Social media engagement has grown hugely since lockdown as people spend more time on their phones scrolling for distraction, entertainment and escapism from what’s going on around us.

No doubt you are experiencing more activity on your social media channels and, if you have the time, now is a good opportunity to talk about what you do, because another key feature at the moment is a greater willingness for people to support their local/independent businesses.

So don’t be afraid to talk about your business, the people involved and ask for support. This could be as simple as asking people to like your posts, share them, comment on them or leave reviews (both Facebook and Google) or it might be to ask people to buy gift vouchers for future sales. Can you put together suggested gift vouchers sets – towards future purchases of tanks and kit – in your online shop?

Here are our eight tips to help you connect with your customers over the longer term as we navigate our way through lockdown.

  1. Organise regular Facebook Lives to take questions from your customers or to show off ‘behind the scenes’ in your shop, particularly useful to show how you care for the animals when the shop door shuts. Your customers might not be aware of the time and effort you put into caring for your fish. Why not do a ‘walk through’ the shop pointing out your favourite products, anything you have on special offer or items that have just arrived? You can take questions as well to help your customers. Advertise it beforehand to make sure people tune in.
  2. Offer to be your customer’s ‘virtual personal shopper’ by using technology to offer a bespoke and personal experience to enable them to ‘browse’ your shop from the comfort of their home, for example to see what fish you have available if they are planning a purchase. Video calls through WhatsApp or FaceTime on iPhones would work well for this as well.
  3. Pond & aquarium consultants could use Zoom to offer 1-2-1 online consultations to help the customers you would normally visit in their homes. Zoom offers a basic package of 40 minutes for free. You can schedule in times and send invites to your customers who just need to download the app to their smartphone or tablet. If you run over the 40 minutes, just get the customer to join again on the same link.
  4. Shops and consultants could also use Zoom to plan a virtual ‘advice session’ for customers so they can join and ask questions. You can video Zoom meetings which you could then post of YouTube and send a link to your customer list to help them if they couldn’t make it. It’s best to pin your screen as the main screen if you plan to do this because you need to be careful about sharing people’s details without their permission. You can choose a background to your meeting – why not film your tank and use this?
  5. Offer ‘Drive by’ collections. We’ve heard of great examples of shops taking orders virtually or over the phone, selecting and bagging fish then organising a fixed time for delivery from the shop. They have set up an outside table where they leave the fish and other products, then step back 2 metres to enable the customer to collect. Don’t forget to include care information when you sell fish.
  6. Set up a YouTube channel to host videos you make in the shop showcasing your products. This article is quite technical in places but has some useful tips. This article also has some good tips in it about format and timing. Your videos only need to be short and start with your camera. If you do make short videos share the MP4 file on Facebook directly rather than a YouTube link.
  7. Have you heard of Canva? This is great free tool for producing simple graphics for a huge range of social media channels. It can also be used to produce short ‘slideshow’ videos to post on your social media channels, which helps with retention and engagement. Think about the most frequently asked questions you get in the shop and turn them into a series of short, sharp ‘tips’ to answer them. Other photo editing packages include A colour app and PicMonkey but each charge after a free trial. These can be useful to help you establish a stronger brand identity by always using the same colours and templates.
  8. Social media scheduling tools are useful to help save you time – there’s a range to choose from with free basic packages. Buffer, Hootsuite and Later are three examples of the most popular. But it’s best to use Facebook’s own scheduling tool if that’s your main social media channel.