Open or not, your store needs to be active on social media

Marketing your business on social media has never been easy in normal times, but in the midst of a pandemic when your store is either closed or doing next to nothing in business, it can seem all the more challenging. Outside of the physical dangers that COVID-19 presents, many consumers are numb with fear and anxiety. Retailers might share those sentiments and be tempted to sit things out until better days come.

But now is not the time to rest. While others might be fading, Home Furnishings Association members should be doing everything possible to maintain a presence on the social landscape, even if their furniture store’s doors are temporarily shuttered. In this time of mass quarantine, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and even TikTok are where all the eyeballs are, says Isaac Knorr, president of Knorr Marketing. And if you’ve been marketing successfully on social these past few years, Know says you’ve built up social currency, brand equity and a sizable following. Don’t fritter those things away by remaining silent.

Knorr says he’s spent the past two weeks working with furniture stores to keep their brands in front of customers with the right messaging and tone for the times. “It’s all about grabbing your share of the audience,” says Knorr. “But the ways of doing that have changed in the past month. The key is in how you deliver your message.”

At some point, says Knorr, society will resume and we’ll return to our social habits that, let’s face it, seem a distant memory these days. But posting to social can’t be business as usual right now. It’s important to adjust your tone and your messaging, says Knorr. Yes, you want to continue showing that beautiful motion leather sofa or that office desk that could easily replace the washer and dryer for your work station.

Find the right social media tone

But resist pairing those product shots with easy-breezy captions. Copy that’s not warm, empathetic and free of hyperbole and sales speak feels painfully tone-deaf right now, says Knorr. Continue with messaging as usual and you run the risk of appearing superfluous, clueless or even money-grubbing. Take your cue from HFA members who are striking the right chord on social media right now.

RandiLynn Talsma of Blended Furniture in Michigan this week shared a photo online of her living room — her favorite room in her house — looking out over her lush front yard. She challenged her followers: “Would you SHARE a pic of your spot, messy, lived in, picture-perfect, your real life now … in the comments and we can all see #onelittlecorner of our lives?“

Knorr says Talsma is spot-on in her messaging. He encourages furniture retailers to include the memories they have of their furniture or rooms in their homes and invite viewers to share their own. “So if you have fond memories of sitting in a favorite chair or recliner with your dad, you should be sharing that message of positivity with others on social. We’ve got enough bad news to deal with every day. Let’s share some good news that ties into home and furniture.”

Another HFA member, Coconis Furniture in Ohio, is closed, but that hasn’t stopped the store from engaging with followers on Facebook. In keeping with Knorr’s theme of home, the store is asking Facebook followers to describe their ultimate dream space furnished and accessorized by Coconis. The company is letting followers vote for the winner, who will receive a $1,000 gift card to the store.

Other social media tips from Knorr:

Be useful

Brakenridge Furniture is issuing public service announcements to its community in Ferriday, La. Earlier this week, it pushed out a notice from town officials asked residents to consider not shopping for groceries during the first three days of April so that low-income families using the federal government’s WIC program could shop for the food items on their limited list. Knorr says sharing helpful information with your community on your social channels goes way beyond marketing. In fact, it may not even occur to you that pointing followers to the Walmart that just restocked its toilet paper has any marketing value (and you won’t care either way). But being involved and helping out in your town relays to your community that you’re a business that cares about people.

Knorr is working with a furniture retailer in Fort Wayne, Ind., that is donating its delivery trucks to a fabric manufacturer so the company’s fabric can be taken to a plant that will turn the fabric into masks. “That kind of currency in your community is invaluable on the other side of this (pandemic),” says Knorr. “What can you be doing in your community to help — and how can you get that word out?”

Show your human side

Greg Crowley of Crowley’s Furniture & Mattress stores in Missouri and Kansas posted a video from his home just to let his customers know what he was doing (watching TV, eating snacks and walking his dog Stella). At the end of the video, Crowley urged his followers to stay home with loved ones and be patient. When the time is right to reopen, he said, Crowley and his customers can gather again. It is a simple message with a powerful statement: Stay safe, we’ll be there for you when the time is right.

Your furniture store is made up of people (including you) who are struggling with and acclimating to the current environment in the same ways so many of us are. Make them main characters in your communications — with pictures of people working from home, taking fun jogs, social distancing in the park, loving on their pets. We’re all craving connection, says Knorr. Pull back the curtain for your followers and get real now. Now is the time to strengthen your customer relationships by sharing your vulnerability with them.

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