I could not live without…

Social media

Owner of Birmingham-based Spectacle Emporium, Janan Choudhury, discusses the importance of social media to the success of his independent practice

A lady using social media in a cafe

How the world has changed in such a short space of time. Communication and friendships can be made at the press of a button and discovering like-minded people is no more than a hashtag away.

Of course there are pitfalls. The instant gratification can lead to a hubris complex, while an unhealthy obsession with the number of followers you have can be a distraction from the real purpose of the technology. However, just like new innovations and technology before it, the essence of social media is making conversation more accessible – to communicate your thoughts, philosophy and style to others. The only difference is that everything is done at breakneck speed. 

The rules of engagement

To me, social media has become an important avenue for existing and prospective clients to communicate with me, to keep in touch and to engage in conversation. It may not replace a lovingly handwritten letter or a telephone call, but it can be used to supplement our message. 

A good tip is not to think about how many followers you have, or the impression count, but to measure genuine engagement, whether by likes, retweets, or better yet direct messages. 

I use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the bulk of my social media activity. Yet those avenues are supported with YouTube, Pinterest and Google+.

"Online has changed shopping habits irreversibly. People are price checking, browsing and researching before even considering coming into stores"

Each platform is nuanced and caters for different audiences. For example, I use Facebook as a mini-blogging site and as a hub for reviews, messages and paid adverts, enabling me to reach the slightly older demographic in the local community. Twitter is great for a quick conversation and is a faster way to address business-orientated people. However, the time that the message is available is so short that you are constantly competing for people’s attention, so I often repeat the same tweet at different times on different days.

Instagram is my main way of communicating. It’s vibrant and truly relevant to my practice’s style. I also find that it’s the smoothest experience in terms of instant gratification and visibility. Instagram is also free and accessible, and, more importantly, attracts people that agree with my way of thinking. 

Online has changed shopping habits irreversibly. People are price-checking, browsing and researching before even considering coming into stores. Therefore, it’s imperative for my business to have a presence. It allows people to ‘window shop’ us, and gives them an idea of what it means to the end consumer when they invest with us.

Ipad and Iphone

Pictures say a thousand words

Pictures say more than words, and people love a rewarding aesthetic shot. Again, it’s that sense of instant gratification – if the picture isn’t great, then expect people to unfollow you. 

Activity is important too. I post daily on Instagram and Twitter, while Facebook acts as a vehicle for announcements and adverts.

The aim is to produce provocative, relevant and inspiring images. It is difficult to maintain a high standard, but my advice is to keep plugging away. Take lots of shots and share content frequently. I usually go snapping when there is a lull in the business, but it’s important to ensure that the pictures aren’t for advertising. Keep it social, keep it as a conversation and keep it consistent. In fact, the shop’s leaflets, posters, adverts and literature should all match the online content and it’s a powerful way for people to recognise your brand – your shop. 

If you can develop a feel-good vibe and an environment for people to comment and share their thoughts in, then you have started making that all-important first impression stick.

Creative authenticity 

I love eyewear and I love what I do, and the only way in the modern era to show that love is to portray it via social media. 

The trick is to not look too much like an optical store. You don’t want to bore users with frame images like it’s eBay. Nor do you want to give the impression that your view of life is archaic as people like to feel young. As my store is full of vibrant orange and deep purples, my filters of choice always accentuate the warmth of the shop. It is a fine art, but one that I could not live without.