Social media is perhaps the most vibrant facet of online advertising and promotion. To professional marketers it is an opportunity to move messages and influence targeted market segments with extreme efficiency. Here’s a few guidelines that seem to work for our clients at “R.”
Hawaiian Accessories is a retailer of authentic Island gifts and jewelry. They have a fledgling online operation that was doing alright, but nowhere near its potential. We suggested that we build them an online community based on popular social media like Facebook. Our strategy was two-fold: first, to build up our followers through page “likes,” allowing us to grow a fan base that we could communicate with regularly. Almost how you would use a proprietary email list. The second was to push specific advertising messages onto our followers timelines (Facebook home pages) that then produced click-throughs to our transactional site.
We looked at Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, but focused our efforts on Facebook for two reasons. The Hawaiian Accessories product line appealed to an older demographic that had not yet bolted to Instagram, and continues to grow on Facebook. Secondly, we were in a hurry to establish as large a base as possible by the retail Christmas season, and the advertising options with Facebook allowed us to get those results more rapidly.
Building an online community
Hawaiian Accessories was easy to get people to notice because their products are so visual, and don’t require much of an explanation. We were able to attract a very high rate of “likes” by simply making an ad “button” featuring one of their signature items, a koa fishhook necklace. This single item told people a lot about the nature of the entire line and they were either interested or they were not…right away. Perfect bait for a spontaneous “like.” Our Facebook page had enough content to fill out the picture once they landed on it, and their strong retention rate seemed to indicate the more Hawaiian Accessories they saw the more they liked. We also got considerable interaction with comments and questions flying around and robust viral sharing of our posts. Another aspect of Internet advertising is that your potential customer can be anywhere in the world. Realistically, people knowledgable about Hawaiian culture were our best prospects, and there are also now large Polynesian enclaves in Las Vegas, San Diego and West Coast, not just Hawaii. Facebook allows very precise targeting over all geographic and demographic profiles, so we could be very effective when testing new markets. With steady, albeit humble, monthly advertising budget we grew the base to over 3,000 in time for our Holiday blitz.
Subtle advertising strategies
Specific product advertising and promotions were part of our effort from the beginning, and became progressively more effective as our fan base grew. We ran some Mother’s Day specials and did promotions for other traditional retail gift-giving periods. The ads were designed to be simple and bold (Facebook only allows 20% of the image on advertised posts to contain copy), and we usually featured only one product. The image was linked directly to the transactional page on our e-commerce site, so that our customer was always one click away from our shopping cart while they were on Facebook.
Talk about stimulating impulse buying. This worked pretty well, and was easily tracked in terms of click-throughs and actual transactions. The new Facebook ad option called “boosting” also proved effective. The Facebook administrator is presented with a pull down menu directly on the post, that allows “boosting,” which is a mini ad buy were a set budget and targeting are selected right from within the pull-down menu. Now it is Facebook that is shopping the impulse buy, but it works fine. The performance of the ad is easily tracked and the decision to “boost again” after your initial budget has run out is usually pretty easy to make.
One key to success with social media advertising is balance. You don’t want to be overbearing or intrusive to the point that people consider you an unwelcome spammer. They like your merchandise, but don’t want to be beat over the head everyday. The pacing that seems to work was one post every other day, with an emphasis on a low-key editorial approach to the layout as opposed to a “hair-on-fire” screamer. You want to be welcome in their online social world, not an annoying distraction.
Like all social media the expense of the paid advertising component is minimal compared to the time expended by the social media administrator. The effectiveness of these campaigns can be very impressive, if the social media manager is building the right visuals and messages and maintaining the “human” component within their cyber community. By that I mean employing the basics of interaction so that the fans are responded to, their compliments acknowledged, their questions answered and their experience as personalized as possible. If you think in terms of rewarding them for being there…they will generally stay and be receptive.
Building successful relationship with your online customers can be very similar to bricks and mortar customer experience when it’s done right. Social media can be one of the integral communication tools, and one of the most cost efficient, in the customer acquisition and customer relationship phase of marketing.