Social media is an increasingly important part of marketing, and retailers need to make the most of their efforts, said a speaker Tuesday at the National Confectioners Association's Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago. 

“If you’re not making social media a part of your retail strategy, you’re really missing out,” said Lindsay Baish, digital strategist for shopper marketing agency Saatchi & Saatchi X, during the presentation “5 Easy Steps to Maximize Your Social Media at Retail.”


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Social media influences 36 cents of every dollar spent, she said, with 73% of customers more likely to read user-generated social media when making a food purchase. More and more consumers know what they are going to purchase before entering the store and marketing to shoppers makes a difference on the path to purchase, said Baish.

Retailers need to first determine where their shoppers spend most of their time on social media and what they do while there. “We often lump all social media together, but every platform has a different function,” she said. “There are different expectations for Facebook than for LinkedIn. Determine how you can spend that time with them.”

Retailers also need to make their content as shopper centric as possible. “People don’t go online to engage with your brand. They follow a brand online because they expect to get a reward,” said Baish. A reward could be a coupon, but retailers can also inspire consumers with tips, recipes or informational videos.

The most effective social media is also no longer free, said Baish. “You have to pay to play.” Companies now must pay for ads on Facebook. “Money gets you audience and amplification,” she said.

Consumers will be more engaged with social media if given multiple ways of participating, said Baish. “Most people engage in social media on mobile devices,” she said. So retailers may want to engage them with shelf signs urging customers to tweet about a product.

Retailers should also regularly monitor their social media campaigns to see if they are producing results. “Watch for how often clicks on a coupon become purchases, and monitor your brand online. See if customers impressions become sales,” suggested Baish.

“Social media can be a powerful shopper marketing tool. But you have to go out and own it,” she said.