When someone engages with your brand on social media, they are directly asking you to close the sale.

DeAnna McIntosh, The Affinity Group International

I woke up this morning wanting to shop small businesses and shop local. I spent two hours scrolling through the #madeinatl and #madeinatlanta hashtags to find local Atlanta brands to support and purchase from.

We, as business owners, have to be conscious of everyone who engages with our pages. I saw lots of posts with comments and no responses from the business owner, one with all caps screaming for them to answer their DMs, and even compliments on the product image with no “thank you’s” or encouragement to purchase.

3 Reasons to Engage with Every Single Person on Your Social Media Pages:

1) You never know who is watching.

I spearheaded a local assortment sourcing and procurement project for Office Depot in 2017 where I sourced local Austin, Texas brands to carry in our 13 Austin retail stores.  If you’ve never visited Austin, I highly recommend because you will experience a true sense of community. Inside of the merchandise retailers you shop you will find local brands, and that is so incredibly refreshing!  I sourced brands of different sizes who were made (and still remain) and manufactured in Austin, Texas.

I visited the Epic Provisions headquarters and I brought in their yummy and unique savory goodies like their hickory smoked bacon bites and their turkey cranberry sage strips.  I stopped by the headquarters of Newton Supply Co. and fell in love with their waxed canvas bags (became a customer myself), which I brought into our stores, along with some totes.

newton supply co

Newton Supply Co hand makes ethically made waxed canvas bags + printed goods in Austin, Texas. @newtonsupplyco

Newton Supply Co. has an amazing partnership with Open Arms, a division of the Multicultural Refugee Coalition.  Open Arms empowers refugee women by providing living wage employment and it was so rewarding for us to support this cause

through our purchasing.  Another great brand I sourced was The Burlap Bag, who also had the cutest store in Austin selling local goods!  They have their own line of candles with the funniest names:  Clean Freak, Crazy Cat Lady, Unicorn Puke, and Gimme Coffee to name a few!

Buyers are watching.

Where did I find quite a few of the local brands for our stores? INSTAGRAM. This is why it is critical that you are effectively branding yourself on your social pages.  The branding definition from the Business Dictionary is the process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.

During my Instagram search, I commented on the brand’s posts to see if they responded to me, to others, and if the comments were overall positive.  Reviews from customers on social media is more important than on a brand’s website, because it was customer-driven and likely raw and “real” commentary.  Yes, I reviewed their number of Instagram followers, but that was not on the top of my list of importance.  I was searching for their unique and well-rounded product offering, price points, Instagram captions, and my ability to visualize our store placement + customer reaction to the items I wanted to purchase.

2)  People know people who know people.

This saying is cliche, but true!  All it takes is one word of mouth referral from one person to the “right” person that could turn your business upside down – for the better.  Word of mouth marketing is your strongest form of small business marketing.  While I personally may not be your customer today, I am connected with numerous buyers from Fortune 500 companies who could call me tomorrow and ask if I know any emerging brands.  Or they could ask if I’ve seen any unique, high margin products they could carry in their store.  I would then search my Instagram for those brands I commented on and followed.  At The Affinity Group International we have retail clients we could refer to you.  We have clients who service large retailers and TV networks.  We produce our own pop up marketplace and are thinking about doing another one soon.  If so, that is an opportunity for you to get your brand in front of more customers.  I think you get the idea!

3)  Your potential customer is directly asking you to close the sale.

This is the mindset you should have with every person who engages you on social media.  They already started their customer journey by engaging YOU.  Look at that as marketing dollars saved!  You did not have to spend money on Google Adwords, social media ads, paying an online marketer, or even classified ads (yes people still use those surprisingly!).  The customer came to you.  Now, it is up to you to continue the amazing customer experience by responding to their engagement.

4 Ways to Engage with Every Single Person on Your Social Media Pages:

1) If they comment with an emoji, heart the comment or respond back with an emoji.
instagram comment
2) If they leave a written comment of any kind, respond directly addressing their comment.  Respond even if you are not interested or it doesn’t seem like a follower you need.  If the person leaves a negative comment, thank them for their feedback and ensure them you are working to solve the issue.  Leave them your customer service email and address their concern immediately.  DM them if you have to!

instagram comments

 

3) If they ask a product or service – related question, respond addressing their comment and add features and benefits to convince them to purchase.

instagram comments

 

4) If they leave a review, take a screenshot and make a story about it and tag the customer as a thank you.

instagam stories

Give us your ideas on how to engage with customers on social media in the comments!

DeAnna McIntosh, Chief Global Strategist at The Affinity Group International, is a driven, entrepreneurial, and creative brand strategist with a strong eye for design, and over 13 years of progressive experience in merchandising, marketing, and event management. Her proven results as a strategist for numerous Fortune ranking retailers will drive tangible growth for your business from day one.

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