Small companies seeking more expansive reach should consider boosting their social media presence, according to a number of insiders. It’s relatively inexpensive and can help to turbocharge sales, they say.
Kristen Scalia, owner of Kanibal & Co. — a Jersey City brick-and-mortar boutique store with a big online presence — sees social media as a complement to her physical presence. “Online activity gives you a larger audience and lets you stretch your reach,” she noted. “But a physical shop lets customers touch, see and try on products; and enables me to deliver a higher level of customer service.”
The store stocks a rotating collection of goods that represent emerging trends as well ones rooted in tradition –from apparel and accessories to home furnishings and fine jewelry – “but the bones that make up Kanibal & Co. are its locally made products and curated findings,” she adds. “Our primary social media vehicle is Instagram, which is a good fit because we get new material in daily, and frequently change over our displays. Our inventory turnover is high, which helps to drive foot and online traffic, since people enjoy seeing what’s new and know that they have to either order or reserve items quickly, before they get snatched up. We help them by posting daily and by updating what’s around the shop.”
She also makes it more personal by periodically highlighting the craftspeople behind the displays, helping to deepen her connections with customers.
But social media isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, she cautions.
“Think about the customer you want to attract, then use the platform and space to draw them to you,” Scalia advises. “Some demographics are attracted to Facebook, others to TikTok [a social media platform generally used to make short-form videos]. Our customers tend to be middle- or upper-Millennials, in their 20s to early 40s, but you have to monitor your traffic and comments because that may change.”
The content on Instagram and other social media platforms may focus on the short-term, but the customer relationships can last a long time, she added. “Jersey City is a vibrant community, and a lot of our drop-in customers heard about us online. But even when customers move away, they still want to know what’s in the store, and they stay current with our social media presence, and continue to buy one-of-a-kind and other merchandise from us.”
Today, a social media presence isn’t just an option, according to Jonathan Jaffe, CEO and founder of Jaffe Communications, which provides public relations, branding and other services. “It is critical for small businesses to have a social media presence based on the potential reach to customers and the nominal cost,” he said. “Social media also provides instant and ongoing data if your message is having an impact. It is a far cry from the days of print advertising, where small business would spend limited advertising resources without the assurance of hitting the right market.”
Companies should only post “when they have something special to say,” he added. “There is no specific number of posts per week, per se. But a business should always be looking for something compelling to say, and generate a number of ‘Likes’ on Facebook or other platforms to show consistent interest. If a business sees it is not gaining traction on social media, it may be oversaturating the market with the wrong messages. Keep it bright, fun and new, which will attract consumer interest.”
Jaffe Communications has “a number of social media clients in which we develop the content strategy and manage the campaign on their behalf, providing analytics and other real data to gauge impact,” he noted. The biggest obstacle to getting small- to medium-sized businesses to adopt social media is having them focus. Smaller businesses have leadership and employees playing many roles, and rarely have the time to take a step back, be creative and reflect on some innovative social media strategies. That is why many of these companies rely on third-party vendors to coordinate their campaigns on their behalf.”
When the state Business Action Center decided to revamp its social media approach to attract more followers and create more live interactions with business owners, Violet PR was able to help, according to Violet Account Director Christina Forrest. “In addition to drafting content and retweeting helping info, the NJBAC answered questions during live ‘Twitter Chats,’ communicated with businesses through Instagram and distributed timely information through the NJBAC’s LinkedIn page. Through social media, businesses found about the NJBAC’s ‘live chat,’ where business experts answered questions in real time.
In 2020, the public relations firm “grew the BAC’s Twitter following from 1,200 to 2,346 — an increase of 95% from the previous year,” she added. “Our top tweet in 2020, which highlighted the NJBAC’s helpline, reached 153,000 people, receiving 109 retweets and 822 ‘likes.’ On average, we reached 250,000 Twitter users and 170,000 LinkedIn users each month, an engagement increase of 75% compared to 2019.”
Certain demographics are drawn to certain platforms, she noted. “Instagram taps into Millennials, while Facebook tends to appeal to Baby Boomers. LinkedIn attracts both younger-generation jobseekers, and older executives who want to establish themselves as thought leaders.”
Regardless of the service or industry. “Social media can help expand brand awareness,” Forrest added. “It humanizes a brand, and properly done, social media can convey what they trying to sell, and establish the brand as a thought leader.”
Pipeline to clients
“A.J. Perri was an early adopter of social media and Internet marketing, recognizing its potential to support the company’s other marketing efforts,” according to Debbie Kern, director of marketing at the 325-employee company. “We have had a robust website for more than 20 years, an educational blog that is updated several times per month, and an active social media presence with thousands of followers.”
A.J. Perri is primarily active on Facebook and Twitter, “given that these have shown to be most effective in reaching our residential customers,” she added. “We are also active on LinkedIn and Google My Business, where we have gained over 6,400 reviews and favorable ratings.”
The company posts about five times a week, “including some weekend days,” Kern noted, “since that earns the best engagement. Each month we run five dedicated paid social media campaigns via Facebook, along with two blog post promotions to boost brand awareness. We keep our social media strategy fairly simple — we mix in promotional content that includes monthly deals and promotions, while also showcasing the company’s considerable community advocacy and outreach. For example, through our A.J. Perri Cares program, we donate free plumbing and HVAC equipment to deserving veterans in need, and highlight these efforts in our social media. Many of our Internet marketing strategies have been shared within the network of our nationwide parent company, American Residential Services, as examples of industry best practice.”
Added Kern, “Social media plays an important role in our growth. In 2021 alone, we have generated more than 33,000 link clicks to the A.J. Perri website, directly resulting in hundreds of appointment calls that can be attributed to our social media activities. Our Facebook ads have generated more than 885,000 video views, further increasing brand recognition and awareness. Efforts like these have made A.J. Perri a household name in New Jersey, and our revenue has climbed nearly 200% throughout the past decade.”
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