Few people argue that a social media presence is anything less than imperative for a college store to succeed today. However, many college retailers will argue that with a seemingly unlimited list of responsibilities spread among an unquestionably limited staff, committing time for Facebook or Twitter can fall to the wayside.
Danville Community College Castle Bookstore definitely knows what it's like to have a small staff, but the store's team of three haven't let that hold them back from implementing a strong social media strategy. Since establishing a designated marketing specialist about three years ago, DCC Bookstore has maintained an actively engaged students on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
"We live in an time when people are very into technology," said Briana Barksdale, public relations and marketing specialist. "People are always at a computer or on their cell phone, and usually have at least one social media account. If we market via social media it is an extra chance to put something in the face of the public, because people are going to make time to check their various accounts as opposed to reading an email or newsletter."
Developing a social media plan for bookstores
Bookstore Manager Andre' Jordan noted that, like other stores, social media wasn't always a big priority for DCC. But with increasingly shopping-savvy students and a huge increase in web traffic, he eventually realized it would take more elbow grease to keep customers' attention and "you sell yourself short by not having an online presence."
"For several years, through the efforts of people like (Vice President of MBS Customer Service) Sarah Shiflett and (Insite Support Representative) Chuck Parker, campus stores like ours were encouraged to appeal to and broaden our customer base by using InSite to the fullest," Jordan said. "They suggested things like the Loyalty program and other platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
"I initially resisted due to time constraints — I’m busy enough, and we had good foot traffic to our store that made all this extra work seem that much more unnecessary at the time. Then the dynamics started to change and we had to make some adjustments."
General Merchandise Buyer Andrea Nichols said that once the store recognized the need for a social media presence, they hired Briana and went to work developing a plan. To accommodate for their staff size and busy schedules, the store set achievable social media goals but aim to exceed them whenever possible.
"Briana's job duties include maintaining at least one monthly social media post per account at a minimum, with more frequent posts being the goal," Nichols said. "We make our social media posts a job priority and plan to include every new item sold in the Bookstore, every sale and every Bookstore activity on social media (much as people do with a running 'diary' of their lives on social media). It is a challenge to stay active during rush; however, we maintain at least our monthly posts."
Social listening and community engagement
While publishing regularly is important, it's only part of the equation of a successful social media presence. Stores must also make sure the content they are sharing on social media is relevant to their audience, and they must actively listen online to engage with customers and foster a relationship. Students might often take to your Facebook or Instagram comments to voice a concern or leave a review, and this is an important way to please your customers or right a wrong.
"I try to check each site once a day and for any notifications ... and if the Bookstore is participating in or hosting a particular event I will have multiple, more frequent posts about it with different graphics to catch the attention of our followers," Barksdale said. "You don't have to spend a lot of time on the sites to get your message across, it's just important to take a few minutes to do it."
To help ensure their message is getting across, the store has frequently utilized student models as an easy eye-catching strategy for posts promoting apparel and gear. This helps in multiple ways: the models usually share their shoots on their own social media profiles; students see their friends and classmates on their feed and are more likely to look at your post; and oftentimes, the models themselves wind up buying whatever apparel they were showing off.
The store's staff track likes, shares and comments to see how well their posts are doing, but Jordan said increase in social media has increased a more exciting metric: the store's bottom line.
"Because we also market our product through campus email and the monitors stationed throughout campus, comments and foot traffic have definitely increased," Jordan said. "Often, individuals will come in and say 'I really like your picture on Instagram' or 'where’s that hoodie that I saw on the campus TV?' It has definitely increased business.”