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Lessons in 'LIVE' Social Media Marketing and Retail.
By Alicia Whalen
Tuesday, 15th July 2014
I had the great opportunity to work on the Social Media launch of the new Outlet Collection at Niagara, it was an adventure in live event social media management and marketing with many lessons learned.
The new outlet collection is situated at the center of the Niagara region in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and was developed by Ivanhoé Cambridge, a Canadian-based global property owner, manager, developer and investor, focusing on high-quality urban shopping centres. The new Outlet Collection at Niagara is the flagship in the collection of future planned developments, and a shiny new attraction for the Niagara region.
Launching such a brand in social media channels Twitter, Facebook and Instagram was a labor of love for myself, and the on-property team, retailers and excited fans who made it such a success.
Lessons learned in social media for retail:

1. Choose the right Social Media communities to focus on and do it well:

We launched @OCNiagara on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

2. Have a strategy – then prepare to abandon it:
4Hoteliers Image Library 
Social media became the central point of integration for all of the grand opening events and media. A plan for hashtags and content was created and then it happened – viral word-of-mouth and buzz took over.

3. On the ground LIVE social media was key to leveraging all of the buzz surrounding a new mall and tourist attraction:
On-site content curation (the photos of retailers, new stores, shoppers and and ongoing monitoring and response times were critical in quickly building the communities and tracking what content was engaging – and it was fast!
4Hoteliers Image Library#Selfies posted to Instagram and Twitter were most engaging, and had the most viral reach.  Of course any image of a cute child or pet always wins in social.

4. Don’t forget about Foursquare:
Those who shop use Foursquare and Instagram religiously it seems, followed closely by Twitter and then Facebook.
5. Followers and Fans like special deals just for them:
They like to be on the “inside” with special access to specials and promotions. Contests and giveaways worked, especially contest for gift cards awarded to fans and followers on site during the grand opening weekend.

6. Have a good solution for managing and reporting:
We used Sprout Social to manage and report on Facebook and Twitter.
The days around the grand opening of the Outlet Collection at Niagara were critical in launching a successful social media presence. 

Key to this was leveraging the online and offline buzz, responding to accolades and criticism, and learning what content was resonating with the audiences on each social media platform (as well as re-sharing #selfies and giving prizes for posting them).

7. #Hashtags are cool. Don’t post on Instagram or Twitter without at least one (or 5) good Hashtags – just trust me.

From what I saw, there still a large gap in the integration of the offline shopping experience with the very engaged socially connected shoppers who are tweeting, posting, liking and sharing their experiences – and ultimately spreading the word and driving foot traffic.
4Hoteliers Image Library
A huge opportunity for retailers to embrace Social Media as consumer and retail shopping behavior will continue to converge with digital and social media.
And so it was that Niagara’s newest tourist attraction opened and blasted into the social media sphere with gusto and enthusiasm, and I found a way to combine two of my favorite things!
#Shopping + #Socialmedia @OCniagara = #Heaven 4 @acoupleofchicks
For more adventures in Social Media follow Alicia Whalen and A Couple of Chicks™ Digital Tourism Marketing on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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