Chris Fox from Wishes of Cudworth looks at the issues with promoting your shop on social media and how it can go wrong.
This latest article “Engage Not Outrage” is a little different from my normal column’s happy smiley philosophy. Maybe it’s the uncertain political landscape, the rise of the right wing across the world or it could just be the dodgy sandwich I ate before writing this but it’s altogether darker. More Batman than Superman.
I’m not preaching revolution or anarchy in the UK, more offering my thoughts on a few online trends to provoke debate. Let’s all stay friends at the end though!
Freedom of Expression
There’s been a recent shift in the cultural zeitgeist towards a society quick to shame in which others’ opinions and actions may be violently condemned. While I don’t want to speak on behalf of our industry, it does seem, as a collection of artists and creative thinkers, that we would support the freedom of expression.
Look at the recent controversy surrounding Dean Morris Cards’ Valentine’s designs. Yes, their cards are cheeky, rude, loved by some and offensive to others – is it right for anyone to call for them to be banned?
Mind you, when the Sun newspaper calls your cards sick you must be doing something right!
If you don’t like a product, don’t buy it, or frequent shops that sell such items as, surely, retailers should have the choice of what cards we wish to stock, after all, who knows our customers’ tastes and limits better than us?
Still, when the public use Twitter to call for a retailer to withdraw a product from sale, it must be hard to stand firm. The Sun’s one thing but no shop wants to declare war on their own customers.
Tone and content is important for any business. One misplaced tweet can cause uproar and do terrible damage to a company. One of the most famous examples of bad marketing is the story of Gerald Ratner who became infamous with a speech in which he jokingly called one of his jewellery products “total crap”, which saw the value of his jewellery business plummet by around £500million and nearly destroyed the company. Quick tip (that no one really needs) – don’t call your products crap.
A more innocent mistake is the misspelt tweet. In an early morning haze recently, I spelt Father’s Day wrong which was retweeted with the hashtag #spelling. Did I rise and start a Twitter war, no, of course not but in my eyes it was a little unkind.
There was a libel case last month which ended with newspaper columnist Katie Hopkins having to pay £24,000 damages for comments on Twitter to a blogger in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity. Such issues are more relevant for bigger chains and publishers with larger numbers of Twitter followers but we smaller independents should always look at how we present ourselves online. We need to put aside our own personal opinions and more controversial views – ironic considering the nature of this article – as nobody wants an angry, grumpy shop shouting at the world.
My personal Facebook feed is full of shop-related posts. One trend I’ve noticed is shops releasing CCTV footage of alleged thieves on to their pages, asking their followers to name and shame the offenders. With very little recourse for small shopkeepers against what the police regard as petty crime but which can be the difference between them making a loss or a profit, this is seen as a simple but effective way of fighting back against these criminals, but not without its problems.
I’ve seen videos of the crimes get views into the thousands, with hundreds of comments, but not all are supporting the shop and many question the legality of the video footage. It’s a tricky balance, shops have been forced to close due to the cost and stress of such crimes but should we be acting as vigilantes? Does the outrage distract from the shop and products we’re selling as a negative review or unhappy comment is often a massive blow to an independent shop. Are these videos asking for our customers to debate our policies rather than praise our products or do the videos warn off would-be thieves?
Don’t be put off..
Let’s end on a positive note. The last thing I want is to put anyone off promoting their own shop on social media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been a source of much joy for us at Wishes and I’d always encourage other shops to join us online. One of the best things about working in a card shop like ours is the moments shared with our lovely customers. Helping them celebrate weddings, anniversaries, new babies and the happiest of birthdays. We hope our little shop is adding to the positive and happy things to be found online and want to engage not outrage.
We’d like to think of Wishes as part of the lovely Cudworth community, not just a shop but a place where you can come for a chat and a browse away from the hustle and bustle of the chains. We want our social media to make people smile so that, like our cards, our posts can help brighten a dark day and lift a little of sadness from a difficult time. Therefore we’re on mission to make Cudworth Cool well even cooler) and, taking inspiration from our local #barnsleyisbrill hashtag we’ve come up with our own – #cudworthiscool.
Next month I’ll be sharing more of our plans and getting back to my more happy, bouncy self. No more dark clouds, rather rainbow-coloured unicorns. On a final note: Be kind to each other, both in life and online.
The internet is a wonderful tool but can be scary if you don’t know how to make the best use of it. In this series of articles retailer Chris Fox, from Wishes Of Cudworth aim to pass on all the online tips he’s discovered so far to help independent retailers boost their bricks and mortar business in the digital age. This article was originally published in Greetings Today Magazine.