Is WhatsApp the next big social media for business

In our latest digital marketing and social media promotional guide, Chris Fox from greeting card and gift shop Wishes of Cudworth shares his retail insights into looking beyond Facebook, Twitter and Instagram when it comes to marketing your own business.

Master Yoda

A wise Jedi master once said; “Do or do not, there is no try”. Well Yoda, I’m sorry my little green friend I have to disagree. One of the main things I keep returning to in these articles is the “Have a go” philosophy that I feel every independent shop should have. You can read a thousand how to guides but they’re really is no better way to learn how something works than having a go yourself. Of course do a little research before, that’s what this blog and it’s features are for after all. However to truly understand the benefits of social media for your shop/business you’ll eventually have to sign up and set out on your own digital quest.

Yoda Itty Bitty

Get Social

I’ve already preached the virtues of the social media big three: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. At Wishes we continue to find Facebook to be the most constant and wide reaching of our online marketing platforms. We have a daily flutter of likes and comments with larger ‘like spikes’ when we run a giveaway or do something outside of comfort zone like an in shop event. Only recently we had a lovely customer visit our shop all the way from Robin Hood Bay, which is nearly 100 miles way. She didn’t make the journey just to see us; she was visiting a relative who lives in our village but after seeing one of posts on Facebook popped in to buy a couple of candles.

Pinterest Village Candle

Mix It Up

However to quote another brainy fella, Albert Einstein “the definition insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Which, when you think can be often true of how we promote our shops. It’s easy to repeat the same content, share the same photos and run the same competitions if we know they will create an instant response. A candle giveaway on our Facebook page guarantees extra likes, comments and shares (We also note an increase in positive reviews when we do a competition thanks to a larger audience seeing us in their feeds). So, yes, maybe we’re a little insane, except we don’t really want different results. We want our existing customers to remain engaged whilst tempting new ones in. The law of diminishing returns means at some point your customers will become bored of the same content from you time and time again. That you’ll have to shake it up and find new ways to promote your shop, exploring new online platforms or risk your customers losing interest.

Which brings me to the point of the article (about time Christopher). Eventually once you’ve established yourself online you’ll need to look at alternatives to the more mainstream social media outlets. It’s like the products you stock in your shop, you’ll have long standing favourites gifts you trust to sell again and again but sometimes you’ve got take a risk on something new. At Wishes our candles and bath bombs will always be popular but new additions to our ranges likes Mrs Bridges and Cartwright & Butler have added much needed variety. We have a new range of bags arriving pre Valentines Day, something we’ve never thought of selling before. Not every new product, will prove to be a hit but without trying you’ll never know.

It’s the same online, you’ve got to be brave and step out of your comfort zone. From setting up your first Facebook business page or in our case looking at the other ways we can promote ourselves online. Putting aside my initial concerns I recently put the shop on TripAdvisor. Having always thought it was only for restaurants and tourist attractions, I was inspired by seeing another shop asking their customers to leave reviews (It’s always good to keep a friendly eye on what your contemporaries are up to). The great thing about TripAdvisor is that it’s user generated content meaning that you set it up, sit back and wait for the good reviews to come in (You could also cross promote on your other social media or update your printed loyalty cards to ask happy customers to leave feedback).

TripAdvisor Wishes of Cudworth

Try Something New

Pinterest remains a missed opportunity for us and is close to the top of my ever growing ‘To Do List’. Having spoke to other shops and suppliers it’s regularly recommended. Mine own unfamiliarity with the platform is holding me back, as unlike Facebook I don’t use it as a citizen. That said burying my head in the sand means we’re only losing ground to more savvy retailers, something that needs to be addressed (If not Julia will make me sleep outside with the rabbits again. It’s the only way I’ll learn).

Other social media I’ve started to explore our Whatsapp (‘Whats That’ you say but it’s tipped to be big for businesses users this year), Snapchat, Steller and a LinkedIn business profile (not a personal one but one for your actual shop or brand). Not all will prove fruitful and some end up being more MySpace than Facebook but those who sign up early will benefit if they become the next big thing.

Finally I try and keep up to date with the online successes of other greeting card shops. It’s inspiring and motivating to see how other shops promote themselves. Plus it’s important to give your customers a real world reason to visit after seeing you online, be it a in-store giveaway, special offer, loyalty program or exciting new product launch. Only by being brave and trying something new, will you ever discover if it works for you. Let’s end with Einstein again “A person who never made a mistake never tired anything new”. So here’s to glorious stumbles, lesson learnt and not listening to tiny green muppets.

Chris Fox is the social media mastermind behind retailers Wishes of Cudworth. He writes the On the Line column for Greetings Today and has also developed Gift Shop Hub, a friendly resource blog for and by independent shops, trade suppliers, small businesses and artists offering advice and tips on how best to use online and traditional printed marketing to promote your business. Run by retailers/artists to provide real insights and to pass on our successes plus occasional missteps.