“Bring your followers with you.” That was the advice from a QVC executive to the owners of a specialty food brand as they prepared to participate in their first televised shopping feature.
We heard this story at a marketing conference last year, and that statement about followers really struck a chord with us. It was the first time we’d heard a retail venue give that advice so clearly and succinctly: If you want to be successful with us, tell your existing audience.
This advice rings true for any distribution relationship. More often than you think, retail merchants are looking at a brand’s fan base as part of the vetting process for business deals. Shelf space is their source of income, and they are invested in your success as much as you are. Your fan base has added value to distributors because it can bring them new shoppers.
Faced with choosing between Really Tasty Pickles, and Super Yummy Pickles with 5,000 active, interested followers, a distributor is going to choose Really Yummy Pickles and all their fans.
But growing and maintaining a large following isn’t just an attractive lure for distributor relationships. A healthy, engaged audience can give you lots of insights about your brand and your product mix, well before closing a sale. Here are few other ways you can benefit from your social platform:
1. You own a little testing ground. As you engage with your followers, you can learn what they respond to, and you can refine your message by monitoring responses. You’ll learn what they think about your products, or how they use them. You have a nice space to test ideas early on, before you put a lot of expense into a new project.
2. You own the metrics behind your followers. There is plenty of demographic information that you can gather from your social dashboards. You’ll be able to go into new markets prepared to demonstrate your brand’s value to specific segments.
3. You can use what you learn to find the right partners. A boutique brand may be tempted to jump into a big box store, but understanding where and why you are successful can help evaluate a partnership from a position of control. (I know my people, and my people aren’t exactly your people.) A deal with a big retail chain can sound really enticing, but if their core consumer base is way off from your fan base, it can mean a lot of investment for a little payoff.
As the line between traditional media and social media gets blurry, the job of publisher will fall ever harder onto brand stewards. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are not permanent fixtures, but the role they play in your marketing mix is here to stay. Take charge of your content now, and your business will grow along with your fan base.