How to Increase Retail Sales: Optimizing Your Social Content Strategy (Pt. 3)

By: on November 16, 2016

Promoting your content marketing on social media can do wonders for your retail business, whether it’s e-commerce or brick-and-mortar. But it’s not quite as simple as tossing up a funny meme here and there (unless the situation calls for it).

To effectively use content marketing on social media, you need to ask key questions about your audience. What are users looking for on social media? And even more important, what makes users click on or follow something they hadn’t previously been looking for?

This is the third part of our retail social media marketing series, and in it, we’re covering how to create a social content strategy.

In part one, we look at how to determine which customers to target. Part two discusses finding customers online via social platforms. We encourage you to use all of these retail social media marketing articles as stepping stones for embarking or revamping your current plan.

Why You Need a Social Media Content Strategy

To begin with, you need to target your customers, and go where they are. Then you need to engage them with compelling messaging. This content creation component is the fun part of your social strategy. This is where you get to write your witty messaging or share a funny meme that’s relevant to your store.

“Once you have identified and targeted your audience, it must be given something to drive response and engagement. As in any conversation, attention must be paid to serving up a dialogue that will create value for everyone involved.”

Julie Hopkins, retail analyst at Gartner

If you’re unfamiliar with Gartner, they are a research and advisory firm that is trusted by some of the world’s largest retailers to consult on software and technology trends.

This quote from Hopkins’ report, “Use This Formula to Focus Your Social Marketing Strategy” (available to Gartner clients), illustrates the importance of a social media content strategy.

What you’re trying to do is “drive response and engagement.” Your social media channels offer many opportunities to engage multiple customers. You can work with various content types in order to drive desired next actions.

Next actions are the ROI for your social marketing, and they need to be well defined. In other words, you need to set objectives for each post/social campaign.

“Content decisions cannot be made independent of objectives, or the network or site where you hope to engage your audience,” says Hopkins.

To ensure your content is on point, be sure to follow the social media retail marketing best practices included in the next three sections.

Understand Your Audience’s Desired Content Marketing Messaging

As an SMB retailer, you don’t have the same tools and resources as the big box guys. They have entire business units dedicated to learning and testing social media content. You have yourself and maybe a couple more employees to help.

For that reason, a quick and effective way to determine your content and messaging is to look at what your competitors are doing, and understand what resonates with your desired audience/customers.

Hopkins offers some questions that you could answer about your competitors’ social presence to help inform your own effective social content strategy:

  • What content types, subject and general messaging drive the most social customer engagement for your competitors? (And across what platforms?)
    • What content types or subjects are overdone?
      • Which popular pre-existing dialogues can you build upon and take in new directions?
        • What communities are your competitors engaging that you could also target?
          • What type of social content marketing materials are your competitors using to highlight and improve your relationships with vendors/suppliers?

          For example, if you specialize in homebrewing equipment, look around multiple social channels for popular homebrewing content. Ask yourself what the point of that content is, and understand what could be relevant to your brand.

          Is there a logical next action that someone consuming the content could take to further their experience and engagement? Are your competitors tagging specific homebrewing communities or actual social groups in their posts?

          Answering these questions will help jumpstart your social content ideation and make sure you’re putting out content that can engage customers and hopefully incite next actions.

          Determine What You Want to Achieve With Each Interaction

          Once you understand what content will resonate most with your customers/audience, it’s time to tie some next actions to them. After all, these next actions are the ROI for your social strategy. It’s why you take the time to do social posts.

          You can get a sense of what your audience is willing to take on as a next action by reviewing competitor postings. But it’s important that the next actions you’re asking for match your brand.

          Hopkins offers some helpful examples of how you can test the relevance and effectiveness of next actions for specific audiences on social media.

          “Begin by taking into account the content your audience is seeking, the goal you’re seeking to achieve through engagement, and the natural strengths of the property where you’ll engage,” Hopkins says.

          An example of an effective call to action on Facebook, via Wishpond


          She gives the example of a beauty brand looking to increase sales.

