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BRIGHTON, Ontario (30 June 2014) – Home Goods Online wants to improve our news delivery service for everyone in Canada’s furniture, mattress, major appliance and consumer electronics industries. So, we’re not only signing on with a new service provider but we’re asking each of our readers to give us a few moments of his or her time to update their individual profile.

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How to jump into the social media pool without drowning! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Dumont   
ImageEveryone now is familiar at least with basic social media terms and the most popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  To get an idea of the size and scope of social media, spend a few minutes and watch Mashable's excellent short video at this link: http://mashable.com/2010/05/07/social-media-stats-video/#

If you are still standing on the sidelines (and many surveys indicate up to 60% of retailers are still standing on the sidelines), then this is written to offer a little advice on how to dip your toe into the pool of social media in plain, basic terms.

Social media was originally devised to provide platforms for young people to connect.

We all have nieces, sons, nephews or grandchildren who have 2,500 ‘friends' on Facebook and who seem glued to the Facebook app on their iPhone.  That certainly is, and will always be, a main part of social media.

But with the advent of Facebook fan pages, LinkedIn, and Foursquare the social media focus now includes both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) opportunities in ways never dreamed of before.

To stick to my plain and basic promise, if you aren't involved in Social Media at all, Twitter isn't the best first step. Twitter is a unique platform that involves setting up an account, following other accounts and have other accounts follow you.

You could spend every hour of every day watching 140 character ‘tweets' go by of the accounts you follow and theoretically never read the same tweet twice. People who do this for a living (in part I do) step away from the computer at the end of the day with a hard-to-describe combination of a headache and a wine buzz from trying to absorb, filter, respond, and learn all that information.

Retailers can gain great value from having a steady presence on Twitter to promote their brand, and their merchandise while dealing with customer service issues and hiring people, but for a beginner it's hugely time-consuming and addictive.

LinkedIn is an excellent business social media platform that can certainly allow individuals (not companies) to connect, discuss mutual interests, hire people, get hired, etc. etc. but its not the best first step for a beginning retailer to move into the social media world.

Every retailer should ensure they have a company profile on LinkedIn - it's very basic and free - but beyond writing a descriptive paragraph, all the profile does is list who works there and who used to work there, and what positions need to be filled. LinkedIn is something you do for yourself, not for your company unless your full-time job is recruiting and then you'd better be there as it is without a doubt the best online place to recruit people at certain levels.

So, what is the best first step already?

Every retailer should and, indeed, must have a Facebook fan page. Many retailers already do. Facebook is so far past simply being the big kahuna in social media, it's hard to describe. Some 500 million people - and counting - have Facebook accounts. The site adds about 50,000 additional pages every hour.

It is estimated that there are now nearly over 10 million Facebook fan pages. Many pundits and bloggers are predicting they will replace websites! Oh, the hysteria!

Back to dipping your toes into the pool before leaping in and possibly drowning...

Let's start out by saying this - the following is a non-extensive list of major retailers competing in the Canadian market that do not have Facebook fan pages today: The Brick, Leon's, La-Z-Boy Furniture, Jysk, Stoney Creek Furniture, IKEA (at least in English, they have two huge Facebook fan pages in French and Swedish??).

Some have ‘community pages' which they did nothing to create - Facebook just arbitrarily created Community Pages for many businesses in North America and filled the pages with Wikipedia stuff - which is kind of high-handed and with none of the features that make fan pages so valuable to retailers - but that's Facebook.

Ever heard of Gabriel Ross Furniture? This is what they use for their profile statement on Twitter: Canada's premier contemporary modern furniture and lighting retailer since 1992, shop online or call 1-866-207-1111. FREE SHIPPING!

How did I hear about them? For this article, I typed in ‘furniture stores in Canada' into Google's search bar so I could find a random sampling of which stores actually have Facebook fan pages. Most of the ones listed above where on the first result page in Google...and so was Gabriel Ross. You wouldn't gain that traffic from a website. Did I tell you that Google indexes each and every Facebook page...for free?

You got to love it. This is a one store operation with a big e-commerce division. This is a Chihuahua wearing a Great Dane's coat. Gabriel Ross has an excellent Facebook fan page (http://www.facebook.com/gabriel.ross.shop) that's chocked full of merchandise information, a place to sign up for their newsletter, a ‘wall' that lets customers or potential customers ask questions, praise, complain, whatever and engage with the company.

I'd be willing to bet they are selling more Herman Miller furniture than some of the larger retailers and strengthening their brand while they are at it.

Facebook fan pages require a little bit of time and technological ability to launch properly and you may need some help to make sure you include all the best features. If you have a technical bend, you can launch it yourself. Type ‘how to create a Facebook fan page' into Google and many Facebook-generated and consulting-generated articles will come up that can get you started.

If you're not technically minded, you will have greater success if you contact a person like me, but it's a very cheap and cheerful process. And, it will allow you to begin to interact with your customers, future employees, potential customers, vendors and community in a whole new social media way.

Go ahead and consider this first dive into the pool - you'll want to be in the pool and swimming successfully before the big guys get their pages launched!

Brenda Dumont consults to retailers on social media, with a focus on branding and recruiting through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  She is the founder of canadianretail.com, a job board designed specifically for retailers and owned Dumont & Associates Retail Recruitment, a retail-only search firm. She started in retail at Woodwards and became corporate human resources manager and training manager. You can follow Brenda her blog at www.brendadumont.com, Twitter at http://twitter.com/retailblog, or connect with her at http://ca.linkedin.com/in/brendadumont.

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