How to Promote Your Vape Shop on Social MediaSix tips for communicating with customers and generating business once the new FDA regulations take effect.
For vape shop owners, August 8, 2016 will live in infamy as the day the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gained regulatory authority over vapor products.
Now more than ever, owners need to harness the power of social media to clear up any confusion about the changing landscape, communicate with existing customers (and potential new ones) and generate business.
Social media helps develop and enhance a brand and allows for real-time promotional opportunities, said Michael L. Manley, publisher of Smoke and Vape Business Solutions magazine.
It can help vape shops “stay connected, as well as provide content and education to their customers and potential customers,” said Manley. He noted social media also helps build brand loyalty. “People typically do business with those whom they trust and feel the most informed by, and social media provides a unique platform to do this.”
Match the medium to the message
While vape shop owners should leverage most of the major social media channels, let your message drive the channel.
For example, Facebook lends itself more to vaping education and communication, and Twitter and Instagram would be better for real-time vape promotions and product information, said Manley.
Some key stats on social media demographics among Internet users:
- 82 percent of people ages 18 to 29 are on Facebook; that number drops to 48 percent for people age 65-plus.
- 55 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 use Instagram, and women are more likely users than men (31 percent vs. 24 percent).
- 32 percent of adults 18 to 29 use Twitter, followed closely by 29 percent of people 30 to 49.
What to promote?
Vape shops should use social media to announce almost all happenings, such as bring-a-friend vape meets, advocacy events with the non-vaping public and in-store events designed to promote the brand and showcase new products, said Cynthia Cabrera, president of The Cating Group, a Miami-based consulting and business development company that specializes in the vapor industry.
Cabrera reminded owners that with the new regulations in effect, any health claims previously made related to vaping are no longer allowed without special authorization from the FDA.
The regulations also forbid free samples, once a popular promotion tactic, said George Medici, executive vice president of PondelWilkinson Inc., a Los Angeles based firm that handles public relations for the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA).
What does your customer care about?
Long-winded social media messages get lost, as do posts that pretend to be about supporting the industry but really just promote a vape shop, Cabrera said.
“Customers aren’t stupid, so honest communication with a healthy dose of respect for consumers will go a long way,” she noted. “A forward-thinking business will try to find out what its customer base cares about, concerns they might have, the types of products they’d like to see in the future and more.”
Don’t let customer questions linger either, Medici stressed. Shoot for real-time responses, but within 24 hours is a good rule of thumb.
Expand your reach
Medici uses Facebook Live to communicate with SFATA’s followers. The format offers the opportunity for real-time questions and answers, he said. “Videos are saved on the timeline and shared even after the broadcast, expanding our reach to additional audiences and increasing engagement.”
Help with hashtags
Hashtags can help customers find your messages more easily. Research shows tweets with hashtags get twice as much engagement and 55 percent more retweets as those without them. But don’t go overboard. One or two hashtags is generally better than three or more.
Cabrera and Medici said to consider using these hashtags when appropriate: #vapor, #vape, #ecig, #ecigarettes, #CASAA, #vapeavet, #vapeadvocacy, #saveasmoker, #notblowingsmoke, #swtich2vapor, #thevapingtruth, #mod, #vapestrong, #eliquid, #vapecommunity, #vapedaily, #instavape, #vapestragram, #vapelove, #vapers and #vapejuice.
Look to capitalize on trending hashtags, too. For instance, if you have a watermelon vape flavor, promote it on National Watermelon Day using the appropriate hashtag. Consider geotargeting your post by including a hashtag with the name of your city or town.
Leveraging hashtags on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest allows you to tap into current, trending content online and become a part of the conversation.
Skip the trash talking
Occasionally, Cabrera sees vape shops attempt to promote themselves by throwing a competitor under the bus on social media. “No one likes dirty marketing tactics, and consumers will remember that store had to badmouth someone else to make itself look good,” she said.
Manley agreed, especially in light of the new FDA regulations. “Vape shops should all consider themselves members of the same team, fighting for the same common goal,” he said. “Working together to build good consumer practices, including education, is going to be what keeps this industry progressive and moving forward.”