          “[A company] might court user-generated video product reviews or usage tips from bloggers, and publish them in a common space (such as a YouTube channel or microsite), with links to purchase highlighted products,” she says.

          This idea of sourcing user-generated content is a popular one today given the prevalence of consumers posting product-specific content online. And tying that with an easy to use (and track) purchase button means that curating this content can have a direct and immediate impact on your bottom line.

          Another example Hopkins notes can be employed to increase customer loyalty, thus driving purchases from repeat customers.

          “A global coffee brand sponsored a series of in-person events featuring master baristas. The brand captured their expertise on video, and in a series of ‘how to’ articles and custom recipes, that could be published and shared in multiple formats.”

          The intended effect of the videos is to inspire owners of the brand’s machines and identify with that brand, as they learn how to make new coffee drinks and purchase the equipment and ingredients to do so.

          In both cases, the next action is directly and clearly laid out for both the social post’s execution and performance and for the customer to logically continue on to purchase.

          Employ Social Media Content Optimization to Inspire a Next Action

          You can spend countless time and energy researching audience desires and best next actions. This can include combing through tons of competitor posts, theorizing what next actions your audience/customers are willing to take, and reading research studies and reports.

          While these are valuable ways to improve the effectiveness of your posts, nothing quite beats getting posts out there and monitoring their performance.

          You’ll want to constantly monitor posts to see what works and what doesn’t. From these findings, you’ll be able to adjust your messaging and your next actions. But that’s not all you can optimize.

          Ann Smarty, brand manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas, an internet marketing consultation firm, offers a well-rounded social content optimization strategy you can employ for each social campaign you run. Her recommendations include:

          Determine targeted keywords for each post: Keyword research is the art of singling out and targeting specific keywords or keyword phrases with your content. You can hone in on words or phrases that your target audience cares about to optimize the visibility of your posts.

          “Social keyword research is a more specified form of research that will give you a good foundation for catching the eye of social followers (or potential followers),” Smarty says.

          Establish and monitor performance metrics: Whether you hire a third party like Internet Marketing Ninjas or simply use the analytics tools included in your business-level social platforms, you need to be tracking the success of your posts against various metrics. This is especially true for drilling down to what messaging, types and next actions are best for specific platforms.

          “You will discover what form of content and use works for each [social platform], and then use the one that works best,” Smarty says. “You are setting up several social media content campaigns individualized for the followers on each platform. This has the added benefit of allowing you to use each network for something for which it is suited.”

          Create a content agenda for easy management: Smarty’s final social content optimization tactic is one we practice right here at Software Advice.

          Editorial calendars provide unparalleled insights into what’s coming down the pipeline, what’s in the pipeline and what already ran through the pipeline. It’s a great place to keep and track key social marketing content details such as target audiences, content titles and types, platforms for publishing, keywords and anything else you’d like to add.

          “I am a big believer in having an editorial calendar for every piece of work drafted, or that will be drafted in the future,” Smarty says. “Incorporating a social element into that calendar is a great idea. It will turn an incomplete strategy into one that is completely integrated.”

          If you monitor these three tactics and track the success of next actions and degree of audience engagement, you’ll be well on your way to a profitable and effective social strategy.

          Final Thoughts

          It might seem like a lot of legwork upfront, but thinking about your social content in the context of the measurements described above will help you hone in on your messages and audience to deliver truly engaging and inspiring social marketing content.

          Also hugely beneficial is the use of marketing software to help create, publish, track and record post performance. Many retail POS systems on the market today offer built-in marketing tools to assist you along your social marketing journey.

          If you’re happy with your POS system, you could also consider adopting stand alone social marketing software to help you along your path.

          You may also like:

          How To Increase Retail Sales: Using Retail Social Media Marketing (Pt. 1)

          How To Increase Retail Sales: Using Retail Social Media Marketing Pt. 2

          Is Your Retail Customer Experience Driving Customers Away?

          Compare Retail POS Software