Increasing Engagement on Social Media

How do you get conversations started on social?

Read this quick guide on some conversation starters for you. I’ve used a pet shop in my example conversation starters.

Ask opinions

Ask your followers to tell you what they think about products, ideas or images. Mix up your questions to invite short or long answers depending on the subject. You can then use the same questions to create polls and questions on stories.

Do you prefer cats or dogs”?

“What do you think is the perfect first pet for a family home?”

Invite a question

Your followers see you as an expert, and inviting questions from them help you establish your expert credentials, your brand authority, or simply inject a little fun into your posts. One of your content pillars could be “ask me a question” with a different theme each time based on your product range, specific skills for your industry or even about your business. Don’t worry about attracting questions you won’t know the answers to – you can take your time to research the answer, or even invite them to give you a call or pop in to talk about it further.

“Ask me anything about training a dog”

“Ask me about attracting birds to the garden”

“Ask me anything about feeding cats”

Invite recommendations from followers

We often like to share recommendations, and asking followers for theirs may or may not be industry related. You could simply link it to what’s going on with you or your team. You could even ask for recommended top tips.

“We fancy lunch out today, where would you recommend?”

“We’ve got a rare Saturday free, tell us your favourite places for a day out”.

“What would your advice be to a new dog owner”?

Ask for memories

Many of us love reminiscing and memories can generate ongoing conversations between followers.

“Who can tell me what used to be here before us”?

What’s your favourite memory from the puppy days“?

“What animal was your first pet”?

Piggyback events & news to start conversations

Sharing trending news stories and events can help conversations start online.

Who do you think will win tonight”?

“If your pet entered the Commonwealth Games, what sport would it compete in?

Share interesting stats that might prompt comments

Bizarre and little known facts can entice comments and conversation.

“Did you know the cocker spaniel was the first cancer detecting dog?*”

Watch and learn

Look at previous posts that have worked well and take away learnings so you can repeat best practise. Following other businesses that generate great engagement can also inspire you – watch and learn from other businesses.

Doing all of above and still not getting engagement? Double check whether your images are stopping the scrolling thumb & check the timing of your posts.

And finally….

Don’t forget to reply and keep the conversation going. You can even tag in other people to invite them to join in.

Don’t forget you can repurpose the comments you get to create blogs and future posts.

How much does the weather affect sales?

How much do you blame the weather when footfall or sales is not as expected?

Yes, weather does affect footfall and sales, but a Category Manager I used to work with always said, “but is it just the weather, or could there be other factors at play?”

It’s a question I’ve never lost sight of. These are my top tips for when you’re thinking about the weather and how it’s impacting your sales.

1. Forecast for different scenarios & have a rough and ready plan for each one. What will you do if sales are too low? What will you do if the weather has driven a surge in sales?

2. Track your sell-through rate versus your targets and know which tactics you might employ when. We know sales will never follow forecast, but we can think about when to implement different retail tactics

3. Have your social media posts at the ready for when those rainy days or blazing hot days come. Follow the weather forecasts and publish your social posts when you think you’ll have maximum impact. 

4. Don’t blame the weather. There are so many factors that affect sales. Yes, the weather can be a key driver, but what are the other factors at play within your shop, website, social media account. What factors external to you are at play (e.g. a road closure prevented footfall).

5. Run through your checklist of what else you can do to support sales. It’s always worth running through your retail toolkit to ask yourself what you need to tweak.

5 Reasons to Volunteer

I’ve volunteered my time in one capacity or another for many years and I’ve always enjoyed it and gained from the experience. It’s just something I do, but if you asked me whether I’d recommend it, I’d wholeheartedly say yes, Why? Well, here are just a few benefits of being a volunteer.


The skills I’ve developed from scratch, or fined tuned through volunteering is endless. I’ve learnt from experts and role models, learnt by doing it “on the job” and steadily built experience. Teaching, presenting, project planning and chairing meetings are just a few of the skills I’ve honed through volunteering. Volunteering can also be a fantastic way of filling gaps in your CV prior to your next career move.


I’ve been inspired by people I’ve met in a voluntary capacity and gone on to develop friendships. I’ve had contacts turn into clients on the basis of working with them on projects, or from them seeing the work I’ve produced pro-bono. I’ve made connections with people I may otherwise never have met within the local area and nationally within the sectors or retail and place management based on my voluntary work, and these are connections I highly value.


Sometimes we all have a dip in confidence and doing something you’re good at and working with a team to deliver exciting projects can both give you a confidence boost. It could be you just need a few more hours gaining experience before you’re confident enough to add it to your portfolio of services or to your CV.

