NEW YORK - Monif Clarke didn't have a social-media strategy for her women's clothing company until this year, when she hired a consultant to help her build one.
The holiday social-media marketing plan for New York-based Monif C. Plus Sizes includes contests promoted on Facebook with prizes such as a $1,000 wardrobe. When Facebook users click on a link about a contest, they are taken to the New York-based retailer's website and their e-mail addresses are recorded when they enter the contest. Those addresses are key to increasing Monif C's business - it gets nearly 30 percent of its sales in response to e-mails.
Clarke will also use social media to promote a program giving customers a $25 discount if they recommend friends who buy from Monif C. The friends also get a $25 discount.
Previously, Clarke relied partly on a Facebook page that 180,000 people "like," but she used it only for the basics: posting pictures and promoting sales. She realized she needed to do more.
"We need to reach the customers we have in a more effective way and attract new customers," Clarke says.
There's more to a retailer's holiday social-media strategy than posting photos and advertising discounts. Small and independent retailers are getting more aggressive in using Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram in preparation for the important holiday sales season and beyond.
"All of this is new for small businesses. They've not been used to using social media actively," says Christina Shaw, chief marketing officer at Blue Fountain Media, a marketing consulting company. Like Clarke, many are seeking help from consultants.
At Peter Kate, a women's clothing store, owner Sissy Harris recently signed with a customer rewards program linked to social media. Customers get points for posting comments about the store on Facebook and Twitter. They also get points when they use social media to refer friends to the Greenville, Del., store.
Harris switched from a traditional rewards program with no social-media link. In her first month with the new program, about 50 new customers signed up. The program also helps her track its success. She gets daily reports on how many program members are shopping and whether they come back.
Vivian Sayward forecasts a 50 percent jump in 2014 online sales because of her new social-media campaign, which includes contests, special posts, and discounts timed for the weekends, when most online shopping is expected. Sayward, owner of San Diego-based Vivacity Sportswear, is focusing on selling her women's golf and activewear to online customers this holiday season after spending the last three years marketing to retailers.
Social media create a buzz that makes users want to visit Vivacity Sportswear's website, Sayward says.
"Just by creating a website does not mean that the shoppers will come," she says.