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Social Norms

Social media isn’t a fad. It’s the new media and must be a vital part of any retailer and wholesaler’s marketing strategy.

Social media isn’t a fad. It’s the new media and must be a vital part of any retailer and wholesaler’s marketing strategy. The fact is fewer and fewer people head home after work and flip on the evening news for a trusted journalist to tell them what’s going on in the world. Nor are they likely to pick up a copy of the morning newspaper to read about what happened yesterday—not when their Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. feeds are all abuzz about whatever might have been newsworthy in real time. People are increasingly likely to rely on their “friends” to be their sources of news information, just as they are more receptive of an influencer telling them what to buy, see or do than some commercial on TV. (Does anyone even “watch” commercials anymore?) Welcome to the new social media world order.

We live in a digital-savvy age, and business owners must embrace the new communication platforms to reach out to consumers and develop meaningful relationships. Refusal to do so comes with risks—starting with giving competitors who are embracing social media a big head start. Having a website, a Facebook page, an Instagram account, a Twitter feed or all of the above is not nearly enough. It’s how you use these platforms that makes all the difference. Are you posting regularly? Are you enticing responses? Are you answering back? Are you, for example, using Instagram Live? Because video looks to be the new black when it comes to communicating with consumers. People today want their information raw, uncut and unedited. They want it “real” and in real time. Consumers, especially Millennials, want to get to know the people behind the brands and storefronts. They want to buy more than just a product. They want to buy into a story, and social media makes telling it more affordable, continuous and in-depth than ads in a Sunday circular or pricey 30-second spots on TV ever could. 

If going a little TMZ-ish in your social media efforts seems daunting or time-consuming, pick one medium to focus on. I recommend Instagram, which has been a sweet spot for igniting sales. According to a recent study by Dana Rebecca Designs that measured the impact of social media on consumer shopping behaviors, 85 percent of 2,000 Instagram users surveyed follow accounts that are style, fashion or lifestyle-focused. More importantly, 72 percent said they have made fashion, beauty or style-related purchases after seeing something on Instagram, with the most-purchased categories being clothing, makeup, shoes and jewelry.

If this concept seems foreign to you, you may be missing an easy promotional opportunity. Millions of consumers are already regularly on Instagram, and you should be too—reaching out, enticing and assisting them.

Beyond social media protocols like well-composed photos, witty captions and frequent posting, this month’s issue highlights the growing importance of influencers as well. Our Special Report (p. 10) reveals how influencers can be an effective and relatively affordable marketing tool. We went straight to the source, asking influencers what they are looking for in a partnership, including where to connect, how to make a deal that’s good for both parties and what to avoid. Whether you’re looking to launch a new item, promote a store or just boost brand awareness, influencers can help get the word out.

Just ask Harald Husum, president and founder of Appaman and the subject of this month’s Q&A (p. 14). He knows the power of influencers firsthand. The company owes much of its early success to being adopted by A-list celebrity parents (Angelina Jolie, Gwen Stefani, Gwyneth Paltrow, to name drop a few) who outfitted their offspring in the company’s trendy apparel and accessories. Talk about influential; it put Appaman on the map. The company’s rise from a lark item startup run by a husband-and-wife duo with zero industry experience to what is now a children’s fashion powerhouse is inspiring. It’s a refreshing reminder that it can still be done. The willingness to pursue a dream along with talent, hard work, persistence and passion are the pillars to a successful business.

Running a business is like running a collection of races all at once. Whether it’s being first to market, beating the weekly draw, besting comp-stores sales, garnering more shelf space, topping last year’s quarter, crushing the competition…it’s always a race to see who wins, and winning is everything. Retail is the antithesis of a zero-sum game. It’s why highly competitive people are drawn to this industry, and the data analytics now available at our fingertips—thanks largely to social media—has only heightened the competition. So I say use it or lose it.

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