5 (Mostly) Free Social Media Hacks for Retailers in 2017

Contributed by Mark S. Babbitt, Author and President of Switch and Shift. 

Even in what is generally seen as an improved economy, some shops – we don’t need to tell you – still struggle. And some, although doing better, haven’t reached their full potential. For these reasons, small business owners and retailers must leverage every competitive advantage.

And today, “competitive advantage” in large part means “social media.”

But how can a small shop compete with the big boys on social? Here are five social media hacks for retailers – each sure to improve business in 2017.

Go Where Your Customers Go: Online

It seems no one today goes to that new restaurant or local shop without visiting Yelp first. No one buys a new household item without taking a peek at Amazon Reviews. And every consumer, it seems, knows how to reference the Better Business Bureau and sites like Angie’s List.

So retailers today must be visible to their potential customers – and create business accounts on the most popular reference and review sites. Most have a free option – and it takes just a minute or two to set up an account on Yelp, BBB and more. And while you’re there you just may see what your competition is doing well… and not!

Answer Even the Worst Reviews and Comments

Sooner or later, every business will undoubtedly receive a negative – perhaps even toxic – online review. As bad as it may seem, this is your chance to shine!

Take a deep breath. Think about the situation through the mind of the negative reviewer. Most important, leverage your abundant emotional intelligence to form an answer.

What could you have done differently for this customer? What can you do now to turn them around? How can you show that review’s readers you’re willing to take the high road in a potentially explosive situation and will do whatever it takes to make it right?

That, in the Social Age, is how you turn angry customers into champions and brand ambassadors. That is how you win new business.

Take Full Advantage of the Major Social Networks

I’ve heard many retailers say, “I just use my personal Facebook page for my business” and “I don’t need a Twitter account… it’s just me.”

I couldn’t disagree more – and neither could your current and potential customers.

Even if you never advertise, social media is a place to actively listen. It’s where you build micro-communities of satisfied clients. And it’s where you display your expertise. There may be no better place to build goodwill for your business than Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.

Offer Social Proof of Expertise

Every shop has a set of their most frequently asked questions. You might answer them every day. Or at least every week.

A blog is a great place to answer those questions while showing you care about the customers you serve. Most sites like WordPress have a free version that includes basic templates; sites like SquareSpace and offer more sophisticated, yet still free, blogging platforms.

Who knows? Once you get good at blogging, you can contribute your thoughts to blogs on other industry-relevant sites, community forums and niche platforms.

Don’t have time to maintain a blog? Start an “Ask me Anything” column on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. Each answer takes only a few minutes a day yet offers instant social proof of your expertise.

Deliberately Seek Testimonials

What is the most important aspect of leveraging social media for your business?

You must deliberately seek testimonials from past and current customers!

Ask everyone you know who enjoyed your work to write a one paragraph, even one sentence, review. Where did you excel? What made you different? Why would they recommend you? And also – for the sake of objectivity – what could you have done better?

Then, of course, ask them to post their review on Yelp, Angie’s List, Better Business Bureau, Google Reviews, and the rest. Yes, it will take them a few minutes of time. So make it worth their while. Offer a small discount, a Starbucks card, or even a bottle of wine. Each is a small investment for an impactful online testimonial that means new business!

Get your retail shop on social media. Start leveraging the Testimonial Economy. Your bottom line will thank you for the effort.


A prolific blogger and speaker, Mark S. Babbitt is President of Switch and Shift and co-author of A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive. He is also one of Inc. Magazines Top 100 Leadership Speakers. Tens of thousands of followers benefit from Babbitt’s daily doses of personal and digital branding how-tos on Twitter at @MarkSBabbitt.

Photo Credit: Contributed by Social Monters with permission to use. 

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