Residential Lighting: How important is social media marketing?
Crystal Vilkaitis: It’s the only marketing channel where we can talk directly to our customers. We can’t do that with a postcard, a billboard or a mailer. It allows us to build strong relationships. We can ask questions, post pictures of the showroom and create a feeling of being in the showroom. Social media is free, but of course, social media takes time.
RL: How long do results take?
CV: Three to six months. You don’t have to update every day, but check in once a day. What a lot of retailers do is get on Facebook , update three times one week and rarely come back. The chances of them ever getting anything out of social media is going to be slim. Four posts a week is a great amount.
RL: Which sites should we use?
CV: It depends on your customers and where they are. Facebook is typically the best place to start. It’s the biggest network. It’s a heavy photo-sharing platform, and that’s what you want. You’re selling products, so you’ve got to have pictures of what you’re selling. Put pictures up of your showroom and your staff to make it personal.
As for Twitter , don’t open a Twitter account if only 10 people in your area tweet. Use Twellow.com  to figure out if people in your area are on Twitter. If the number is in the thousands, Twitter would be great place for you.
Pinterest  is becoming the number-one referring website for retailers, but that’s primarily retailers who sell online. Many click through over to websites and make purchases because they saw it on Pinterest. But it’s more effective for those who do not sell online to start with Facebook.
I have mixed feelings about Google+  for retailers. It’s heavy in the tech scene. It’s more for information gathering versus shopping.
RL: How do we approach content?
CV: I have a 70-20-10 rule. You want 70 percent of your posts to be resourceful and informational — tips that you write and links to a home decorating and home living articles. Also part of that 70 percent is asking questions. You want to have conversations.
The 20 percent is sharing content that complements your business. Other local events are relevant to my “likers,” and when you help out another business, you often see on social media that they repay the favor and give exposure on their network. Only 10 percent should be self-promotion. Retailers have it backwards.
RL: Having judged our industry, what comments do you have?
CV: Most everybody I judged had a Facebook page. A few had a Twitter account, but they were just linking it to their Facebook page, which is something I don’t recommend. Also, most hadn’t updated Facebook in a week and some of them were six months out. A couple had YouTube channels, and that’s a huge area of opportunity for lighting retailers. Some of the best Facebook users in lighting and gift retailing are Cudos Augusta , Swagger Gifts , Capitol Lighting  and Lumens Light + Living .
RL: Any final comments?
CV: My biggest thing is to not be fearful. Many retailers who were fearful now say, “It’s the easiest thing. I spend five minutes a day. Customers are coming in the day I post something.” Attend some seminars and webinars. The nice thing about webinars is you can get a recording. My online marketing summit at SnapRetail  will be May 22-24. If you can get over any fears, you’ll start seeing results.