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The death of one size fits all – how businesses should adapt social media to their specific needs

From global corporations to local outlets, the vast majority of businesses have started to integrate social media into their marketing strategy. It’s a fantastic way of building an engaged customer base and keeping customers in the loop with any news about the brand. And while I would encourage these efforts to persist, I believe that now is the time for businesses to take the additional step of integrating social media elements into their own websites. As I’ve explained before, many companies still don’t take the time to tailor their social experience to their customers, and so below I’ve explained how certain types of industries can best take advantage of social websites.

Retail – Become part of the customer’s lifestyle
For those in the retail industry, social media can be a fantastic tool for positioning your site as part of your customer’s daily online regime. Rollerblading merchandise retailer – Roll Unity – is a great example of how the strong brand identity that social websites provide can create a close relationship with customers. Roll Unity is to rollerblading what Fred Perry is to tennis and what Billabong is to surfing. Roll Unity doesn’t just promote its products but instead chooses to become part of the wider conversation around rollerblading, such as the top techniques to use, the best skating parks to go to, or even the legal issues that challenge rollerskating in public. Roll Unity created a stage for customers to talk about their passions – ensuring that they always return to engage with the brand.

Arts and Creatives – Understand how to encourage creative engagement on your site
Two years ago, Tony Mankios launched the site for his business ‘The London Life Drawing Society’ as a social website. The company organises paid drawing classes across the city and Tony was looking for a way to keep his customers up to date with upcoming events. Crafting a targeted social website enabled this, but it also encouraged creativity and discussion within the community.
Providing exclusivity for your members can also be a crucial element, particularly for the arts community. They want organic conversation to grow so as not to stifle creativity, while acknowledging that some users don’t want to feel like they are exposing their work to prying eyes. The flexibility of a social website enables this balance to be easily achieved.

Leisure & Fitness – Encourage discussion and turn your site into a hub for information
The £70 billion leisure and fitness industry in the UK can feel like a saturated market space, particularly with the excitement of the summer of sport fast approaching. It’s because of this that start-ups entering into the industry must set themselves apart from their competitors. Sussex Boot Camps, which runs monthly boot camp sessions to improve people’s fitness levels, has embraced social media and has built up a large number of returning customers as a result.
The founders understood that the more tightknit network of a social website allowed them to build a community around a particular interest and enable them to support, for the first time, their customers both off and online. The site became a go-to destination for advice on fitness, nutrition and wellbeing, meaning that customers were returning to the site even after their boot camp sessions were complete.

Social enterprises – Extend the reach of your organisation and create trust with your community

 Perhaps more than any other industry, charities have a responsibility to keep their investors informed – hence why these organisations have taken social media and social websites so seriously. An unexpected result was the sheer enthusiasm from the members that resulted from being part of the network, which generated more than just extra funding.

Towards Transition Glasgow, for example, set out to clean up the Scottish metropolis. When they started a dedicated social website, members began creating smaller satellite volunteer groups each with their own individual projects. Moving into the online world allowed the organisation and its members to influence and impact. 

While these are just a few examples of how social websites can help business, they hopefully show how every business must tailor social media and social websites to its customer’s needs. The advantage of social media is the possibility of creating a community engaged with your business – but, as with a friendship or relationship, owners have to be understanding. Gone are the days when customers were simply a number on an Excel spreadsheet; businesses today have a responsibility to understand who their customers are.