By: Jack Riordan

 

We work in an ever-evolving industry within a constantly changing culture. The highest and best approach taken to successfully marketing your smoke or vape shop business has certainly changed over the years as well.

While well-researched and properly targeted print advertising still holds great value, it only makes sense to augment traditional marketing tactics with a more modern approach.

The twenty- and thirty-somethings that shop at your stores today are so tuned in to the internet, and especially their smartphones, that it is absolutely essential to build your brand online. But while most social media marketing is technically “free”, it still takes time, which can be just as valuable a commodity as cash these days.

BRANDING
Logos are not just for brands anymore. These days, savvy smoke and vape shops are making their store a brand of its own. Not only does it open up potential apparel and custom product lines specific to your brand, but with the world wide web at your fingertips, it is easier than ever to convince a customer on the other side of the country to pay your store a visit the next time they are nearby. On top of that, word of mouth is fiber-optic-fast now, and every follower you earn online can branch out to countless local referrals.

If your store has a somewhat common name in the industry, that’s all the more reason to set up your social media accounts right away, hopefully reserving relevant usernames and account names that will be easy for your customers to find and remember.

You’ll want a Facebook page and an Instagram account, at the very least – but platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and messaging apps like KIK only serve to extend your reach that much further, drawing in more paying customers.
WHERE TO INVEST YOUR TIME
If all of those App names made your head spin, fear not. Even the experts agree that it is important not to spread yourself too thin online by trying to be everywhere at once. Targeting specific Apps and platforms for the bulk of your efforts has proven to be far more prudent.

Of all social media platforms, Instagram is by far the most effective when it comes to this new age form of grassroots marketing.

While I do strongly advise you to create and maintain an active Facebook page for your business, changes made in the Facebook algorithm late in 2014 created a “pay-to-play” campaign where unless you pay Facebook to “sponsor” your ads/posts, a very small fraction of your followers will ever see it.

If you do choose to pay into their campaign, Facebook will provide you with very useful statistics to help you determine who is looking at your content, where they are from, etc. – then it is up to you to decide whether you are getting enough bang for your buck.

Regardless, you definitely want that Facebook page popping up when customers are searching the internet for relevant terms or your store’s name.

Instagram, on the other hand, has no such restrictions. When you make an Instagram post, every single one of your followers has access to it on their feed.

You can also link your Instagram account to your other social media profiles, and with a couple extra taps on the screen, you can make one Instagram post appear on all of your various feeds.

Of course, be sure that all of your social media profiles are up to date with store names, locations, your contact info, and a link to your website if you have one.

WHY INSTAGRAM?
• It’s FREE!

• Visual imagery is a hot trend across all marketing platforms

• Instagram makes it simple.

• Over 300 million monthly active users, 70% of those in the US check their IG feed daily (source: Salesforce.com)

• 90% of IG users are under the age of 35 (Business Insider 8/17/14)

• It’s very easy to use from a smartphone or tablet – mobile media usage surpassed traditional online media for the first time in 2014 (source: comScore)

• Your hard earned followers see everything you post without restrictions or paid campaigns

• Your competitors are already there researching & selling

• Instagram users are 58x more likely to Like, share, or comment on an Instagram post than a Facebook post and 120x more likely than Twitter users! (source: Salesforce.com)

• Reach hundreds of thousands of potential customers with each post

• Create a global marketing campaign – 49.8% of Canadian IG users rank IG in their Top 10 platforms for discovering new products, and 28.2% of them have purchased an item in the last 6 months that they initially discovered on Instagram. Do you ship? You need this reach. (source: Salesforce.com)

@TAGGING & #HASHTAGGING
Especially when it comes to Instagram, using proper #Hashtags and @Tagging etiquette can be the difference between 10 Likes on a photo, or hundreds. Of course, the more people who Like your post, the more people will see it. @Tags and #Hashtags allow you to reach out even beyond your loyal follower base to attract anyone who may be searching for that particular key word.

For example, if you are trying to sell a piece of glass by a well-known artist, by @Tagging that person’s Instagram name and then #Hashtagging it in the caption as well, you suddenly open your post up to all of their fans & followers too.

It’s wise to search the Instagram Hashtags from time to time, to see what key words and tags are trending and popular. Then it is just a matter of cleverly incorporating those tags and words into your posts.

BUILD A FOLLOWING WITH CONTENT, CUSTOMER SERVICE & APPRECIATION
The best way to build a loyal following on Instagram is to consistently provide relevant and eye-catching content, and also to engage with the very people you are trying to convert into potential customers. That means Liking and commenting on their photos, just as you want them to do with yours.

You can employ your followers to use your branded #hashtag in their posts, driving even more traffic back to your page. By sharing or re-posting their pictures featuring your products, your customers feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves and are more apt to keep hyping your products to their friends and followers.

Another benefit that an active social media presence provides is an always-on option for your customers to reach out to you. Whether they are looking for a particular product, or even if they are upset for some reason with a prior purchase, giving them the ability to contact you at their convenience can be a big value added benefit of shopping with you.

Of course, the flip side of that is, you have to be ready to reply. If inquiries, suggestions, and complaints go ignored day after day, your social media account can have the opposite effect of what you are striving for with customer service.

As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, and with Instagram you can tell the story of your brand one thousand words at a time, in a minute or less each time. SVBS

 

Jack “Guru” Riordan is the Senior Account Manager at Masterminded Distribution. Jack brings well over a decade of high level sales and marketing experience to the table. Jack can be reached at 949.420.0507, or by email at [email protected], or visit their website at www.master-minded.com.