Stay in touch with your customers: a quick start to social media

11 May 2020


Social distancing, restricted living and full lockdowns: staying connected with your customers nowadays is a challenge as well as a necessity. Social media enables you to reach out online and maintain engagement outside of your physical store location. This article hands you five practical guidelines to get you going.

Take a step back to move forward

Do your homework

Make sure to analyse the needs of your audience and where they gather online.
Do not hesitate to check what your competition is doing online and to check your assumptions with a few customers if needed. 

  • Identify your audience, know who you want to reach out to
  • Define your goals, what do you want to achieve 
  • Find where your audience is and how to engage
Stay true to yourself

Your customers want to recognise you. They want to recognise their trusted local shop in the way you talk to them online. The best advice is to stay true to yourself:

  • As you would in your shop, aim to be genuine, personal and friendly
  • Especially during these challenging times,  show empathy and emphasize communal bonding (‘we are in this together’)
  • Avoid making fun of the situation or even being opportunistic. Short-term sales promotions may seem tempting but could cause more harm than good at the expense of your customer relationships and reputation. 
Get started on Social Media

If you are not using social media yet, it is best to kickstart your Facebook or Instagram Business Page.
Facebook and Instagram are the most widely used platforms and easily enable you to connect with consumers and local audiences. Depending on your customer group’s demographics, you may want to consider using other social networks.

As people rely more heavily on Google to find the answers to their most pressing questions, Google is becoming a big part of how users discover products and services in their area. 
Besides Social Media you could also create or claim your Google My Business Account, which is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google. Other (local) search engines may provide the same features. 

From message to impact

Prioritize on visuals

People are primarily attracted by images. Here are some ways to create social visuals:

Your own (mobile) photography
Practice makes perfect: try taking pictures from different angles and in several compositions. Always make sure there is natural light available, it will make products and people look most attractive. You may also find inspiration by following other (small) businesses online.  

Free stock photos
Make use of the growing number of websites with free stock photography, like Pexels or Unsplash. Use them carefully though: do not use images showcasing fashion models or products you don’t really sell. 

Easy editing tool
Canva is - if you opt for the basic version - a free tool that helps you to create and edit social images. It offers several templates to easily create visuals in the right sizes and ratios, also making it possible to include texts or other effects. 

Focus messaging on your customers

Think of posts that will inform or help your customers and topics that will inspire them. Some examples are:

  • Hygiene and precautionary measures 
  • In-store social distancing guidelines 
  • Adapted product ranges or new products 
  • Extra or adapted services (delivery, opening hours) 
  • Special deals or incentives (online orders, e.g.)
  • Lockdown menu ideas and behind the scene videos
  • Background stories (craftsmanship, heritage)
  • Local community initiatives 

Build your community

    As social media is all about interaction, start the online dialogue: be personal, ask questions and actively respond to comments. To boost your reach, ask friends and family to like your page and invite your fans and followers to share your posts.
    Interact with neighbouring businesses, as it will help you to become part of the (local) online community.

The best way to understand social media is to simply get started. That way, you will learn which topics are most interesting, understand how your customers interact and be inspired to create new content.