For many indie retail store owners, digital marketing doesn’t come naturally. With the ever-changing social media landscape, a constant stream of new features, and best practices that vary from platform to platform, it can be difficult for retailers to parse what’s worth the effort (and what’s best left on the backroom floor). So, what’s working on social media now for retailers?
Enter Crystal, our go-to guru who’s been supporting independent retailers with their social media presence for nearly 15 years. In this episode, Crystal spills the beans on what really works on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok for indie retailers like us.
If you’ve ever found yourself scratching your head over what to put in your Instagram carousels, wondering if Facebook is still worth your time (spoiler: it totally is!), or debating whether or not to join TikTok, this episode is a must-listen.
Read on to learn exactly what’s working on social media now for independent retailers.
How Crystal Started Working With Independent Retailers
Crystal was a social media manager for a variety of brands in 2010. At the time, one of her clients was under the mentorship of Ted Teele, the founder of SnapRetail.
After meeting Ted at AmericasMart, Crystal joined the SnapRetail team as their Director of Social Media & PR. She got to work directly with independent retailers and consulted on the social media functionality of the software.
Two years later, Crystal founded Crystal Media. She’s been working with independent retailers to keep up with the continuous changes in social media marketing ever since.
What’s Working for Retail Store Owners on The Three Major Social Media Platforms
There are three platforms that Crystal recommends focusing on: Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Each platform serves a unique purpose when marketing an indie retail store.
Crystal says, “If there’s something that’s already working for you, keep doing it!” But if you need a bit of expert guidance on what is working for retailers on social media, keep reading.
Instagram: Connect and Engage With Your Customers
Instagram recently hosted an event where they pulled back the curtain on what types of content perform best. Based on this event and Crystal’s experience, here’s what she recommends for indie retailers on Instagram.
Instagram Feed Posts
Instagram’s algorithm favors creators who post to their grid every single day.
Carousels are the top-performing posts in the feed. For retailers, Crystal recommends creating carousels that showcase a collection, theme, or category of items in your shop!
Carousels are also a great way to educate your customers. For example, choose a topic like “What supplies do you need to refinish furniture at home” or “How to create a gorgeous and cozy holiday mantle.” Each slide in the carousel could show off one item and explain why that item is necessary.
Since Instagram stories disappear after 24 hours, it’s important that you’re posting frequently. Crystal recommends posting to your stories six times each day: twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon, and twice in the evening.
While feed posts can be more polished, stories are for the raw, real, behind-the-scenes content of your store! They’re meant to be quick.
For example, stories can range from a video of you turning the open sign around in the morning, an unboxing of new items you’re carrying, or a short video of you talking to the camera and sharing a few current favorites from your shop.
Other Key Insights Into What’s Working for Retailers on Instagram
Here are a few other pieces of advice that Crystal shared:
The posting schedule mentioned above might feel daunting, but there’s a good reason for it. On average, only 3% of your followers will view your content organically. Posting frequently on both the grid and on stories helps more people see your content.
Instagram favors vertical videos. If you’re creating horizontal video content for your store’s Youtube account (if you have one!), make sure that you’re able to crop closely when repurposing for Instagram so there are no black borders on your posts.
Reels are powerful and can get great organic reach. However, those with the TikTok watermark or that are edited in a 3rd party software like CapCut don’t perform as well. To get the best reach on Instagram, create your reels in the app. You can then download them from Instagram and repurpose them for TikTok to avoid the watermark issue.
Hashtag stuffing is a thing of the past. Instagram prefers to see just three to five relevant, niche hashtags per post.
Use the built-in features to connect with your followers. Instagram offers a green screen for showing off your products, polls, question boxes, and more. All of these built-in features increase engagement and provide a better experience for Instagram users, so using them can get your content shown to more people.
Be a good Instagram citizen. It can be temping to just post and ghost. But when you share, comment, and engage with other users, you’re showing the app that you are a real member of the community.
Facebook: Trust Me, It’s NOT Dead
While the adage “Facebook is dead” has gone around the internet more than a few times, trust Crystal’s expertise instead. In her experience, Facebook works really well for retailers—especially if your target demographic is 40+.
Similar to Instagram, daily posts are the way to go on Facebook. Thankfully, you can post your daily Instagram grid post to your store’s Facebook page!
Instagram frequently prompts users to repost to Facebook if they have a linked account. Or, you can change your Instagram settings to crosspost your content to Facebook automatically.
Reels (Yep, They’re On Facebook, Too)
Reels aren’t just for Instagram anymore! They’re a newer feature on Facebook.
Unlike feed posts, though, Crystal doesn’t recommend using the built-in crossposting feature. Facebook reels receive better reach if you download them from Instagram and then upload them to Facebook as reels.
If you have a VIP group for your store on Facebook, Crystal suggests posting your reels directly to your group. More people will see them as this feature is brand new.
Just like on Instagram, Facebook is favoring reels and interactive engagement features on Facebook stories.
On average, just 1-6% of people who like your business’ Facebook page see what you’re posting. You can advertise to just your Facebook page followers and spend a lot less than other ad options, but still see a lot of engagement! Crystal Media has several ad management clients who spend as little as $1/day on this type of ad.
