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How retailers can boost their business with Facebook

  • Technology
  • June 18, 2015
  • Elly Strang
How retailers can boost their business with Facebook
Lana Boutique's owner Alana Clarke

Facebook is a mammoth social networking website that has users ranging from 18 years old to 80 years old. It was founded in 2004 for college kids, but has since grown into an online force of nature that has more than 1.39 billion monthly users, according to Facebook.

With this many potential eyeballs to be reached, it’s one of the most popular social media platforms for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Its point of difference to other social media platforms is that businesses can communicate directly with its users through their pages.

The business can post photos, statuses, links and videos to its page and traditionally, this content would appear in the news feeds of user who had liked the page.

However, times have changed.

As of this year, Facebook has new algorithms in place that determine what posts show in a user’s news feed, regardless of whether they’ve liked the page or not.

Benji Hall, customer services director APAC at EngageSciences, says algorithms are pieces of code which make sure Facebook users see only a 'best of' selected from what their contacts have posted. The algorithm puts emphasis on displaying posts from family, close friends, popular posts, or pages a fan interacts with regularly.

The company said in a blog post that it is going to start reducing the number of overly promotional posts in users’ news feeds to improve the user experience.

Posts that Facebook says are too promotional include posts that push people to buy a product or an app, posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes and posts that reuse the same content from ads.

This means posts that promote specific services and products are unlikely to gain traction and it’s better to go down the Facebook advertising route.

Facebook ads appear as sponsored posts in the news feed and are shown to a targeted audience based on their age, location, and interests.

As for Facebook pages, businesses need to be selective and post content of value in order to reach more users.

This means focusing less on selling products and more on providing original and relevant content.

If a post isn’t getting enough interactions, there is “boost post” option.

Business owners can pay for specific Facebook posts to appear higher in the news feed, as well as target a demographic that’s relevant to their post.

Though it has its difficulties, most companies see Facebook as a valuable marketing tool.

According to Go-Gulf, 99 percent of top brands are on Facebook, compared to 69 percent on Pinterest and 59 percent on Instagram.

As well as this, 70 percent of business-to-consumer marketers have gained customers through Facebook.

Facebook users can currently buy products through pages that have third-party shopping applications, such as Shopify.

However, in a sign of what may be to come for businesses, Facebook has introduced free friend-to-friend payments over Facebook chat in the US.

Users can connect their debit cards to their Facebook messenger app and then tap a “$” button to send their friends fee-free money.

This would make users’ path to purchase from a company’s Facebook page a whole lot less complex, as customers could pay the business through bank transfer over Facebook chat.

Alana Clarke is the 25-year-old founder of Lana Boutique, a women’s clothing boutique based on the North Shore in Auckland.

Clarke founded Lana Boutique in December 2013, and the company’s Facebook page was up and running several months beforehand to create hype.

“I started following people on social media and getting them interested in the shop before it opened,” Clarke says. “You want there to be a demand and for people to go ‘When are you going to open?’”

She says on the opening day, the Takapuna-based shop was packed out.

Clarke and her team take about a third of the photos posted on social media.

She considers beautiful visuals to be important, to the point where she says she might get staff to do a photography course to be better equipped to post photos.

She also steers clear of any lengthy text posts and focuses on posting photos at least once or twice a day.

“Don’t post statuses, as they’re not going to get any traction. Keep your words simple and make it all about the image,” she says.

“But also add a video or a full album, tag your staff and tag locations, tag brands, tag as much as you can and hashtag everything.”

A lot of their photos are reposts from brands they stock to showcase new products.

“The brands I stock have really beautiful photos, so reposting their pictures gives me a huge advantage over my competitors that don’t stock those clothes,” she says.

However, she says reposting photos of clothes you don’t stock in your store is a “huge no-no.”

Funny, unrelated quotes or photos are often posted to Lana Boutique’s social media.

Clarke says this makes the brand more relatable and aspirational, rather than just a business.

“It’s not just about fashion, it’s about a whole lifestyle that people want to be a part of. You want that cult following,” she says.

Lana Boutique’s Instagram account is linked into the Facebook page and posts automatically.

When customers shop in store, Lana Boutique staff encourage them to tag the company in their photos on Facebook and Instagram so Lana Boutique can repost them.

“It’s a non-commercial way of advertising and people don’t feel pressured into it, it’s more genuine,” she says.

She says she’s found it hard to keep up with Facebook’s changing algorithms and although she has more followers on Facebook (More than 13,000 likes compared to 6878 followers on Instagram) she feels like she reaches more people on Instagram.

Clarke says that an Instagram account these days is the equivalent of a CV, as top brands look at it to ensure they’re picking the right shop to be stocked in.

“It’s not only for your customers, it’s for the brands you stock as well to show them you have the right look and feel and can influence people with fashion,” she says.

Thanks to her online CV, she now stocks brands that are exclusive to her store in New Zealand, such as Australian brands Winona and Misha.

She says she is also getting popular brands, such as Australian brand Alice McCall, now contacting her to be stocked in her shop.

This story was originally published in NZ Retail magazine issue 737, April/May 2015.

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