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We all know that independent retail relies heavily on beautiful displays, artisan quality, and of course the support of its local community, but how important is social media?
An essential tool
For small businesses where the focus is on customer satisfaction and making connections, social media can be a powerful tool.
According to Morgan McGynn, owner of Cheeses of Muswell Hill, “I think it is really important to document what you are doing in your business, as this can lead to customers organically coming across your page and visiting your business just by a simple post.
“The staff and I use it as a platform to exhibit what we are doing in our little shop. The location of the shop is a little tucked away so it’s nice to be able to talk to a wider audience.”
In particular, Patricia Michelson, owner of La Fromagerie, explains, “Social media is a very important and useful tool to highlight ingredients in season, produce just arrived and give a sense of identity to your business. How you take photos and promote your products is important and needs to be in a way that gives a bird’s eye view and sense of place so that it is warm and inviting.”
Of course, the content you produce and share needs to be authentic, and represent the real story behind the business. Eleonore Deneuve, owner of Cheezelo, adds, “Having social media allows customers and followers (future customers who have an interest in cheeses) to see the real life of the business. I often post stories to give them insight into the life of Cheezelo.”
Choosing which platforms to engage with
The perfect platform for sharing your small business with the wider world will depend on the skills of your staff. Are they better at taking carefully curated photos, creating video content, or writing snappy stories?
But retailers should also consider the demographic of their shoppers. For Eleonore, this was the main factor in deciding which platforms to capitalise on. “I use Facebook and Instagram as the main social media channels as my customer base is usually aged between 30 to 65.
“I may not have many followers (1600+) compared to some businesses; however, I have a large percentage of viewers when posting stories on a daily basis (about 30%).”
Patricia agrees, “We use Instagram and then link to Facebook and Twitter, and we try to put a post up every day.”
Creating and posting content
When it comes to deciding what to post, Patricia suggests making customers a part of the excitement at your store. “As you cut open a large cheese do a little video and post up immediately as a story or reel, or simply post up. When new season cheeses arrive send a picture out of a grouped shot and maybe add a wine, cider or beer to go with the cheese.
“Always post up for the weekend, and if you can send it out in the evening when people are commuting home or first thing in the morning on the way to work, all the better.”
Eleonore agrees. “I post stories almost on a daily basis, showing new products, the arrival of cheeses, how to cut cheeses, the type of food being prepared etc. Giving a life behind the scenes attracts customers who then come or order online.”
For Morgan, it’s simple. “When posting we look at things that we find interesting and go from there, whether that be a new cheese in the shop or something that goes really well with it. Not worrying about whether people will like it or not, more about whether I love it enough to post it.”
It is also important to make sure that your followers and customers feel like part of the business. Eleonore explains, “The key to social media is to engage with the followers, and customers, showing them what they can get at the shop (products/food, etc.), also showing them how small business works behind the scene, also showing them some recipes too.
“Engaging with quizzes and questions is also fun, and they feel being part of the story too. To attract new followers, I have a couple of signs in the shop or stickers on the bags/box when ordering online saying to follow @cheezelo on social media for more news.”
As Morgan concludes, “Be original! No one is interested in seeing a copy of someone else content. By creating something new and exciting, people will love it, stay engaged and hopefully become a customer.”