Matt Winn Q&A: Social media expert shares tips to boost bottom line with Tweets and posts

SNEWS recaps what Social Media Expert Matt Winn has to say about growing your online social presence. While Winn addresses the outdoor industry, his tips are helpful for those in the fitness industry as well.

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. 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.

Facebook and Twitter are a vital part of doing business these days. Manufacturers and retailers leverage social media to connect with consumers, and consumers in turn use it to feel more connected to their favorite brands.
On Day 3 at Outdoor Retailer, Matt Winn, Volusion’s social media manager, will offer insights on how outdoor businesses can connect better with consumers via social media and e-commerce. Volusion specializes in e-commerce software, web design, online marketing and credit card processing.
Winn tells us social media is a critical avenue for brands and retailers to market and prove their passion for the outdoor lifestyle.

What is the main message you wanted to get across in the seminar you’re presenting at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013?
I want people to come away with the feeling that they can truly improve their business with a solid online presence. For those who are new to e-commerce, we’ll spend a bit of time focusing on how to get an e-commerce site up and running the right way, and for those who already have an online store, we’ll discuss best practices for merchandising and marketing.

Who are you targeting with this seminar?
Anyone who wants to improve, or start, their online presence. We’re going to cover quite a bit and the session is highly interactive. It’s a great chance to have your specific questions answered on how you can make your e-commerce site a better place for your customers. My ideal attendee is someone who is excited about the potential of e-commerce and is open to trying new things and actively making improvements to grow their business and capitalize on the growing opportunity of online sales.

What are your top tips for outdoor brands to increase engagement on both Twitter and Facebook?
Outdoor brands have an incredible opportunity to make strong connections with their audiences via Twitter and Facebook. One great way to increase engagement is to post pictures, ask questions and give advice. For example, you can ask fans and followers to upload pictures of themselves on their latest ski trip to your Facebook timeline, or Tweet them with a hashtag for a chance to win a prize. If you can provide education and entertainment to your most loyal followers, you’ll be in good shape from an engagement standpoint.

What about for specialty retailers?

Same tips apply for specialty retailers. The nice thing in this case is that, even though the audience for specialty stores may be smaller, they’re often even more passionate about your products than larger brands. Another cool idea for these shops is to provide exclusive insights into new products — for example, you can upload sketches of what’s to come, or provide exclusive access to your latest product offering to your fans before they go out to the general public. This excites your fan base and makes them feel extra-special. And as a bonus tip, remember to focus on the lifestyle of your brand with social interactions, not just pushing products.

Which outdoor brands and retailers do you think do a good job of interacting on social media sites?
I’m a little obsessed with REI and how they handle their social media. Not many of us have as big of a budget as they do, but there are tons of lessons you can take away from their social interactions. For example, they share beautiful photos of the outdoors from several sources on their Facebook and Twitter pages, and make themselves readily available to answer questions about their products, and, even more, provide insights into how their fans can better interact with the outdoors.

What is your advice to retailers who want to boost their in-store sales, not just online sales, using social media?
My best piece of advice is pretty simple: Don’t be afraid to draw attention to what’s going on in your store. You can share special offers and discounts that are only available in-store on your social channels. Even better, you can use geo-targeting mechanisms so that only your social following that resides in a specific geographic area will see the message. It’s also good to share pictures of your storefront and introduce members of your team.

Why is social media so relevant?
From a business perspective, social media is a prime opportunity for brands to create an army of staunchly loyal followers, which then leads to positive word of mouth to their networks. In other words, social media is the place to mold your community and make them think highly of your business, which can then turn into increased sales through recommendations and an overall positive brand reputation.

Are there any social media challenges the outdoor industry faces that other industries don’t?
The outdoor industry is all about a lifestyle and that’s what social media is all about, too. People who are into the outdoors are really passionate about their hobby and lifestyle; they’re eager to learn more and soak up as much information as possible. This makes it easier for brands to portray this lifestyle through their social channels, helping to form solid emotional bonds. I think one of the only challenges is outdoor retailers truly need to be experts in their space to make a connection. Their social fans are looking to you with aspiration and want to learn more about what your products offer.

–Ana Trujillo