As a vaping enthusiast, I try to visit as many vape shops as possible. As a nerd, I follow several vape shops on various social media services. There are also many vape shops that I check up on periodically, but don’t follow. When I look at what most vape shops do with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., I see tons of mistakes and poor use of these services.
Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I am not a social media expert. However, as someone that has covered consumer electronics and videogames for years, I’ve seen some outstanding marketing and superior use of social media. Some of the following critiques are mine, while a few of them came from conversations with longtime tech-nerd friends that are now vapers. Let’s do this!
Antisocial Media: The biggest problem I have with how vape shops use social media services is that most of them use social media in an antisocial way. Many only use it to advertise products or sales. That’s a missed opportunity. While driving people to buy stuff is the ultimate goal for stores, social media can be used for so much more than product-focused campaigns.
One antisocial mistake I often see is companies not showing off what their store looks like. Social media services are a fantastic opportunity to show the unique features of a vape shop. They can be used to give potential customers an idea of a store’s tasting bar, displays, build station, lounging area, lighting, and more. Great pictures can be used to help new customers think, “Hey, this shop looks cool! I want to hang out there.”
Another antisocial mistake is that most shops don’t post information about their staff. While I might go to a vape shop because of a new product or a good sale, I often return to shops because of the staff. Social media can be used to highlight the staff’s juice tastes, building skills, quirks, and more. It’s an opportunity for a potential customer to think, “Hey, I like the way Jim from Vape Store X thinks. I’m going to stop by the store to get some juice advice from him,” or, “Zoe from Vape Shop Y makes some sick builds! I want her to set up my RDA.”
Most vape shops are so product-focused that their social media feeds feel like a string of boring advertisements. The smarter vape shops mix up product posts with ones about the store and staff, or even quirky vape-related things that keep the feed fun.
Barrage Posting: There’s one vape shop I like that has a fantastic storefront and uses social media very well…except when it comes to post frequency. Blasting out five or more posts in two minutes is stupid. It’s annoying. It makes people want to hit the “unfollow” or “remove friend” button. I have no idea why the people at this shop think barrage posting is a good strategy. It’s just obnoxious.
Then there are the shops that only post once a day. That’s not enough. Social media services move fast and a single post will get lost in the shuffle.
One of the best vape shop feeds that I follow tries to post at least once every two hours, but no more than once an hour. That’s a great strategy. It’s frequent enough that it keeps the store’s brand on the minds of its followers a few times a day, but isn’t as obnoxious as putting up ten posts in a minute. Shops that post in this fashion will be heard and remembered, without being lost to other feeds.
Ignoring Google+: Google’s social media service gets a bad rap — some of it is absolutely deserved, but some of it stems from people not knowing enough about what it offers. The mistake vape shops (and people in general) make is dismissing Google+ as an inferior Facebook. While it doesn’t have Facebook’s massive user base, Google+ does several things that Facebook doesn’t, the most important of which is socialized search results on Google.com.
All vape shops — especially those that also sell online — want their search results to be on the first page of a Google search. Google+ can help make that happen. Say a vape shop posts a Google+ story about picking up Atomizer Z and I click “+1” on that story. If any of my Google+ friends search for Atomizer Z then that story will likely appear on the first page of their results. It doesn’t matter if a store has half the followers on Google+ than it does on Facebook. The benefits of socialized search results can have tremendous value.
Overvaluing Instagram: Relying too heavily on Instagram is a mistake I often see with Southern California shops. I suppose it makes sense. A lot of the storeowners are young and Instagram skews younger than Facebook or Twitter. Instagram is also flashy, quick, and easy, but…
…it’s probably the least practical social media service. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are easier to track. There are a lot of metrics tools that can show the “true” effectiveness of posts on the aforementioned services. Instagram doesn’t have as many tools (yet) and is very limited because it doesn’t allow for hyperlinks in posts or comments (yet). For whatever reason, a lot of shop owners I’ve met are fixated on the number of Instagram followers they have. In reality, it’s not indicative of anything and marketing on Instagram is inferior compared to what you can do (and measure) on other services.
Wrapping it Up: Out of the stores that I follow, only a handful use social media effectively. Planet Vape does a fantastic job of posting frequent updates that highlight products, the store, and the staff. Nosty also handles social media nicely. Vapeday is relatively new, but started off with a social media bang and has been doing a mostly good job.
All of this is, of course, just one person’s opinion. I’m sure that there are some people out there that just want straight-up product and sale information through social media services. However, I maintain that most vape shops aren’t getting the most out of social media. That doesn’t surprise me considering the relative newness and youth of the vaping business. It also wouldn’t surprise me if in two years, many vape shops handle social media as deftly as some of the consumer electronics and videogame marketers I’ve met.