Garden centre consultant Doug Stewart shares 10 ways to attract customers to your garden centre by creating an engaging, genuine presence on Twitter
Twitter and Facebook changed everything. Just as the first telephone changed the way that companies communicate with customers, social media offers us an amazing opportunity to connect with our customers in a whole new way.
- Be interesting
Imagine that you are having a well-deserved glass of ?the usual? in the pub after work. You chat with friends about the day – the highs, the lows, the amusing things that happened, the weather and of course the gossip. However, to be listened to – and even better to have your stories repeated – means you need to be amusing and engaging. Twitter is just the same. You are having a conversation when you tweet and if you are interesting enough they will share what you are saying with their followers. It is as easy as that.
- Get hashtagging
Many people are put off twitter by the whole hashtag thing. However it is really simple. In the same way that garden centres divide plants into groups so people can find what they are looking for, on Twitter, topics are divided using a hashtag.
If you are interested in bedding plants, then a search for #beddingplants on Twitter will bring up posts that are all about bedding plants. So, adding #beddingplants to your posts means that people who are not following you, but are following the topic, will read your message. They might then choose to find out more about you. It is as easy as that.
- The plan?s the thing
To be successful, tweets should be engaging, current and genuine. To bring a return on the time put into Twitter they also need to be strategic.
Having a 10 week rolling plan of things to talk about helps to take the stress away, while ensuring that we are tweeting the right messages to bring people in. So, as an example in May and June, tweeting advice on how to choose great bedding plants; have staff choose their favourite bedding plant; celebrate new plant arrivals; explain how to plant; how to feed, and then give frost warnings would be perfect. Having this planned means you have a focus to what you want your key messages to be.
Garden Centres who get involved in conversations and are interested in what others are saying (as well as interesting in what they are saying) will quickly grow their number of followers. Those who just ping out special offers are missing the whole essence of Twitter.
- What?s the link?
If you have discovered the power of blogging – or even have just updated your website – then tweeting a link can really drive traffic to those pages.
For those who like numbers and measuring returns, using a service like bitly (www.bitley.com) can be fascinating. All you have to do is create an account, paste the link you want to use into bitly, and it will give you a unique and short link to post. Log back into bitly after a few days and you will see how many clicks that link has had. The more interesting you are, the more interesting the tweet is, and the higher the number will be.
- Quid pro quo
When someone says something nice about you, or makes friendly contact with you on Twitter, always thank them and retweet the message so more people get the opportunity to see it.
- Follow you, follow me
To take your Twitter to the next level, start to follow local people, local companies, as well as the people who follow you. Retweet their interesting tweets to share them and give them a wider audience. Those people will appreciate what you are doing and will repeat the favour with your tweets – which helps to grow the number of followers you have.
- What?s in it for them?
Reward your followers. Perhaps on a wet day, have a ?free scone with every coffee? offer that is only for your twitter followers. Their mobile phone can be used as the voucher.
This is a great way of meeting your followers and can give accurate feedback about how you are doing. If you have a caf? full of happy customers after 40 minutes, your twitter strategy is working. If no one comes then it?s a case of rolling your sleeves up to be more engaging, interesting and amusing?
- Encourage staff to tweet
Rather than ban mobiles from the sales floor, suggest to key staff that they tweet overheard comments, share pictures of displays, and stock being delivered, along with other interesting happenings.
With good protocol ? and reasonably close monitoring ? this can be an effective way of engaging with your audience.
- Give it time
Finally, invest some time into your Twitter effort. Spending a little of the marketing budget to give a friendly, outgoing member of staff some time to develop your following will quite possibly be the best investment you have ever made.