media outlets to drive business, increase revenue, and improve customer service. Of course, one can have a successful retail craft store without going viral, but it makes sense to at least consider the possibilities. After all, the internet provides the ability to connect with gazillions (technical term!) of potential customers for very little financial investment. Communication has changed and there is no going back.

This point was brought home during a recent visit from my college age son and his girlfriend. The family was gathered around the television after dinner and EVERY SINGLE PERSON--Mom, Dad, Son, Daughter, Girlfriend--all had laptops. We were fully engaged in making fun of the television show ("So You Think You Can Dance"), laughing and talking together while tapping away on the keyboards. Daughter was simultaneously on Facebook and MySpace while researching used cars, College Age Son was working on his website (income producing, notes proud mom), Son's Girlfriend was shopping for a dress, Dad was on Facebook much to embarrassment of his children, and Mom was researching for her blog. Happy family, circa 21st century. If you are under thirty five or are the parents of teenagers, you probably recognize this as the new normal.

The fact is, the top ten highest trafficked sites on the internet include Blogger, You Tube, MySpace and Facebook---all social media outlets. It seems that most humans stay connected to one another via the internet. One need look only to the recent news coming out of Iran despite a media black out. Iranian citizens were able to send out images and information via cell phones and Twitter accounts to demonstrate to the world what was happening in their country. The change is powerful and it is here to stay.

So how can you leverage the technology? Start with baby steps! Many stores are using Twitter to keep their customers current as to sales, new product, etc. Twitter is a way to keep folks updated as to what is going on in your life. The message is limited to 140 characters, enough for a quick update, with points for creativity. For example, I just googled "bead twitter" and got a plethora of information from a number of tech savvy bead retailers touting their current bead promotions. The cost to them? Zip, zero, nada. Impact for them? Probably pretty high. A store savvy enough to post regularly on Twitter is also savvy enough to provide Twitter contact info to its customer base. Consumers under the age of 40 are clued in to Twitter and will "follow" any Twitter account worthy of attention.

An example of a brilliant use of Twitter as a customer service tool was illustrated recently by Raymon De Leon of Chicago. Raymon owns a number of Dominoes pizza franchises and was alerted via a Twitter service that there had been a complaint regarding a delivery from one of his stores. In the old days an unhappy customer might complain to a friend or two. These days a disappointed customer can complain--vociferously and within seconds--to thousands of people. Raymon got the Twitter alert and immediately responded to the customer via video. His apology was sincere and timely and he got invaluable publicity as a result. It was a win - win! The customer was happy with the new pizza and Raymon was thrilled with the media attention.

A non threatening, low impact way to use social media is to sign up for every industry newsletter you possibly can. There is no need to reinvent the wheel! Google the term "yarn store," "bead shop," "retail scrapbook," etc. for a treasure trove of information. Most stores today have a web presence and offer a monthly newsletter. Set up a hotmail, yahoo, or gmail account for the sole purpose of receiving newsletters. You will recieve a priceless education as a result: class ideas, stimulating promotions, killer websites, etc. I am always impressed by the creativity and ingenuity that I see online.

Blogging is another way to dip your toe into the social media pool. It is cathartic, fun, and can definitely have a positive impact on your cash flow. Face it...if you are doing things right, your customers become your friends. They like having a little window into your personal life and want to know what is new and exciting with your tell 'em! Case in point...I have recently started to work with a talented young Spinner in Arizona. She is working with me to develop a new yarn line. I only met her once, but I instinctively liked her and got good vibes from her. But gut has been wrong before. Fortunately, I have been able to get to know her even better by reading her blog. She has opened an electronic window and let me in. I read a hilarious post about the antics of her three year old and it not only brought back warm and fuzzy feelings about my own naughty boys from yesteryear, the blog has enabled me to get to know the character of this woman and I know my instincts are correct. I feel comfortable conducting business with her.

I am new to Blogging and found the concept intimidating. Accordingly, I was thrilled to discover Diane Gilleland's new E-Book, Making a Great Blog, which is geared specifically toward Crafty Blogs. Her practical advice is invaluable and made the process much less daunting for me. In fact, I have become such a believer that I want YOU to let go of your inhibitions and give Blogging a try! We will draw a name from those who comment on any Crafty Retailer post from June 30 through July 31 and the lucky winner will receive a copy of Diane Gilleland's Book!

Don't be afraid of the new technology...embrace it! You don't want to turn into one of "those" know the ones I mean....those folks who are so afraid of change that they miss out on incredible opportunities! Ride the technological wave and see where it brings you and your business!


  1. Another awesome post from my new marketing mentor! I do use Twitter (way too often, I'm sure) and "tweet" links when I list new handspun yarns to my Etsy shop. I find that my "views" on that listing skyrocket just by Twitter clicks. One thing that I find helpful is being aware of using key words on Twitter... if you list a new yarn you should add "handspun" "yarn" "Etsy" or words like "sale". Flickr is another great way to advertise with fantastic photos of your product! Thanks so much for including my Little Yarn Slayer (haha) in your post. I'm so happy to work with you... and you are so right, I enjoy learning about you and your business sense through your blog! Now I'm off to Tweet about your blogging my blog! : )

  2. I just started a blog this last week...haven't put it out there yet since is was after midnight when I started it, but I personally enjoy reading the blogs where personal & business are combined. Thanks so much for the advice...keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks, Michelle! I am with you...I prefer the blogs where the author gives us a glimpse of the human side. It is nice to hear a real life story---it usually makes me relate to the blogger on a whole new level and often makes me feel less isolated! Good luck with your new blog...I can't wait to read it!

  4. Everything you've written makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much for your advice.
    Keep up the good work!