Last month, I began to discuss the rise of New Media and its impact on MI retail. I started by talking a little about the importance of generating original content, which can then be delivered via multiple channels, such as your Web site, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. In this month’s column, I want to dive a little deeper.

Original content is any unique content you create yourself. This can mean photos, videos, graphics, blogs, tweets and Facebook posts. What it doesn’t mean is shared material: the things you’ve shared from other stores, brands or any other sources. That isn’t to say that sharing content is bad; it’s not. Curating content from other sources and sharing that content is a great thing, and it’s an important part of social media. Sharing posts from manufacturers on new products, for example, can be a great way to get information to your customers. However, you should also be creating your own original content on top of that.

There are many reasons why original content is important to your customer base, but the top two are the simplest: It’s a way to show your personality and develop your brand, and it helps you communicate with, and relate to, your customers. Consumers have shorter attention spans than ever, and customer loyalty is easily swayed by sale prices and the ease of online ordering. So, finding new and interesting ways to engage your customers, remind them why your store is cool and reinforce why they should keep coming back is paramount to developing and maintaining customer loyalty.

Last month, I talked about several social media delivery methods for original content, including Facebook. At Larry’s Music Center, we post a lot on Facebook. One of our customers’ and my favorite recurring themes centers on the music history bits that the store’s Owner, Brad Shreve, posts every day. Brad is known for his near-encyclopedic knowledge of rock ‘n’ roll, particularly Ohio-related rock history. That really connects with our customers and our Ohio pride.

Another great example of original content, which Brad came up with, relates to our store blogs. Brad had a local writer interview various music personalities from the area, and we published them on our Web site. We’re currently in the early stages of redesigning our Web site, so don’t go looking for them just now. They were a big hit, though, and they helped us generate a lot of Web traffic. Realizing Brad’s idea was a great way to communicate with customers, I even got in on the action and started a store blog of my own. I discussed guitar humidity, the NAMM Show and whatever other interesting topics came up. When we relaunch our Web site, I plan to start this up again, and to include more products in blog posts. That’s something that, last time around, I didn’t touch on very much.

As I wrote last month, I’d like to start to get back into YouTube, and I’ve been experimenting with different formats for our store’s YouTube channel. One of my favorite stores on YouTube is Drum Center of Portsmouth. Shane Kinney has done an amazing job showing products to a generation of people who go to YouTube to discover everything. Shane plays every snare drum he stocks in multiple tunings and styles. I’m sure it’s incredibly time consuming, but it’s resulted in a huge increase in online sales. Although I recognize that not all stores want to participate in e-commerce due to the huge time investment and the headaches that come with it, I maintain that putting products on YouTube can be a great way to reach potential customers and show them your store.

As I also wrote last month, we got more than 200,000 views for videos shot with iPhones and inexpensive, first-generation Zoom video recorders. Sure, you can make much fancier videos with cool graphics and great resolution, but don’t forget that some of the most viral videos of all time were shot on phones. Other video-delivery systems that I haven’t yet tried for our store are Vine, Beme and Facebook’s new live video option. Live video could be fun for our staff and customers, and I’m working on some ideas for that format. If you have used these programs successfully, please write to me and link me to your favorite content. I want to know how they are working out for you.

Now, many of us are super busy. So, writing blog posts or making videos is obviously not something that most small, independent stores can do every day. It is, however, very easy to tweet. Twitter is a great way to create something in a few seconds that can connect to a whole bunch of people at once. You can even link your Twitter account to repost your Facebook posts, which is helpful. Be careful not just to rely on that, though. You should create original tweets a few times a week, too. They can be quick and simple thoughts, flash sales or anything else you can say in 140 characters that will register with your customers.

As I wrote in last month’s column, I recently started a store Instagram account, which has been a super fun way to share photos. Because I’m a big fan of videos, I’m now starting to share video content there, as well. Another platform for photo and video content is Snapchat, which is one of the fastest-rising social media platforms for businesses. It’s another one that I haven’t yet attempted, but need to.

I know…there are tons of platforms, and it’s hard to keep track. Like all things Internet- and social media-related, managing multiple platforms might at times seem overwhelming. My advice? Keep it simple, and don’t be afraid to delegate or get other team members involved. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of managing all this, or if you don’t have a team member to whom you want to delegate, there’s a growing cottage industry of social media management firms.

My friend Jessica Wagner owns Jus B Media, a boutique social media management company. I’ve been working with her for the last year to provide video content for some of her clients, which is what inspired me to reexamine YouTube and other delivery platforms for my store. I reached out to her for advice to share with you on how to manage original content on multiple social media platforms. She suggests using a message calendar. A message calendar can be a simple spreadsheet on which you plan how you’ll allocate your time on social media, scheduling in advance which days over the coming month you’ll post on various platforms. That helps you stay organized and on message, and it allows you to plan ahead for upcoming events, specials and seasonal topics, while still being flexible enough to shift things around for spur-of-the-moment ideas or other things that might arise.

All the platforms are simply ways to develop and deliver original content to your customers, further engaging them on a daily basis and developing better customer relations while also growing your brand and increasing your perceived value.

What are your favorite platforms to deliver content? What kinds of content are you creating, and how do your customers engage with it? What are some of your favorite sources of original content, both inside and outside MI retail?

E-mail me at gabriel@larrys

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