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HTT Conference Covers Social Media ABCs

Attendees at HTT’sAttendees at HTT’s ConText event learned how social media can be used successfully in business.
NEW YORK - HTT's ConText mini-conference on online and social media strategies last month covered a lot of ground - from Facebook to QR codes, Twitter to blogs, and Tumblr to site metrics.
     If the world of social media comes off as bewilderingly complex, conference speakers were in agreement on one point: It's not necessary for a business to participate in every facet of social media. What's important is to select the tools that will further enhance your business's branding and strategic goals.
     "Social media is relational, not transactional," said Helaine Suval, president of Suval Consultants and former evp, general merchandise manager of macys.com.
     Using social media to blatantly push product can quickly damage a business's reputation in that sphere, she said.
     "It's not about how many fans you have [on Facebook]," she added, "It's about how you're going to keep your existing fans engaged."
     Crystal Vilkaitis, director of social media at Snap Retail, which helps gift and home retailers expand their business through online and social media marketing strategies, also emphasized the importance of pursuing quality rather than quantity.
Crystal Vilkaitis of Snap RetailCrystal Vilkaitis of Snap Retail spoke of quality over quality;
     "If you only have 100 [followers] and these are people who can buy from you, then that's what matters," she said. "What is the purpose of your page? I do recommend setting up some goals - just like you do in sales and marketing."
     Vilkaitis offered what she called the 70/20/10 rule for Facebook:
      • 70% of posts should provide value to fans, e.g., tips, trend information, advice, links to relevant articles;
     • 20% should consist of sharing pertinent information from sources outside the company;
     • 10% should be self-promotion, including discount offers and new product information.
     Brett Goldberg, president of Synqware.com, a software solutions company specializing in retail, said the key to online and social media marketing is to create something that's "findable, clickable and saveable."
     The Internet has quickly moved from push marketing - e.g., unsolicited email offers - to pull marketing, through which a consumer with a specific need goes out in search of information and/or product.
     QR codes, which are mushrooming on consumer goods ranging from movie posters to product packages, also have application in the B2B realm, he noted.
     Vendors exhibiting at trade shows can put a QR tag on their booth linking to video about the company or contact
Brett GoldbergBrett Goldberg of Synqware.com said the key to social media marketing is to create something “clickable.”
information, "just as you would exchange a business card," said Goldberg. QR can also be used on point-of-sale material and postcards, he added.
     Blogs can also play an essential role in building a brand's reputation, although a business no longer has to establish its own blog to leverage the channel, according to Chris Phillips, sales and marketing director for Apartment Therapy, a home furnishings lifestyle blog that draws 7 million unique visitors a month.
     He noted there are many high-traffic blogs in existence that focus on home. "Just as you would pitch [a story about a new product] to long-lead magazines and newspapers, you should pitch bloggers."
      He also recommended launching a pop-up blog. Modeled on the concept of shortlived pop-up retail stores, the pop-up blog is created around a particular event such as a trade show or new product launch.
      Twitter is also best deployed around a happening, offered Suval.
     "Twitter is a call to action," she said, noting the deployment of Twitter recently to share event information about Fashion's Night Out.
     When gauging the overall strategy, she said, a company needs to ask itself what is at the center of its brand DNA.
"You don't have to participate in every kind of social media," said Suval. "Figure out what's right for your brand."
     A video excerpt of the speakers is available on HTT's home page at www.hometextilestoday.com and on YouTube headlined HTTContext.
     Conference sponsors included Snap Retail, 295 Fifth Avenue and E.A. Hughes and Co.

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