Getting the message out there about new product lines or promotions can seem like a hard task for merchants, but harnessing the power of social media can make a huge difference between success and failure.
Many suppliers and customers are now using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Google + to share information or find out the latest news on products and services.
Each social media platform has its own positives and negatives, and it is important to weigh up the risks of each before proceeding with a social media marketing campaign.
The main advantage of social media is cost-related. With most social media sites it is free to access, create a profile and post information. The advantage of reaching your target market with no outlay is substantial, with your audience wanting your information voluntarily following you.
Using social media allows you to post bite-sized information on a real-time basis, rather than waiting days, weeks or even months for information to be published in traditional print media.
The viral nature of social media also means that each person who reads your posts has the ability to spread the news further within their own network, so information can reach a large number of people in a relatively short time.
Social media also allows you to engage with your followers, providing an extension of in-store face-to-face advice or external customer service arms.
Take our @DunlopAdhesives and @DunlopProDecor Twitter accounts for example. These provide a great means to engage directly with our distributors and end-users, answering queries and responding to praise or criticism.
Its surprisingly quick and easy for merchants to set-up and use social media, with most accounts needing just a username, email and password to get going.
The disadvantage of social media is the time and effort it takes to run an account or multiple accounts, and it sometimes requires a senior person with knowledge about products or services to operate them on a day-to-day basis.
It is ongoing work to find interesting new angles about products or services and to post or re-post information. Furthermore posts on social networks are only visible for a short period of time before they are replaced with new posts. In addition outright advertising copy is not really suitable for social media, therefore information must be presented in a conversational form or you will lose followers.
Merchants should also be aware of the risks associated with using social media. Unless you have a dedicated person checking your social media accounts several times a day, disgruntled customers or suppliers can post negative comments which are not always removable. For example every post made on Twitter is in the public domain and cannot be removed, meaning you have no control over what people say.
Despite the risks, the benefits of using social media outweigh the negatives. It gives you a platform as a merchant to directly reach your target audience at the click of a button and interact with customers on a daily basis.
At Dunlop, our social media presence has provided us with a fantastic opportunity to foster our relationships with distributors, suppliers and end-users.
So dont wait, join the social media revolution now and get one step ahead of the competition.
Debi Boulton is brand manager at Dunlop Adhesives.