Do it Best market builds ‘social’ skills

Tips to compete and win in the Twittersphere, and beyond
Kenneth Clark
Editor in Chief
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Sam and Meg
Samantha Post, left, and Meg Taylor Walbridge demonstrated social skills in Orlando.

ORLANDO—Two hardware store retailers who grew up with tweeting, posting and Instagramming, and one veteran marketing executive who freely admitted that he did not, shared advice for retailers who want to make the most of their social media efforts.

The good news: The panelists unanimously agreed that an independent hardware store can compete and win in the social media game on the local level against the national giants, even with their massive marketing departments. But it takes commitment.

Speaking on the panel were Meg Taylor Walbridge of Taylor’s Do it Center and Pleasants Hardware of Virginia; Samantha Post, of T & M Hardware & Rental of Ohio; and Bill Brunelle, of Independent We Stand.

Above: Five ways to prevent frozen pipes, by T & M Hardware’s Samantha Post.

“You can compete with Home Depot and Lowe’s, but you have to be consistent,” said Brunelle.

How consistent? The panelists suggested that a good rule of thumb is to post a little something every day. Free tools (Canva is one) are available to deliver eye-catching graphics. Independent We Stand offers a library of visuals; and social media management tools – Hootsuite, Buffer and Sproutsocial — are available to fine tune a social media strategy.

Other tips:

• Video, in most cases, is a better option than still photos.
• Be genuine. “Sometimes, as marketers, we overthink things,” said Brunelle.
• You don’t have to hire web designers to make an impact on social media.
• Borrow liberally. It’s OK to steal ideas.
•  Employees enlisted in the social media program can turbocharge engagement. At T & W Hardware & Rental, employees who contribute to the effort become eligible for in-store discounts. 

“Employees can be huge influencers,” said Post.

Getting employees on camera can also be huge. Taylor Walbridge shared an example of an employee imitating a typical dad walking into a hardware store. “It got 18,000 views, and it was just an employee taking off his vest and walking through the door,” she said. A screaming soccer-stadium crowd and a British announcer provided the soundtrack.  

Above: The crowd goes wild for a fictitious dad entering Taylor’s Do it Center.

The panelists pointed to several benefits of a steady social media program. These benefits include selling specific merchandise, announcing special deals, recruiting employees, promoting events, and generally building connections with the local community.

Taylor Walbridge explained it this way: “We want to showcase the fun personality of our stores.”

The social media panel presentation was one of several Knowledge Central sessions during the co-op’s spring dealer market. The three-day event in Orlando ended Monday.

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