For the vast majority of running stores across the U.S., social media stands an integral part of the marketing mix, but often one run shops struggle to utilize in the most effective ways possible.

While popular platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube offer running retailers a direct, cost-effective way to build brand awareness, strengthen existing connections and demonstrate the authenticity so core to the run specialty channel’s being, achieving those objectives stands an ongoing battle.

Much of that struggle resides in uncertainty. Though many run shops remain adamant about being present on select social media platforms, the mechanisms and moves to more successfully pull social media’s levers, particularly in ways that ultimately drive traffic and sales, aren’t always clear.

Enter the 10 Commandments of Social Media for the run specialty retailer, a set of guidelines and principles designed to help running stores more effectively leverage social media and spark more productive outcomes.

I. Thou shalt set a plan.

In today’s digitally charged, smartphone-toting world, social media cannot be an afterthought. Craft a defined social media strategy by creating a content plan, preparing a social media schedule and outlining objectives.

Specifically, Johanna Fiedler, director of vertical marketing and consumer engagement for Promoboxx, the only retail marketing platform powered by brands, urges retailers to set SMART goals – that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound – for social media posting and performance.

“When you set a SMART goal for your store’s social media presence, you can ensure that you are posting with a purpose and that you have concrete ways to measure if you achieved your goal — and, if not, what you can change to meet it next time,” Fiedler says.

II. Thou shalt spotlight social media action.

From Facebook’s ubiquitous boxed blue “f” and Pinterest’s scripted red “p” to Instagram’s camera and Twitter’s bird, the store’s homepage should include icons that link directly to the shop’s social media presence. This simple move invites deeper engagement and pulls customers into the store’s own digital ecosystem.

III. Thou shalt segment thy content routinely.

While some retailers might post the exact same message on each of their social media platforms, Fiedler recommends defining a voice for each specific social platform. Twitter, for instance, lends itself to more newsy content, while Instagram relies on strong visuals.

“Think about who is seeing your content on [each] platform and what they may be interested in,” Fiedler says.

IV. Thou shall post consistently.

In volume and tone, but, above all, frequency, be consistent on social media. Create a regular – and manageable – posting schedule for each social media outlet.

“Even if your reach or consumer engagement may seem low, don’t stop posting,” Fiedler suggests, reminding that an empty or quiet social page appears untrustworthy, an especially undesirable result given how consumers increasingly launch their shopping journeys online.

Adds Saucony e-commerce director Kellie Burke: “Once made, keep your content promise. Hold yourself accountable for creating, distributing and maintaining quality content on a regular cadence that your audience can count on.”

V. Thou shalt balance thy content

Trumpet the store, yes, but maintain an unrelenting focus on customers. Respect their time and be an ally, not a shameless advertiser. Think of social media much like a 30-minute sitcom on television: providing 22 minutes of entertaining content in return for eight minutes of advertising.

While it’s acceptable to push your products or services in small doses, Amber Murans, a principal with Left Hand Marketing in suburban Chicago, reminds retailers that they should devote much of their time to “providing educational or entertaining content and engaging with people.”

VI. Thou shalt start thy content journey with thy customers.

To generate content ideas, consider starting with common in-store conversations that staff have with customers, whether that’s related to cold weather gear, training, injury prevention or local running spots.

“Think about the questions that customers commonly ask in-store and translate that information into your posts on social media,” Fiedler says, adding that retailers can access specific running industry content on Promoboxx to support their posting needs.

VII. Thou shalt prioritize quality.

Provide relevant content that helps customers, not just news of a store sale or recent inventory arrivals. Share training tips, links to inspirational videos, information on injury prevention and so on. Think quality, not quantity. Customers often ditch pages that fail to engage or feel too self-serving with constant store announcements.

“Think about how you can be a problem solver and share solutions that will enable your audience to thrive,” Burke says.

VIII. Thou shalt embrace professionalism.

Social media pages for a business directly reflect on the store, its staff, and its brand. If the store’s vibe is whimsical, sophisticated or quirky, don’t be afraid to embrace that in genuine ways. But resist the political commentary and off-color jokes.

IX. Thou shalt use video.

Video continues to become one of the globe’s prime mediums for digesting content. To wit: Alexa reports that YouTube sits behind only Google as the world’s most trafficked website. That said, Murans encourages retailers to make video a central part of their content strategy.

“Video communicates more than any other medium and is the best way to create engagement on social media,” she says.

X. Remember thy is human.

Even in an increasingly digital world, an earnest craving for human interaction remains strong. Like and share others’ social media posts. Respond to questions and comments. In other words, be social on social media.

“Remember, while machines do incredible things, people are emotional and have a vast array of feelings,” Burke says, urging retailers to listen to their audiences and respond in personal ways focused on “thoughtful connection, not perfection.”