#Hashtag help: Experts offer social media tips to forge consumer relationships - SNEWS

#Hashtag help: Experts offer social media tips to forge consumer relationships

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram ... social media isn't just a marketing avenue, but a place for customer service, interaction and engagement, too.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 21 – 25. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

It wasn’t long ago when some people thought of merino wool sock and apparel expert SmartWool as a brand only dad wore.

One of those people was Kelley Freridge, marketing specialist for Chaco. But she changed her mind a few years ago. “All of the sudden I saw SmartWool have this super fresh perspective, this really great, really fun voice.”

What changed, besides some rebranding and new product lines that went beyond socks, was a focus on social media marketing headed up by Jeff Snow, SmartWool’s digital marketing manager.

Some brands and retailers have been slow to embrace social media marketing, but Snow and Freridge said it’s a great way for consumers to feel more connected to brands and for manufacturers to tell their stories. The duo offered tips on how to successfully utilize social media to create brand loyalty at a #hashtag happy hour on the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show floor, Jan. 23.

So what does it take to implement a successful social media program? Establish a definitive voice and understand what you want to communicate to consumers. Deliver messages in an authentic way. Engage anybody who mentions your company, not just followers. Plus, collaborate with other companies to reach even more consumers.

Consistency in voice and being fun and approachable are key, Freridge said.

“You want to talk to them, not at them,” Snow added. One way to do this is engage with them when they post things on your page or comment on your pictures. Don’t just constantly sell things, both Snow and Freridge said, but interact in a playful way.

Being authentic on social media is essential, said Casey Lorenzen, vice president of Mile High Mountaineering. When you’re not, fans know. The staff at Mile High Mountaineering use their Instagram feed to share silly things they like. There’s never even a mention of their products, rather they just want their fans to know who they are and the culture of the company in order to connect more personally with them.

Social media collaborations between winter and summer companies are a good way to stay relevant in the off-season of each.

“We’ve had a great collaboration with SmartWool this last year, Freridge said. “The idea behind it is wearing SmartWool socks and Chacos. We call it #sockos. There are a lot of awesome fans taking pictures of their socks and Chacos all winter so we like to think we made socks and sandals cool.”

Plus, she said, “As a sandal brand in the winter I think it’s important to incorporate new stories and this was definitely a great story for us.”

SmartWool also credits its social media success to practices like the SmartWool Fan Van tour, or #SWFanVan, which was a crowd-sourced fan tour that went all over the country to do events like group bike rides while promoting the brand.

“These things build relationships with our consumers,” Snow said.

--Ana Trujillo

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