That Feel Good Factor

Seeing what you’ve accomplished as part of a team can just make you feel good. It’s job satisfaction.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility is not just for the big brands. Giving back is something the smallest of businesses can do, and it doesn’t have to be financial, you can give your expertise or time supporting local causes or projects. Conscientious spending isn’t just about retail customers, potential clients torn between two providers may just select you based on your brand ethics and your entire portfolio of work.

How to take it forward

Choosing what you volunteer for is personal. Consider your skills, what you enjoy doing, the needs within your community and what availability you have to support that. After that, look for the opportunities (or even create them) and enjoy getting involved. You never know where it might lead you.

Brand Guidelines for Small Businesses

I hosted a social media training session for small businesses today, and we talked about the importance of consistency in posts. Consistency is not just important for social media though, your brand consistency across all your channels including your website, instore point of sale, printed material and packaging supports how your brand is represented and remembered. By selecting the design elements that you most like from your existing material, and by answering some simple questions, you can create your own brand guidelines.


Consider how you use your logo. Do you have different versions and if so, which one do you apply when?

Think about where your logo appears in artwork, for example, top left corner. Test whether you can apply this consistently across all media – on social media posts, digital and printed adverts, packaging, bags, receipts, anything your logo appears on. You may need to specify a different position for some applications, but again, with your guidelines in place, you can start to apply it the same way each time when working within that medium.

Look at the sizing of your logo too – is it discretely tucked away, or is it a large proportion of the finished artwork? Is it always the same size within a particular setting?


Selecting a colour palette can deliver consistency that has high impact on your brand perception. Choose your primary and secondary colours, and where you use them, plus any other complimentary colours. Think about colours in your background, artwork and fonts.


If you’re using applications such as Canva to create artwork, the font is often pre-selected, but you can change the font to your choice. Again, have a primary font you use most of the time, and know which secondary fonts you use when, and what colours you use. You could even outline if and when you use bold and italics and when you use capital letters.


Along with colour, you can create consistency with where you position things. You could have different layouts for different types of messages, as long as you are consistent with your application. For example, campaign messages may be made of a montage of four pictures with a central message like below, whereas tips and advice might be delivered differently.


The style of your artwork is more intuitive. Think about whether you like clean lines, lots of detail, simple images. Do you use drawings, photography or icons? Also think about the overall impact your material has – does the style match your brand ethos – friendly, authoritative, luxurious, or whatever your brand stands for?

Tone of Voice

Some of your tone of voice will come from the layout, font and images but much comes from your copy, and if you’ve got several people creating your posts, adverts, website banners and content, consider giving a few guidelines around tone of voice. Are you serious or fun, a friendly or an expert voice, informal or formal? Is your copy long, or short and succinct? Do you use emoji’s and if so, to what extent?


You can bring consistency to your content through a few guidelines around photography. Do you always use the same backdrop? Do you use close ups or wider shots? Do you shoot always at an angle, or square on? Do your photo’s have a border? Are your photo’s informal capturing action as it happens, or more posed?


If you use music in videos or stories, think about whether you want to apply some of your own rules here. Do you always want the same music piece playing or music from a particular playlist or genre?

A Simple Framework for You to Use

My logo always goes here…..
My colours are……
My fonts are…..
My layout looks like…..
My photo’s look like…..
My tone of voice is…..
My style is….
My music sounds like….
My brand guidelines

Help from Agencies

Marketing agencies and designers can pull together a detailed brand guidelines document for you, using their expertise on design and style. However, if that is outside your scope, you can create some simple guidelines that you can apply to every piece of material you create using the table above. However short or detailed those guidelines are, they will still help deliver a visual impact that will add credibility to your brand…as long as you apply them consistently.


You don’t have to create all your guidelines in one go. Start with the basics, of colour, fonts and ;ayout and then build up your guidelines over time. Review brands you admire and take notes on what you like. Look at some of your favourite posts, banners and adverts, and again, note down what you like. From there, you can frame some rules to apply to your own work. Use this checklist to create your own rules.

Top Tips for Social Media

I’ve picked my top ten local businesses on social media based on how they’re effectively using simple social media tactics available to everyone.


Personality can be hard to get across, but two local businesses smash it – The Vaults Real Ale Bar for the feel – good videos that always make me laugh and capture the team spirit and Colour Me Sophie B for pure sass and positivity. The secret is to be confident about who you are and what you represent.


