Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bridging the Generational Gap with Social Media

Lisa Richter, Owner of Life by Lisa
You’ve seen how social media effects local bars and vintage stores, but what about women’s clothing. In May of 2013, 74% of women were users of social networking sites, compared with 62% of men (PewResearch). This is part of the reason why I feel LBL (Life by Lisa) has been so successful, women love social media. The other night I was able to sit down with Lisa Richter, the owner of LBL. Lisa lives and breathes everything fashion. She was practically born and raised in a fitting room. Lisa’s mother, Mary Lou Richter, owned Saxony in Charles City. After attending Hawkeye Community College for a year, Lisa decided to start her modeling career and moved to New York City, and then shortly thereafter she moved to Milan for five years. She learned so much about fashion and the business, which is reflected in her store. After Lisa’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and her father had a massive heart attack, she moved back home to manage her mother’s store, where she fell in love with the business aspect of fashion. In 2009, after her father passed away, she decided to take $4,000 and open her own business.

Lisa’s goal when opening LBL was to give people fashionable, affordable, goods, keeping the cost under $50. She wanted to bring the big fashion world that she worked in for so many years to the Cedar Valley. Small towns like Cedar Falls should be able to keep up with the big cities, and not have to spend a fortune. She gave the example of a jacket they had in the store, which looked very similar to a Coach jacket. The Coach brand cost $1,500; the jacket in LBL cost $35. Lisa also kept the tradition that her mother started in 1967 of selling wigs. LBL is now the largest wig retailer in Iowa.

In a mere five years, LBL has gained 4,482 likes on Facebook and 65 followers on Twitter. When I asked Lisa about her social media tactics, she stated that it was very strenuous for her. “I’m in a generational gap,” said Lisa. “I’m 38 and didn’t get my first cell phone until I was 21.” Even though Lisa finds posting to the LBL Facebook page stressful, it has definitely been working. She mentioned that Facebook is their best platform. Lisa will post a photo of a new item, along with the price, and it blows peoples mind how reasonable the prices are. Girls from all over the country will call the store asking about an item and how to get a hold of it. LBL does not have a webpage, but will hopefully have one up and running this fall. Lisa stated that there is a lot of time and money that goes into having an e-commerce presence, which is why she will be having someone manage it.

LBL sells to women of all ages. The ages range from the young teenage girls to the little old ladies looking to buy a wig. Since their audience ranges in all ages, Lisa still does print advertising and radio commercials. “People read in the winter and drive their cars in the summer, so we do print in the winter and radio in the summer,” stated Lisa. They also do a lot of advertising during the holiday season. “I would also love to do commercials, but the cost is too high and there are so many channels,” said Lisa.

The cost of traditional advertising is one of the reasons why Lisa uses social media so much. She finds that whenever she takes pictures of girls in clothes, it drives the most engagement. “People love seeing real people in the clothes, rather than a model,” said Lisa. “Girls also love having their picture taken.” People get a sense of what to expect in the store just by looking at the LBL Facebook page. Lisa always makes sure to ask a girl if she is okay with any picture being taken to be put on social media, and she hasn't had anyone say no yet. “We had an instance where a girl came in and tried on two dresses,” said Lisa. “We took pictures of her in both and posted them to our Facebook page. She bought one of the dresses, but the one that she didn't buy got 40 likes on Facebook. She came back in the next day and bought the dress.” That type of story shows the power of social media, especially on the consumer and their buying power.

Lisa is a chameleon when it comes to learning about social media. She has been to a bunch of Google meetings and seminars on social media. She mostly learns from her eyes and past experiences. She also checks out other stores Facebook pages, like Nasty Gal. She will also carry around a notebook to write down a one liner that she sees and may someday want to use in a post. Lisa is a strong believer in internships and hands on work, and believes that is the best way to learn versus a classroom setting. Lisa’s husband, Nathan, is eight years younger and helps her quite a bit with social media as well, especially Twitter. “Twitter is just hard for me to grasp, I mean I remember when faxes came out!” laughed Lisa.

Promotional items on Facebook are hit and miss for LBL. For every 1,000 likes she will send a $25 gift certificate to that person. They had a promotion over the holidays to where if you bought $100 in gift certificates you received a free $20 gift certificate, but you had to mention it. Only three people claimed that offer. She has found that the “buy one, get one” offers work a lot better. No matter what Lisa posts on Facebook, someone is bound to come in with their phone, bring up a picture and ask where that item is. “It happens on a daily basis, girls take a lot of screenshots,” commented Lisa. She also prefers direct mail pieces over email. “I personally don’t like to read emails, and I don’t want my customers to feel that way, which is why I send out coupons,” said Lisa. “Girls will remember a coupon; it’s no different than the free panty coupon that Victoria Secret’s send out.”

A big thanks to Lisa for letting me interview her. Make sure to stop by LBL located at 321 Main Street, Cedar Falls. They're open Monday-Friday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Comments, Likes, & Shares....Oh My!

My last post was discussing what exactly helps make a great post that people will actually like, comment, share, etc. But if anyone is like me, I want to see examples. So I've searched long and hard for a few great Facebook posts. Some met the guidelines from my last post, some did not.

My first Facebook post is from the Quinebaug Valley Veterinary Hospital, LLC out of Danielson, Connecticut. Their Facebook page is already impressive with over 1,600 likes, but this post is great. Why?
1. It's short.
2. It has a photo.
3. It asks a question at the end. 
The post had 14 likes, but the impressive part is that it had 62 comments with people guessing this dogs name. The more people comment, the more likely it will show up in their news feed to their friends, and then they will comment as well. You can see at the bottom that over 1,600 people saw this photo. Great exposure!

