In the four years I’ve been actively involved in the New York City cigar community, I’ve become acquainted with the whole gambit of cigar companies that make up what we bloggers like to call the “industry.” I’ve helped to market or promote companies like the small local brick and mortar in Brooklyn, to the new boutique brand in Arizona, and on up to legendary industry leaders like Nat Sherman. My team has hosted or sponsored over 60 events in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and NJ. I’ve also spent a lot of time marketing my own organization, FineTobaccoNYC, which after starting in 2010 as a wordpress blog has become a review website, cigar club with over 700 members, and a luxury consulting company.
You can only meet your customers where they are, and they are on social media.
Central to all of my efforts has been the utilization of social media. I’ve sold a lot of cigars on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for myself and on behalf of a number of companies. In my work, I’ve noticed that many cigar company owners either a) don’t maintain a social media presence, b) don’t use social media in a way that effectively drives sales, and/or c) don’t know how to measure the effectiveness of social media efforts.
This series of posts, “Social Media for Cigar Companies,” is intended to help cigar shops, brands, and other industry players to market their brand more effectively. If you are a cigar company owner, or just a small business owner referred here from Google, read on and learn how to make money using social media.
Let’s start with why you need to be utilizing social media. Consider these six reasons:
1. Your customers are already using social media
According to the Experian 2012 Digital Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report, a whopping 91% of adults have a social media presence. Cigar smokers are no exception. The hashtag #cigar on Instagram, for example, has over 300,000 photos and is growing more rapidly every day. You can only meet your customers where they are, and they are on social media. You might be able to count on the older generation calling you on the phone, but you can’t count on that with the younger crowd that will soon make up your customer base.
2. Your competitors are, or will, use social media
Social media as we know it now is less than a decade old. This presents an incredible opportunity for companies with foresight to take an early lead in marketing to the next generation of cigar smokers. It also means that this is your market to lose if you don’t make a wise investment in building a strong presence on social media.
3. Social Media is perfectly suited for luxury market companies
Luxury marketing is about narrative. People don’t just buy your product—they buy your story, your vision of life. This of course means that you must have a story to tell. But just as important, you must be able to present that story in a compelling way.
“92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising.”
Social media is key to this. An Abrams Research study on social media marketing for luxury companies put it this way:
“The luxury market is ideally situated to thrive on social media. Along with deeper pockets, a keen interest in staying up to date on the latest consumer product goods, and an appetite for luxury products and lifestyle markers that’s growing all the time, its customers – the affluent – spend more time online than the general population.”
4. Social media is a leading source of customer referral
The 2012 Nielsen Report on “Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages” found that trust in traditional forms of advertising (television, magazine, banner ads, etc) is in rapid decline. The marketplace is simply too saturated with ads, and as a result consumers have lost faith in those ads.
At the same time, 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. Translation: the $4000 you just spent placing that magazine ad could have been two, three, or four times as effective in social media. Why? Because social media is all about referrals. When Bob sees that Jim liked your company’s Facebook page, he is more likely to connect with your company and purchase your product than if you shouted at him to buy your product from a slick looking banner ad.
5. Social media builds invaluable business relationships
Roughly 90% of the valuable relationships I have in the industry started out as friendly conversations on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Why such a lopsided number? The power of these networks is that the social barriers between users are almost entirely non-existent. This allows for informal, totally off the cuff conversations that can serve as introductions to valuable business relationships.
6. Your business can survive without it. But why just survive?
As more of life takes place in online venues, and as social media becomes more deeply embedded in our lives, more of our relationships will start and grow online. At some point, social media relationship building will be a given. This is a big opportunity for those who see the tide shifting and act, and a liability for those who don’t.
In our next segment, we’ll look at the basic platforms you must have a presence on and discuss how each of them allows you to broadcast to, interact with, and entice your audience.
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