Get Social To Beat the Dog Days

Large corporations have a staff to plan and execute social media campaigns with a tactical precision that would make General Patton jealous. Your shop may be outgunned compared to that, but you do have options to fight back.

Get Social To Beat the Dog Days

Mobile and online outreach to customers may be the your most effective way to reach them and beat the summer "dog days" slump. 

When those 100-degree days with scorching sun arrive, the odds are good it’s not just the sultry weather that has you sweating. Many of your best customers are already hibernating under air conditioning, avoiding their favorite matches, minimizing range sessions and coming through your doors less frequently. 

You may not experience the same slowdown many tactical retailers suffer during the dog days of summer, but for many there’s a palpable reduction. Creating a strategy to harness some of social media’s horsepower can help minimize the pain, and a little effort now can help you survive, even thrive, through this and any unforeseen economic challenges on the horizon.

Why Bother?

Results of a Pew Research Center study released in late 2016 found 15 percent of respondents made a purchase after seeing a social media link. On the surface it sounds like a decided advantage for online retailers, but the same poll determined, “64 percent of Americans indicate that, all things being equal, they prefer buying from physical stores to buying online.” 

Price was the biggest factor, although “More than seven-in-10 think it is important to be able to try the product out in person (78 percent).” Nearly half of the people who responded to the survey indicated they used their cell phones while in the store to check online prices and reviews.

In 2018 the Center conducted another study. It found 68 percent of Americans were on Facebook and 3/4 of them accessed it daily. Thirty one percent said social media plays a significant role in their purchasing decisions. YouTube ranked second among favored information sources and the other channels used, such as Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat varied sharply by age. The results, available on, can help you dial more precisely into your customer demographic. 

No Brainer

The statistics signal an all new front in the marketing campaign. It’s not quite “social,” but a good place to begin is by taking charge of your Google My Business listing. There’s even a free smartphone app available by the same name. 

Odds are good you’re one of the many local retailers already provided when someone asks Google for tactical shops or gun stores nearby. By taking control of that listing (free, by the way) your ranking improves when hours of operation are included, services and even photos of the store. You can upload videos, announce promotions and much more. It’s also important to monitor the site, because customers often provide satisfaction ratings, although complainers are most frequent. More details and information on taking control of your listing can be found at

It’s not a lot of work, but the dividends are there. Someone heading to a nearby match might suddenly discover the minimum number of rounds is higher than they thought and if you’re the closest firearm store when they search Google. 

“It’s not a perfect fit for all businesses,” a Forbes article summarized last May, “… but it has the potential to help you reach new customers who otherwise might not have heard of you — and make sure they’re getting the right information.”

Time And Resources

Time is a rare asset. Every second spent providing quality customer service is a potential referral and an investment in long-term success. Even conversational minutes over the counter and pleasant email exchanges yield positive results. 

That makes mercenary efficiency key when it comes to social media efforts, and that begins with an honest inventory of assets that set you apart from the competition — staff, inventory, location, hours, expertise and more. Start by writing a few down, but it’s OK to overlook some because they’ll become obvious as your social media offensive gels.

Any military and tactical experience should be on the list, but don’t neglect competitive shooting knowledge, passion for long-distance, optics expertise, nostalgic gear or even eagerness for everything survival. Are seminars or special sales already part of your marketing efforts? Can customers sign up for a newsletter? Rebates, displays, educational kiosks and events all qualify for inclusion.

Calendars Save Time

Precious time is surrendered every day if you need to think about what is going into your social media feed. The weekly or daily moves should be scheduled and almost robotic in nature. You should still take advantage of trends and be creative, usually weeks ahead, but the operation of your business comes first.

Minimize headaches by starting with a calendar that includes state and national holidays. Add your annual promotion days (or weeks), anniversaries and scheduled special events. 

Summer begins with Memorial Day and July 4 is a big one, but many of those sultry dog days and weeks before the pennant race heats up are vacant. One way to keep the momentum going is to craft a schedule that includes events at nearby shooting ranges or other area fundraisers, festivals or shows — Friends of NRA Banquet, antique firearms extravaganza, etc. Give some thought to National Night Out Day in August, June’s D-Day commemoration and others that don’t garner quite as much press. 

Major occasions allow you to piggyback your news onto trending hashtags. Local events do the same, but to a more confined geographic area. Both are good, efficient and effectively amplify your message.

Schedule In Reverse

On the calendar, put a reminder on the day of each event to post something about it on your store’s social media outlets.

It can be a simple Independence Day fireworks photo on July 4. If it’s a sale or special promotion, though, an initial announcement should come a week (at least) beforehand. Mark it down and add a reminder a few days out so fans won’t forget to take advantage of the price or attend. That’s three posts, per outlet, minimum in most cases. The beauty of this approach is that when things get hectic, you won’t need to spend time figuring out what comes next.

One calendar line for Facebook, Instagram, etc. Do this for all those special occasions and don’t neglect updates on your Google My Business page.

Regional match taking place at a nearby range? People traveling hundreds of miles to compete will appreciate weather, parking, food and road information. Odds are pretty good, too, your loyal patrons will appreciate you promoting the event and local economy. Drop each of those separate posts onto the schedule.

Bear in mind, these things don’t have to be long. In fact, in one study Facebook posts of 40 characters or less provided the best engagement. To give you an idea how short that is, the first sentence in this paragraph is close to ideal. 

Sustaining Resource 

The odds are good most of your summer months are still empty, though. To stay at the forefront of an enthusiast’s mind, establish your store as a sustaining resource. 

It’s simpler than it sounds. Provide reviews, or links to reviews—not necessarily with anything more than a mention that you have it in stock—and you’ll earn the respect of followers who appreciate the information. Link to tactical tips, stories and videos, too. 

Consult your assets list. That survival fanatic has the kind of expertise to harness during summer camping months. Have him or her come up with a couple tips you simply post as a public service throughout vacation season.

Have a parent on your team who’s getting their youngster into the shooting sports? Sprinkle that experience with reviews and tips around your social media calendar during the summer slowdown. 

Try not to post so many times that it’s annoying to readers and painful on your end, but keep the store name circulating. Monitor the days and times that seem to garner the most response and adjust accordingly.

Done often enough and right, when a customer starts searching on his or her smartphone for a review, you may have one already linked on your social media account. Point them that direction and your store’s suddenly in their browsing history.       

Anchor The Goal Posts

Ask customers if they’re a follower on the internet to monitor your progress. Resign yourself, however, to the simple fact the first dozen may have little or no palpable impact — yet another reason to stay strictly efficient in approach.

Set brutally realistic goals, but don’t keep moving the end zone. Track response in traffic and compare it to the previous month’s return. Determine if you need to adjust approach by that yardstick, along with dialog generated on your social media outlets.

Final Words

Images are fast, easy and attract attention. Avoid headaches by getting signed photo releases, though, even from staff members and their family members.

The headlines are filled with overnight success stories thanks to viral posts. Unfortunately, few mention the odds of hitting the lottery are better. Blind luck is great, but social media works most often with strategy, dedication and effort.  

It’s called social media for a reason. Engage with information, have conversations, share some fun and they’ll come to understand you’re the only place they should be shopping. 


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.