This is the first in a series of blog posts called #SocialSuccess. Each month we will catch up with a local business in the Tri-States (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania area) and interview them about how they use social media to grow their business. For January, we caught up with Irene Marks, project manager at Lake Region IGA, a supermarket located in Hawley, Pennsylvania. You can find Lake Region IGA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine. Here we go:

Question: Tell me briefly about Lake Region IGA – what area does it serve, what types of products and services does it provide?

Answer: Lake Region IGA is a grocery store located in Hawley, Pennsylvania.  We serve Hawley, Honesdale, Greentown, and anyone and everyone in the Lake Wallenpaupack Lake Region) area. Whether you are just passing through the area, on vacation, or one of the locals, we have what you need. We offer a variety of specialty products, organics, gluten free, non-GMO, and household staple items as well. We have on-site professional butchers cutting the best meat fresh everyday. Our full service deli serves homemade salads, fresh lobsters, and the full line of Boar’s Head products. The best part about what we offer is our outstanding customer service. Since we are your Hometown Proud Supermarket, we care about your shopping experience and how satisfied you are with us. Let us help you find what you need. Our in-store kiosk offers printable coupons so you can take advantage of national deals and save money.

Through our store we run a nonprofit organization called the Lake Region Community Dock Foundation (LRCDF). Our mission is twofold. We help families in our community who are in need, and we also help other charities in our area by donating 1 percent of a customer’s sales to the charity of their choice on a quarterly basis. All you have to do is sign up at the service desk to link your preferred customer card to your charity. Last year we donated approximately $16,000 directly back to the community we serve.

Q: How many different mediums do you use to market Lake Region IGA. For example: Direct mail, print advertising, online advertising, radio, TV, social media, and which are the most successful? Which social networks is Lake Region IGA on? (Facebook, Twitter, any others?

A: We use a PDF version of our print ad to email about 400 customers on a weekly basis. We do print our ad as well for in-store use. Our online advertising proved to be not as successful as other avenues. We use Google Analytics data to find out where referrals come from to our website. We do use local radio quite a bit, especially when there is an event we are trying to promote. We had not previously used television until this year when the community was highly interested in our fundraising efforts for PSP Blooming Grove, Cpl. Bryon Dickson, and Trp. Alex Douglass. For social media we use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine. So far, social media has proved to be the most successful.

Q: What are your goals in using social media? Increase sales? Drive conversation? Increase current customer loyalty? Increase brand awareness etc…? Drive traffic to your website?

A: It’s funny how you just summed up all of our goals in your question. Our goals are all of the above, and most of all give people another outlet in which to communicate with us good or bad.

Q: What types of content do you include on Facebook? Which posts have been the most successful in terms of engagement (likes, shares and comments?)

A: Our content varies; it all depends on what project we are working on. We post community involvement, sales, new products, sweepstakes and special events going on within the store. We see the most engagement in our posts with our community events. For example, when the PSP Blooming Grove Barracks were ambushed by a lone gunman, we raised $10,000 for the victims’ families as well as provided many lunches to the law enforcement working the case. Those posts during such a tragedy seemed to gain the most interest because people wanted to help and didn’t know how. If you could donate $1 at our registers, you felt that collectively you were making a difference.

Q: Do you use the same content across all social networks? Can you provide an example(s)?

A: We try to post different content on the different social media sites, but it usually works out that the same stuff is being posted on all because you don’t want someone to miss out on important content or messages. We do, however, not link our posts. For example, when you write a Facebook post, you are able to share it with Twitter. We have not been doing this because the functionality of Twitter and Facebook are very different. When a shared Facebook post comes up on Twitter it simply gives you a link to Facebook. You may have Twitter users that do not use Facebook and therefore they would miss the content anyway.  We take the time to write posts on each social media site, mainly, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Vine is the least often used, but it’s fun, so we have experimented with it.

Q: How many people are involved with social media at Lake Region IGA, both in terms of content creation and responding to comments?

A: I am responsible for posting the social media content. A lot of the ideas come from our general manager and staff. For example, if the Bakery department has an amazing cake they would like to show everyone, they will call me down there to take pictures.  It’s fun because while I am responsible for the content, everyone gets involved.

Q: Has Lake Region IGA tried out Facebook ads? If so, explain who you targeted, what the objective was, how long the campaign was for, and what kind of results it brought in for you.

A: We have only used Facebook ads once to promote our KidsFest last year when we had Shannon Aikau from Count’s Kustoms come and reveal his one of a kind chopper. We only ran it for three days worth $30. I’m not sure if it was that successful in terms of bringing people to our festival, but it wasn’t successful enough to use Facebook ads again. It’s difficult for a small business like ours to spend a lot of money on Facebook ads. As far as targeting, we would have only targeted people in Hawley, Honesdale and as far as Scranton and the surrounding areas. You can tell when people do not target correctly if you’re using Facebook and you see an ad for a store located in California with no way to buy online.

Q: IGA recently had to close the Hawley store. There were a number of negative comments on social media about that. How did you handle that? Did you respond to all comments? Just positive ones, just negative ones. Do you have a social media policy in place for a situation like this? If not, do you now?

A: Yes, when we closed the Hawley Market store, we were devastated. We had done everything in our power to keep it open for as long as it was. We understand that our community took it personally, and there were quite a few negative comments on our Facebook page. The only comment we decided to address was to let people know that we are not leaving them high and dry, that we do offer home delivery on Tuesdays. It was a difficult time for us, and we learned that on social media you have to take the good with the bad. We decided to leave the post up and keep all the comments whether they were good or bad. The whole point of social media is to allow everyone to express their own opinions — whether you agree with them or not.

Q: What advice would you give to other small businesses when starting on social media or how to improve their social media?

A: My advice to other businesses would be that social media is a must and to have fun with it. If you are having fun, your followers are going to have fun as well and be engaged in your posts. Also, make sure someone is monitoring your social media in case a customer has a question or concern. Then you can address it right away. And finally, by all means check out your competitors and other local business’ social media sites to see what they are doing. Keep it current.

How does your business use social media? Join the conversation in the comments below. We’d love to have you join in.

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