Consistent content across images, video production and stories can help tell your brand story and reinforce your brand values. Jacques of Knowle do this beautifully. You can get help creating brand guidelines, or you can create your own using a framework to take you through fonts, colours and style.


Great images sell great products and 1683 The Chocolate Place have nailed it with the images they use, whether featuring a collection or a single flavour, the pictures of chocolates are mouth-wateringly tempting. Whether you use a local photographer or take your own, think about composition and lighting, and any style guidelines you’d like to follow to tie your images together.


Video is something most of us cringe at, and don’t particularly relish, but videos are an incredibly effective way of connecting to customers, especially in lockdown. You can say so much more, talking to the camera as if they’re a customer. Two great businesses who regularly post good videos showcasing their products are Cristal Ladieswear and The Sale Room. As other retailers say, sometimes you just have to go for it and post it. Your video will be better than you judge it, and with practise you’ll get even better.


Competitions are a great way to both create engagement and spread news about new products & services. They can be used to ask followers to create slogans, send in photo’s, review products or sign up to something – check out Eric Lyons who have used competitions effectively including promoting their new YouTube channel, and, just for fun, running a fantasy football league.

Local Love

Promoting the support local / support small message is something close to my heart. By talking about supporting small businesses, you’re contributing to your own brand ethos and story, as well as supporting your neighbouring businesses. Freda’s Deli consistently and eloquently promotes the shop small / shop local message and is a real High Street Champion.


It’s hard to know how much to talk about Covid-19, but customers do like to know you’ve got everything in place to keep them, your team and everyone else safe. Isabella Independent Hearing, who are open during lockdown, post about the measures in place to keep their customers safe.


Social media is so much more than posting your own news. To really make it work for you, connect and engage with your local community – your customers, your local businesses and wider network. Comment on other people’s posts. It can be a quick emoji, or you can start a conversation that builds. There are lots of businesses that do this consistently locally, and as a result, they steadily build their own followers. It’s hard to single any one account out, but look at Achill House and Spa over on Instagram.

Of course, there’s more in the social media toolkit, including stories, tagging, hashtags, linking your online shop and advertising but the first steps are all about creating content. Build your social media confidence and knowledge by following accounts you admire, listening to experts and building your own toolkit step by step. It’s not just the national retailers who are making social media work for them. Independents are making the most of social media too. Check out the Instagram & Facebook accounts for everyone I’ve tagged for a little inspiration.

Engaging in Place

I’m part of the Visit Knowle marketing team, and recently, spirits have been high in the Visit Knowle camp. Over the last two months, we’ve been encouraging local businesses to join the conversation, post more and comment more on social media, and now we are starting to see the results of our hard work. So much so, that the team have been doing ‘happy dances’ in their kitchens all week.

Why engage in place marketing?

Many customers want to shop local, and there is a role for places to invite visitors to come to their town or village, alongside shops, restaurants and businesses inviting customers to their premises. If we combine our voices and talk about both the individual businesses and the place, then we’re working together, encouraging visitors to browse in a place for longer. By working with each other and engaging in each others posts, we’re also introducing our followers to neighbouring businesses we think they’ll be interested in.

Engagement in Knowle is growing

We’ve been watching the engagement graph for Knowle turn upwards and we’re pleased to see that August and September engagement figures in Knowle are greater than the previous two months.

Even better, we’re now seeing more comments on our own posts from businesses that we weren’t hearing from before and we’re starting to see them comment on their neighbours posts too. We know it’s just the start, and that we’ve got a long way to go yet, but we like to celebrate success.

What we’ve done to get there

  • We’ve been deliberately creating posts that invite businesses to comment
  • We’ve deliberately been creating posts that businesses can share (and given example content on how they can share our posts to their advantage)
  • We’ve shared lots of good news stories
  • We’ve role modeled how to be social on social – commenting (lots) on local businesses posts, especially on Instagram
  • We’ve run a few stories and posts about joining the local conversation
  • We’ve run a “best post in place” post weekly, not only featuring the top 5 but saying how you can get into the top 5
  • We’ve shared our aims with our businesses by email regularly
  • We’ve been inviting our businesses to benefit from MayBe’s insights, training and platform regularly
  • We’ve used Maybe’s dashboard and place insights to plan our campaigns and share insights with our businesses
  • We’ve rocked up without fail to Maybe’s weekly webinars to gain further insights on what works and how we can be the best place we can be.

It’s helped our own account too. Instagram followers are growing on average 6% per month, and Facebook followers have increased 15% (since June), with a healthy level of engagement – all of which means any local posts we share reach a growing audience. 