This is one of the simplest Facebook post I've ever seen. And I know, this is Coca-Cola, they only have 81 million fans on Facebook so it's easy for them to get shares or likes. Not exactly, people don't trust those big corporations like Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, or Target. But they do trust a small town, locally owned business. And they are way more likely to share something you post, than a corporation. Do not think that just because you are a small business that you are a underdog when it comes to social media. All Coca-Cola did was throw two pictures into a collage and tell people to share it, and over 1,500 people did. Very Simple.

What about actual local businesses in the Cedar Valley? Well here is a post from Miss Wonderful last week. They're advertising their latest furniture pieces in the store. 19 likes, 1 share, and 3 comments is not too shabby for a picture of a couch and chair. And if you remember from my blog about Miss Wonderful, Tara mentioned that once people see an item like this on their Facebook they have to come in and buy it immediately before they get "vintage regret." So yes, it is possible to actually sell your products on Facebook, but it's all about the approach. You can't seem pushy, the post must seem genuine. 

What about campaigns? One of my favorite social media campaigns are photo contests. People love sharing their lives, and other people love to look at those lives. Social House asked their fans to submit a photo of their own Halloween costume. The top three photos with the most likes received a bar tab courtesy of Social House. This is a great campaign because you then have fans promoting themselves by sharing their photo with friends. This contest received 963 likes, 8 comments, and 44 shares. Those numbers are huge for a small business. Any company could do something like this and just change the prize to fit your company.

Great Facebook posts do not take hours of planning, just a little creativity and promotion. And once again, it is all trial and error. Sometimes a post of campaign will succeed, sometimes it will flop. Just keep learning! Good Luck! Stay tuned for my next blog, an interview with the owner of LBL, Lisa Richter

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How to Create a Great Facebook Post

After reading a few blogs from Constant Contact, Social Media Today, the Social Media Examiner, and from my personal experience, I've been able to come up with these "guidelines" as to what makes a great Facebook post. Keep in mind that these are guidelines, every business is different, and you must cater your social media to your customers. This is why you must experiment and find out what works for you business and what doesn't.

Photo from Perry Manku, Social Media & SEO Consultant
Click Here for Photo

-Keep it short. It has been proven that people don’t read anything over 140 characters. Last month on the Constant Contact Facebook page, posts with less than 140 characters received an average of 215 percent more engagement than longer posts (192 percent for the last 8 months.) When posting focus on what is the most important aspect or what will grab people’s attention that they will want to click on it. If you want to check how many characters you are at paste it into Twitter or Microsoft Word first.

-Pictures, Pictures, Pictures. Facebook has reported that photos, photo albums, and videos get 120 percent, 180 percent, and 100 percent more engagement than links and text-only posts. This is crucial. Instead of just posting a link, you need to post a photo first and then add the link. People love pictures and are more likely to engage versus links or text. Let a photo do the talking.

Tip: 403 x 403px is the perfect image size for Facebook Timeline BUT Facebook recommends that you use higher quality images that are 600 x 600px. You can always re-position a photo though to show the best part.
Tip: You can also use http://www.picmonkey.com/ to create collages and Facebook cover photos.

-Tell your fans what you want them to do. Posts that ask fans to…
Comment = 3.3x more comments
Share = 7x more shares
Like = 3x more likes
Caption this photo = 5.5x more comments
Think beyond literal calls-to-action. Try asking fans to fill-in-the-blank, give you a “thumbs up,” or answer a true or false question.

-Have conversations with your fans. To have a successful Facebook Page, it’s absolutely critical that you genuinely care about your fans. You need to comment back or respond to their tweets. The more engaged a business is with their customers, the more a customer will engage with them. 

-Post at Times Ideal for Your Fans. The optimal time to post on Facebook is between 1:00 pm and 3:00
pm, when Facebook traffic peaks. Links posted between 1 and 4 pm get the highest click-through rates, with Wednesday at 3:00 pm being the best time to post all week. Links posted before 8:00 am and after 8:00 pm are less likely to get shared. Engagement rates are 18% higher on Thursday and Friday.

-Make sure you post enough content to stay visible in the news feed without annoying your fans. The average Facebook post lifespan is 3 hours, although this varies by page. A post is considered “alive” when it’s occupying the news feed or is a Highlighted Story and receiving a continuous stream of engagement. A post is considered “dead” when its engagement stops growing more than 10% per hour.
How do you find your average post lifespan? http://edgerankchecker.com/edgerank/gopro

-Use the Right Words for Higher Engagement. Buddy Media found that action keywords like “post,” “comment,” “take,” “submit,” “like” or “tell us” are the most effective. Be direct in your request, and fans will listen. Softer-sell keywords such as “winner,” “win,” “winning” and “events” will make fans excited rather than feeling like they’re being sold to. Aggressive promotional keywords like “contest,” “promotion,” “sweepstakes” and “coupon” will turn them off.

-Ask Questions. Questions placed at the end of a post increased engagement by 15% over questions placed at the beginning. “Where,” “when” and “should” drive the highest engagement rates, with “would” generating the most likes. Avoid asking “why” questions, which have the lowest like and comment rates.

So there you have it folks, the secrets to creating great Facebook posts. I really hope that some of these tips help your small business succeed! Good Luck!