• Social Media and Vermont: The Social Networks of the Future
     | March 26,2012

    The Vermont way of life is very traditional; we are in general a neighborly bunch who like to grow our own food, recycle, find alternative forms of energy, go to bed early and get up early, love big family meals and reading the Sunday paper. Some may say that the Internet and mobile devices have altered the Vermont way of life. I say that it has only enhanced it.

    Connectivity and helping out your neighbor has been a recurring theme here in Vermont. There are many ways one can do this, and through the magic of social media, lending a helping hand has never been easier. Going through Tropical Storm Irene together illustrated that to us. I cannot predict the weather (although I do not think anyone could have predicted a snow-less winter in Vermont!) but I can tell you about some trends and newer social media sites that your business should be on the lookout for.

    LivingSocial and Groupon are “deal” sites.

    Living Social defines itself as:

    LivingSocial is the online source for discovering valuable local experiences. We inspire our members to find, share, and enjoy the best of their neighborhoods by connecting them with handpicked local businesses.

    Groupon defines itself as:

    Launched in November 2008, Groupon features a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in 48 countries, and soon beyond (read: Space)…Our company philosophy is pretty simple: we treat our customers the way we like to be treated. That boils down to a few key things: We sell things we would want to buy…No BS… Unbelievable customer service.

    Some of you may already be signed up for their services, as I am. I get a daily email letting me know the local “deals of the day.” The only problem is they aren’t actually local. The only option on these sites for Vermont is northern, and one of the sites does not actually feature anything in Vermont, and lists my area as being “Albany/Capital Region.” I am not clear if the lack of deals from southern Vermont businesses is from the businesses not having interests in the sites, or if there is a population minimum in order for either company to be invested. (I did try reaching out to Groupon and LivingSocial to ask and have not received an answer).

    Being home to popular tourist destinations such as Killington or Okemo, among running through the heart of Vermont’s best foliage sites, businesses should be capitalizing on these tourists. Tourists may search for deals before visiting, which has the potential to introduce new customers to you. And not only bring them to you, but the businesses around you, as well. Tourists aren’t the only potential new customers that you could have, either. There may be locals from your town or the town over who have not been exposed to your business yet.

    LivingSocial and Groupon also have a higher potential to find new customers than Facebook and Twitter. The two latter platforms are primarily for engaging current customers or for spreading news of your company through word-of-mouth, both of which are important to keep your fans attracted to your business and keep them coming back. LivingSocial and Groupon, will show a user what the deals are in their area or the area they are searching for, such as where they are going on vacation. This can bring new customers to you. Both sites state that over 87 percent of new customers return to a business that they bought a deal for and the average promotion purchaser spends over $30 more than the deal. Plus, you often receive a check for your portion of the deal before the customer even reaches your door. This puts money in your pocket up-front. LivingSocial and Groupon also allow users to share the deal through other social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, which again further spreads word about your business.

    The future is also looking bright for Pinterest, self described as “a recommendation engine and a source of widespread awareness and sales.” This platform is growing in popularity. In fact, Pinterest refers more users to websites than Twitter does. The site is still invite only, but users must link either their Facebook or Twitter accounts to the site, allowing easy sharing on the other mediums. Users — at last count, 90 percent women — express themselves through images they can relate to their lives. It is like your very own organized Internet bulletin boards, reminding you of things you want to “do, buy, or revisit.” Users also connect with other users, who then repin the things they are interested in from their friends’ boards, which continues on in a never-ending cycle.

    As a business, you should be creating boards that tell your story in your words. Hire a professional photographer or graphic designer, as audiences need to like not only your product, but the image associated with it. One of the most important things you can do is allow others to post their pins to your profile, fostering that customer engagement that is important and integral of any social media site.

    I have stated before that social networking isn’t going anywhere. It will certain continue to grow and evolve, but do not think that these networks and platforms are passing trends. As a marketer, it is your job to continue to find “the next best thing” and use it to market your business. Remember, to sign up on most social media sites is free. It is the ads and a percentage of the deals that will cut into some funds. You need to test them out and see what your return is. Read up on the sites and learn about each of their individual paid services before you begin with any of them. See what other businesses are doing and learn from them. If you need help with these services, reach out to either their customer service or a professional consultant. Enhancing your customer base and your businesses reach is the goal of these sites, so they want to help you.

    For more Internet and social media marketing tips, visit Katye’s blog at localsocialvt.wordpress.org.

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