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Retailers, experts offer social media do's and don'ts

Top tips: Be creative, tone down the hard sell

HIGH POINT — Furniture stores today can't afford to ignore the Internet nor deny the ever-growing importance of social media as the consumer's go-to tool for inspiration, reviews, communication and shopping.

But not every attempt and idea for reaching out to potential customers through this vital venue is a good one.

With that in mind, Furniture/Today did a little reaching out of its own and asked retailers and online industry marketing experts to give us their best social media do's and don'ts. 

Their main message: tone down the hard selling, respond quickly to consumers, use lots of photos and videos to entice them, and be creative - and, perhaps, unexpected - in what you say to your fans on Facebook and elsewhere.

For more on this story, see a series of video interviews at FurnitureToday.com, featuring leaders from Wayfair.com, MicroD, NetSertive and others. (Click here to see videos of both the do's and the don'ts.)

 Image of Scott PerryScott Perry

Scott Perry, director of online marketing for San Diego-based Jerome's, started with, "Do have a plan," and "Use video in Facebook posts and other social media because video is very engaging."

Also, use the image-oriented Pinterest, Perry said. "This is the furniture customer

demographic sweet spot for social media." Jerome's Pinterest page features hundreds of product images, mostly from its store, as well as decorating tips.

Other "do" suggestions from Perry:

• Use the big social media channels Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Houzz.

 San Diego-based Jerome’s uses social media venues including Pinterest to showcase its offerings as well as to offer decorating ideas.San Diego-based Jerome’s uses social media venues including Pinterest to showcase its offerings as well as to offer decorating ideas.

• Pay attention to analytics; watch what gets likes, comments, etc.

• Think outside the box. "Sometimes a silly post gets 10 times the action of a regular post showing a new item," he said.

As for things not to do, Perry said, don't be spammy and "don't forget to thank people or add comments when people say nice things." Also:

• Don't let negative comments live on your social outlets. "Hide or remove bad comments from difficult customers if you can or if you can't respond in a positive helpful manner." (Some sources, however offer the opposite advice to this one.)

• Don't pay people for reviews or fake comments. "Customers can tell when you do this and it is not good for trust, plus it's just dishonest," he said.

• Don't bad mouth customers, vendors or anybody.

• Don't post too much. Perry said to "throttle it to once a day" and make sure the content is worthy of the consumer's time.

 Image of Kady AndersonKady Anderson

Kady Anderson, marketing coordinator for the two-store Sam's Furniture & Appliance in Fort Worth, Texas, developed some rules of thumb from her graduate research on the subject of social media.

Be conversational, not promotional, Anderson said.

"The goal is to create engagement and conversations through the content you post. For every one promotional piece of content or message that you use, you should have at least three non-promotional pieces of content that are helpful, insightful or entertaining," she said.

Anderson also recommends these do's:

• "Listen. Always react and respond to what your audience is saying or talking about," she said, and monitor those conversations, especially with your customers. When customers contact you via social media, they expect a quicker response time than if they had reached out to you by email or via a general online contact form.

• "Offer educational content that is useful. In the furniture industry the possibilities are endless for creating helpful content for customers. Incorporating blog articles that highlight how-to's, frequently asked questions and lists are helpful without directly promoting your company." Anderson said this is the type of content that builds your brand without coming off as blatant advertising.

• "Be visual. Text-based statuses and posts are much harder to connect with and relate to," she says. Images and videos are easier for consumers to interact with and enjoy.

• "Have a voice/personality." Writing for social media is different from writing formal copy or a press release, Anderson said. "Keep it simple and add your personality to your updates. Just make sure it is consistent and relevant to your audience."

Anderson also said retailers should treat the various social media platforms differently. "Content that is great for Facebook users might not appeal to Twitter users since people use these platforms differently and for different reasons," she said.

On the other hand, her first rule for what not to do is: "Don't delete negative content," with the exception of vulgar or offensive comments.

Deleting the negative is akin to "hanging up on an upset customer on the phone," she said. "It will only make the situation worse." Better to respond and ask them to contact you to resolve the issue privately, she added.

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