Social Media and Marketing Lessons from Retail Industry Expert Crystal Vilkaitis

Instant sparkle  and high energy zips across the room, phone or webinar screen when interacting with Crystal Vilkaitis, Owner of Crystal Media, as

Social Media guru Crystal Vilkaitis of Crystal Media

she opens up about her excitement over social mediat tools and her experience connecting with independent retailers over the past  2 years.   Crystal has successfully connected with hundreds of independent retailers through her informative seminars, webinars and snappy hours, all with the goal to inform and educate them on navigating the world of social media and marketing. 

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Crystal’s expertise and boundless enthusiasm for all things social media has helped countless retailers understand the benefits and reasons to increase their own customer connections and to experience the positive effects social media has on an independent retailer’s store traffic and sales.

This first in a series of posts is designed to help retailers learn and get as excited as Crystal about social media and marketing to help their business soar to new heights.  Crystal Includes her concise “to-do list” to jump start your successful social media planning! 

You have been a pioneer in the social media industry for independent retailers, tell us a little about your experience and how it can help retailers across the country.

Crystal V: I came from the social media industry and joined the retail sector about a year and a half ago. I was surprised by how slow this industry is to use social media to market. A few of my first seminars were way too advanced and I had to take a few steps back. After realizing that, it became my mission to help get retailers and vendors using social sites to market and help them learn how to effectively (and efficiently) use these tools.

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 Approximately how many retailers have you spoken to and worked with in your seminars, webinars and over the phone?

Crystal V: At least 350 across the country last year and over 500 in 2012 and it’s only March!

 What is the typical evolution of learning and growth with retailers just starting out with social media to having them feel comfortable using these tools to grow their business?

Crystal V: A lot of retailers I talk to are very fearful of social media sites both personally and professionally. There’s always fear of the unknown and these retailers typically didn’t grow up with this technology. It is a completely new space for them. In the beginning, like most businesses I’ve worked with, there needs to be some hand holding, but comfort comes with doing and one of the best things retailers can do to become familiar and comfortable with these tools is simply use them.

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In addition to the fear, a lot of retailers say they don’t have time to use these social media tools. However, if a retailer understands how to efficiently and effectively use social media, they’ll find that it doesn’t take a lot of time. In January we had a retailer panel where three successful retailers shared how they market their stores and what kind of response they’ve had from their tactics. Everyone was using Facebook. A retailer in the audience said, “I just don’t have time for Facebook” and the retailers on the panel went crazy saying, “I don’t spend more than 5 minutes a day” “you’d be shocked, it really doesn’t take that much time, I promise!” I loved seeing retailers tell other retailers their own experiences so it made using Facebook seem not as difficult. They saw that retailers were using it and seeing a response, and were only on it 5 minutes a day! If a retailer is brand new to social media marketing, it make take some extra time in the beginning to learn how everything works, but after that, it really doesn’t take a lot of time to market your store using these tools.

 From your frequent interactions with retailers, have you seen consistent challenges or stumbling blocks to using social media? What are some ways business can learn from other’s mistakes and move quickly into positive results with social media?

Crystal V: Like I said before, the first step is to get over your fear or excuses and, in the words of Nike, just do it! It’s important to know what your goals are when using these sites – Are they to announce new products when they come to your store, enhance customer service, create a platform for conversation, stay in touch daily, an outlet to promote events, sales and exclusive offers, or maybe a combination of it all? Once you know how you’re going to use these tools to market then you have a better idea of what to post and how often.

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Independent Retail seminar on Social Media -Dallas World Market Center

If you’re brand new to social media marketing, I suggest attending a few webinars or local seminars to learn how to effectively use these tools. If you take the time to learn in the beginning to understand them, you’ll save a lot of time in the future. Through these webinars/seminars you’ll most likely also learn some tools that can make it easier for you, saving you time. SnapRetail is launching a marketing calendar in March for retailers that include Facebook post ideas and email marketing campaigns because they know how busy retailers are and saw a need to help by being a tool to save time.

Can you share some specific success stories of business growth using social media?

Crystal V: One tactic that has a high rate of response is simply posting pictures of new product arrivals. During my social media seminars I talk about this tip and always ask if the audience does this for their store. I almost always had at least one retailer that has and they typically have customers come in that day to buy.  One of our retailers completely sold out of Mud Pie gloves within a day because she posted pictures on Facebook using SnapRetail’s Online Photo Albums. Through this app, Fans of a page can “Reserve” product right from the Facebook page. This retailer sold out because she made the product available via Facebook.

Another great way to drive traffic to your store using a Facebook page is by posting exclusive, time-sensitive offers. One example of this is a furniture retailer outside of Chicago I talked to who was having the hardest time selling a chair. He marked it down, moved it to different areas of the store but still couldn’t sell it. One day he took a picture of it with his Smartphone, posted the picture to his Facebook page and said, “Today only, 15% off!” He sold the chair that day.

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 Can you provide a top 5  “TO DO LIST” of what every retailer should be doing  for a successful launch into social media to market their business:

Crystal V:

  • Set goals!
  • Find the social sites that are right for you/your store (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, a blog, are the top favorites and most frequently used )
  • Decide what you want to use these social sites for-and be specific here, no vague statements like increase business (customer service, showcasing new products, channel for exclusive offers, promote events, or a combination of all)
  • Set up tools that will help save time (Hootsuite)
  • Most importantly be authentic and personable when you post to these sites, people will connect with the content more and build longer lasting relationships.

 Part 2 in this series dives into the benefits of specific social media tools.  Can you share any of your successes with launching into social media?