We are delighted that our hard work is paying off. We’ll continue to encourage more engagement, whilst starting our campaign to get more businesses active in social media. So any Knowle businesses who aren’t posting yet, we’re here to help and we’ll be visiting soon!

Hashtags for Independent Retailers

Some local retailers have been asking about hashtags and how they can use for their business, so here’s a quick guide.

Why use hashtags?

Hashtags help people find content they are interested in. By clicking on a hashtag, users can see posts using that hashtag. If you follow a hashtag, it will automatically appear in your feed in Instagram and LinkedIn. You’ll also be able to find and join conversations around that subject. If you’re content is engaging and relevant to that hashtag, you should find customers interested in you and what you are talking about. In turn, they may then follow you.

Make sure the hashtags are relevant to your brand & message.  

Keep a list of hashtags including brands, place and sector hashtags, then target and match the most relevant ones to individual posts  

Use tools to find the most popular & related hashtags for your sector

Understand how others are using hashtags, & learn from them  

Use hashtags of brands you stock  

Use analytics to see which hashtags are working best for you  

Don’t use the same list of hashtags with every post

Don’t go over overboard with hashtags. You can use up to 30 on a post on Instagram but 9 is the recommended optimal number, and 10 for a story  

Don’t inadvertently spell out an unwelcome word or phrase when you merge the words together! Check your hashtag works before posting

Don’t forget to refresh your list once in a while and find out the latest trending hashtags

How to use them

You can post hashtags at the bottom of the content. On Instagram you can add them more discreetly in a comment once you’ve posted, making your post looks less cluttered. You can also hide hashtags within your post on Instagram. Follow hashtags too so that you can take the opportunity to be part of conversations.

Hashtags for independent retailers

To promote independent retailers and to connect to those following shop local campaigns, take look at the hashtags below for independent shops.

Placing yourself in your locality and surrounding areas is also important, so use local hashtags, or tag in local campaigners. Also use hashtags relevant to your business is important too. Take a look at what your business neighbours are using to find the right variant for your area.

Hashtags related to a day of the week can works for your business if you can relate the theme to you in a relevant way. Running a campaign over a number of weeks can work well.  Bring it all together and a running shop could use #run #solihull #mondaymotivation #shoplocal on a Monday post talking about planning your runs for the week ahead.

For independent’s











Daily Themes











Local hashtags

#your town
e.g #Solihull

#visit[your town]
e.g. #visitSolihull

#love[your town]
e.g. #loveSolihull
Sector Specific

#[your sector]
e.g. #bikes

#[your passion]
e.g. #cycling

e.g. #velo

Campaigns to follow and join in with

There are a number of campaigns through the year, and if you are joining in, tagging the campaigner means they are more likely to see the post, leading to possible comments and shares. Not only can you join in with campaigns, but they share useful tips and advice, so they are worth a follow throughout the year.

@Savethehighstreet – driving footfall to the High Street

@totallylocally – promoting FiverFest

@smallbizsatuk – promoting small businesses and deliver the Small Business Satuday campaign (1st Saturday in December)

@independentsdayuk – promote the shop indie campaign on July 4th

@shopindieuk – run the BestSmallShops competition

@justacard – encouraging people to support and buy from artists, crafters, independent shops


Hashtags are there to join a conversation and let others looking for conversations about their particular subject find you. They help you target customers interested in the same things as you. The golden rule is to keep them relevant to your message, your sector and your locality. Don’t forget to keep a list of your core hashtags, so that when you’re posting, you’re not racking your brain trying to remember exactly what they are!

The Foundations of a Digital Marketing Strategy

I recently ran a workshop for High Street businesses on how to grow their digital presence. We covered a lot of ground, from Google My Business, websites, social media, digital advertising, email marketing, content and analytics, but first, we had to talk about a few essential elements that influence your digital strategy.

1. Understand your customers

Who are your current customers and what do they think of you? Understanding what makes your current customers tick, and what your target customers are like is crucial to planning any marketing campaign. A customer profile for each customer group that includes key details such as average age, gender, the areas they live, what their interests are and how they shop and spend time online will help shape your digital strategy. Identifying who your super customers are, who not only support your business, but are your champions and cheerleaders can help develop your influencer strategy.

To grow your business, there may be a target customer that you need to know more about before you can decide how best to meet their needs. Once you understand your different customer groups, you can start formulating business plans and marketing campaigns that are targeted and therefore, more likely to succeed.

2. Understand the customer journey

Understanding the digital and physical customer journey and where in that journey you are relevant, interesting and useful is essential.

In our omnichannel world, we need to understand the journey our customers take before they even visit our store (bricks and mortar or online). Understanding what kind of research they do beforehand, what’s important to them, where they get advice from and the process they go through before clicking ‘add to basket’ or opening your door is something you should be reviewing every so often. Once you understand the journey, you can have the right content in the right place at the right time that answers the customer’s needs at that point in the journey. Fully understanding the journey can also lead you to adapting your business processes to make it more convenient and pleasurable for the customer to interact with you.

3. Define your customer offer

Once you understand your customers, you can review your customer offer and verify it delivers a good customer experience, positions you well versus competitors and meets customer’s needs. Defining your value proposition and your key messages makes it easier to develop targeted campaigns which customers respond to.

Understanding which elements of your products and services drive footfall, sales and margin helps focus on the elements of the offer you talk about within marketing campaigns.

Your brand story, personality and values also shape your customer offer. Be clear with your team what your brand story is, what your values are and what your tone of voice is like so that it’s delivered consistently.

4. Translate the numbers

There are so many ways we can analyse our performance, whether it’s how well a social media campaign has run, whether a Pay Per Click campaign is driving a return or whether the sales of a new product range are performing well. Successful High Street businesses understand which key performance indicators they should be reviewing when, but essentially, they have learnt how to translate the data, understand the story the data is conveying and then they act. Bringing the data back to the objectives of what you are doing and why and asking what the results are telling you to do next will help keep driving your business forward.

5. Connect with your customers

Connect with your customers, give them an experience and empower your team to do the same.

High Street businesses offer a service to people, and as people, experience and emotional connections to a brand build loyalty. Consistency is key so ensure your team understand your brand values, your key messages and your product range (so that they have exceptional product knowledge).

Blend strategy with innovation and taking opportunities

The above foundations help define your digital audience, your marketing strategy and your content plan for all your channels. Understanding who your customers are, where and how they shop and how your offer relates to them are the building blocks for everything else.

However, an independent High Street business has the advantage of being nimble. Independents are able to react swiftly to opportunities, to implement exciting ideas innovate. We should always be testing, learning and innovating to keep our businesses vibrant. Strategy and planning gives the solid base for trading well and having direction but grabbing opportunities with both hands keeps the independents one step ahead.

Five Questions Every Retailer Should Be Asking

2018 has been one of the most challenging years in retail.  As consumers continue to change their shopping habits and demand more from their retailers; as technology changes bring exciting new ways of delivering information and experiences to customers; as business rates and rents challenge costs, we more than ever need to keep asking questions that will drive business improvements.

Do you think of your customer before everything else?

Your customer should be at the forefront of everything you do. Why are your customers visiting you today? Where are they visiting you? In store, on your website or via social media? Are they getting what they want each time they visit you? What customer insights do you have? How well do you know your existing customers and target customers? What can you add of value that sets you apart? How are you growing your relationships with customers?

Is convenience at the heart of all your processes?

Customers are seeking convenience more than ever, and anything that makes it harder to interact with you means a potential lost customer.  How can you introduce convenience to every interaction you have with your customers?  When can customers contact you and how?  How can they order your products and book your services?  In what ways can you deliver products and services that are convenient to customers or do they have to come to you?  Can you do what you are doing now more effectively using apps and processes?

How engaged are you with your community?

Whether you are in the city centre, busy town or a village High Street, your regular customers, and your neighbours will want to wish you well and support you.  Have you got a reason for them to support you?  What kind of greeting and service do customers get across every channel they interact with you? What can you do within your community? Can you host clubs, run events, offer classes or advice?  If you can’t offer a service with your product, can you support the community in their events – volunteering for community events, raffle prizes for local schools and charities? Do you invite your community to engage with you across channels?

Have you embraced the latest technology and trends?

Technology is changing all the time so have you checked you are making the most of the features of the technologies you are using? What are the latest improvements available for your website, Google apps, your social media pages, your systems? Are you up to date with the latest trends? Can you improve processes by using new apps and technologies? Did you write off a technology or sales channel when it first came out that could now be relevant to your customers?

How can you grow?

Have you looked at new ways to expand existing products to new channels? Can you introduce new products to existing customers? Can you do this whilst keeping a focus on your existing business? What are your key business strengths that you can use to take you in new directions?

It’s worth taking time out of your schedule to work through these questions. This will lead you to identifying actions you can prioritise and deliver on.

If you’d like some help with answering these questions and applying them to your business, give us a call today on 07949391450 or email us at to book a session.

%d bloggers like this: