Social media increasingly important, local business leaders informed

Groton - Business people need to develop a social media strategy in a multimedia world that is constantly evolving, panelists said Thursday during the annual Groton Business Update program held this year by the Groton Business Association at the Hilton Garden Inn.

While Facebook is still the leader of the pack in terms of social media, according to consultant Rita Rivera, other digital services are gaining traction, including Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Vine.

"If you can be on all of them, that's great," said Rivera, who owns New London-based Love & Pop Design + Communications. "But if not, pick one and do it well."

Victor Tary, digital advertising manager of The Westerly Sun, said it pays to be on social media sites that correspond with the demographics of one's customers. Facebook, he said, is seeing the largest increase in users among the over-45 crowd, while Instagram, according to 18-year-old Westerly High School student Rob Trebiasacci, is more popular among the younger set.

You have to ask, said Tary, "Who are you going to catch, and what is the platform you're going to use to catch them?"

Bence Strickland, custom publications and tourism manager for The Day, said that devising a strategy is one thing, but in today's multimedia world follow-up is essential to determine what works. He pointed to a successful campaign to recruit students for Norwich Free Academy that employed a variety of marketing tactics that were revised as often as every 30 days to see what worked.

For NFA, the solution included print advertising in The Day's weekly publications that target individual towns, he said.

"Print still works, radio still works, television still works," Strickland said. "Just putting it out to the masses wasn't getting them their return."

Meagan Seacor, director of marketing and community relations for the region's Wireless Zone stores, said direct push notifications of special deals through smartphones also can be effective, generating an almost instant response.

"It's all about staying connected," she said.

And when it comes to social media, that kind of closeness comes with a cost, because some customers are going to complain about a business online.

The best way to deal with complaints, Rivera said, is to admit online that there is a problem, apologize and then ask to talk to the customer privately to work out a way to make up for the bad experience.

"It's very important to be professional and not lash back," Rivera said. "Once it's out there, it's out there."

l.howard@theday.com

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