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.

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.

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!

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.

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