It’s crucial to remember that ads are a long game. You might not see a return on your investment for a long time, and that’s completely normal. Crystal Media’s ad management packages are a 3-month minimum commitment for this reason—and many clients have been with Crystal’s team for years.
Having an agency support you with Facebook ads management can be incredibly helpful, especially as you test your audience, creative imagery/copy, and budget.
TikTok: The Best Platform for Fast Organic Growth
Want to grow faster than ever on social media? TikTok is the platform for you! TikTok’s unique algorithm helps brands, retailers, and individual creators sell out their products and grow organically without spending any money.
Read on to learn what Crystal wants indie store owners to know about this incredible platform.
TikTok has two feeds—Following, and For You. The For You Page (or FYP) is where people discover accounts based on their interests and scrolling behaviors. It’s the default feed when you open the TikTok app.
The local designation part of TikTok’s algorithm is strong. Mentioning your store’s location will help target your local audience! Mention the name of your town in the video and in the caption of your TikToks.
Be strategic about what you say and how it relates to your store. If you’re promoting a holiday-specific item or sale, mention the holiday in the video and in the caption so TikTok shows it to people searching for that holiday.
Get to the point. Videos on TikTok need to grab viewers’ attention right away. Jump right in when starting a video, and try to avoid (or edit out) the “millennial pause.”
Use ChatGPT to create compelling hooks for your TikToks. Not sure how to start your TikToks? ChatGPT can help! Try the following prompt (edited for your store and location, of course): Act as an independent women’s clothing boutique in Seattle, WA, and create a list of 10 engaging hooks for social media content. These hooks should be 10 words or less and should start with a number or words like ‘why’, ‘how,’ or ‘this’.
Enable TikTok’s shopping feature. Businesses can use TikTok shop to directly link their products when featuring them in a video. This works best when you sell your products with a story and talk about their benefits in your videos.
Posting consistently and frequently will help you grow your business on TikTok. Crystal recommends posting three, 30-second TikToks per day. That might feel intimidating, but TikToks don’t have to be perfectly polished. They’re similar to Instagram stories in this way.
Don’t have time for video content? Post carousels. TikTok recently introduced carousel posts. Choose 3-7 images related to a category, theme, or collection you carry. Then add a song, a caption, and 1-3 hashtags. Done!
Participate in trends if they make sense for your store. Challenges, dances, and trending audio can be a fun way to market your business. Check out Crystal Media’s “Trend Report” highlight on Instagram each Thursday for the latest trending audio and post inspiration.
Make sure you have a business account, not a personal one. While personal accounts can access more copyrighted audio for their TikToks, the benefits of a business account outweigh the audio limitations. Business accounts can run ads, view analytics, and use TikTok shop! Plus, there are lots of other ways to go viral, such as duetting (or stitching) other videos, remixed audio, and more.
Social Media is an Incredible Opportunity for Indie Retailers
While creating content can be time-consuming, remember that connecting with your customers on social media is a privilege.
Instead of viewing social media as an “I have to” with a groan and a sigh, try to see it as the incredible opportunity that it is. You get to connect with, talk to, and engage your customers every single day.
- Join Kathy and Crystal at the Evolve Conference in April 2024 in Denver, Colorado! Save $250 on your ticket with the code SAVVY.
- Free resource: Social Media Hooks and Hacks from Crystal Media
- Free resource: Weekly Trend Report from Crystal Media (updated every Thursday on Instagram!)
- Applications to Master Shopkeepers are opening soon! It’s the only territory-protected mastermind for indie retailers with valuable lessons & resources, coaching calls, and a vibrant community of your fellow store owners cheering you on.
- [04:32] How Crystal Started Working With Independent Retailers
- [07:23] What’s Working for Retail Store Owners on The Three Major Platforms: Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok
- [09:14] Instagram: Connect and Engage With Your Customers
- [18:28] Facebook: Trust Me, It’s NOT Dead
- [24:36] TikTok: The Best Platform for Fast Organic Growth
- [36:00] Social Media is an Incredible Opportunity for Indie Retailers
- [37:51] How to Connect With Crystal
Crystal Vilkaitis is a world-class social media expert and powerful speaker who helps retailers shine online and bring their unique brilliance to the local and global masses. Fueling retailers with confidence to grow their visibility and results, Crystal is on a mission to help Main Street businesses thrive.
Crystal founded Crystal Media in 2012, where she’s worked with thousands of retailers to increase traffic, sales, and profits using social media. She’s spoken on stages around the globe and has shared the stage with industry giants like Martha Stewart, Gary Vaynerchuk, Bethenny Frankel, and Brendon Burchard.
Crystal hosts the show Rooted in Retail, where she covers retail-centric topics like marketing, money, mindset, AI, and more. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Heart on Main Street and Gift for Life.
Podcast: Rooted in Retail
Connect With Kathy
Kathy Cruz is an Independent Retail Coach who helps store owners work smarter, profit more, and grow their brick and mortar businesses.
Connect with Kathy and learn more here: