Building an Online Presence without a Website, the Power of Social Media for Local Businesses
In a digital world with a focus on ‘website first, social media second’, a fitness and nutritional offline retailer approached Receptional for assistance with their social media.
The retailer, Supplement Central, is a thriving local business in the South Wales valleys. They are a fantastic representation of a local business that didn’t have the time, or budget, to build and manage an e-commerce website, so instead elected to build their presence online using social networking.
A self-described ‘bricks and mortar’ business, they specialise in fitness products, food and supplements with a large focus on health and nutrition, plus vegetarian and vegan options for athletes. Supplement Central’s stock is high quality and directed towards a niche market.
Founded by Paddy Morgan and Rhi Jinny-Jones in 2008, the Supplement Central team have a fantastic local reputation. Realising there was a community online they could tap into based on a large amount of enquiries from customers asking why they weren’t on Facebook, Rhi and Paddy approached Receptional to see what help we could provide in broadening and creating a loyal customer base.
No website, no ecommerce and a small fitness niche audience in the South Wales valleys? That sounded like a challenge Receptional could get their teeth into!
One thing immediately sprung to mind – or rather, four things:
Yep, we managed to use social media to build and grow Supplement’s Central’s online and offline presence – and increased offline footfall in store. Here’s how we did it.
The objective was simple; to assist Supplement Central by building an online community that translated into offline brand awareness and new customers.
How Receptional Achieved the Objective
What was apparent was the need to build upon the online community Supplement Central already had waiting for them, and to offer the team as much data as possible to make the campaign ‘trackable’ and easy to understand so that they could eventually take it over themselves entirely to save on costs.
With this in mind, Receptional adopted a 3 tiered approach:
- Provide intensive social media training followed by a bespoke best practice guide for the team who had never used social networks in this way before.
- Build ongoing long and short term strategies, ideas and campaign recommendations and to be on-hand whenever needed as well as sending over information on social network trend changes or new networks to ‘watch’.
- Create weekly monitoring reports followed by a phone call. These reports were filled with relevant social media metrics and weekly recommendations based on the data we complied on a weekly basis for 6 months.
Supplement Central didn’t have a website!
As the brand didn’t have a website, the traditional strategies we might have recommended were not applicable and we couldn’t rely on site analytics data or social assisted conversions.
As a local brand in a small, yet thriving, area of South Wales, budget was a major factor. Any strategies we offered had to work to a goal that would eventually mean the team could take over all their social media activity themselves to make it cost-effective.
Expertise within the Team
As with many retailers, Supplement Central’s professional social networking experience was minimal, so any training we provided had to be first class, understandable and followed up with something tangible and useful i.e. a best practice guide.
Rhi and Paddy are exceptionally hardworking, busy people who run their business to a high standard. What was imperative was that social media didn’t take over their lives or impact on their day-to-day work.
Social media ‘as a whole’
Social media marketing is fickle, moves fast and changes constantly, so any initial training had to be updated in the weekly reports to ensure its relevancy.
Intensive training and ‘Team Supp Cent’ Brand Building
It would have been unrealistic to assume that Supplement Central would become ‘social media’ experts overnight! For Supplement Central, their intensive social media training took a slightly different approach than our traditional “5 session training structure” due to their location and their individual training needs.
Receptional’s approach to brand building was simple enough: show off what was working. The Supplement Central team had a fantastic reputation with their clientèle. So to capitalize on this without ‘cheapening’ the relationships with overt sales tactics, Receptional decided to build every strategy around ‘Team Supp Cent’ (#TeamSuppCent).
In the past, Supplement Central had changed their name from Seriously Fit Nutrition and undergone a full re-brand. In the midst of all of this change, they had kept an old-style Facebook group page open under their old brand name. This is what I was talking about when I previously mentioned their “existing social media fan base”.
Surprisingly, the group page had a high level of engagement and it was imperative to Supplement Central that the members of this Group didn’t start to feel alienated from the new brand in any way.
So, Receptional developed a strategy that would gradually move group members to the new Facebook page until a final cut-off date in December 2013, relying on the ‘Team Supp Cent’ brand to encourage trust signals and customer loyalty.
Best Practice Guide
One of the biggest challenges many brands face is creating content for their social media activities.
Receptional wrote a bespoke ‘Best Practice Guide’ that contained content ideas for Supplement Central with weekly content recommendations to create a good balance of the kind of updates customers ‘expect’ to see from the brand and seasonal, team-member based or topical community updates whenever they occurred.
Ongoing campaign formation and strategy building.
The ‘Consultation’ element of the 3 tier strategy was built over the 6 month contract.
From day one the online marketing strategy had to be localised and brand name focussed to start competing within any local search results. This approach was to designed to make Supplement Central a ‘household name’ in the area and more likely to convert online activity to offline customers.
Receptional’s on-going consultancy resulted in successful strategies such as:
- Rhi’s Recipies – shareable online recipe cards featuring a product in-store
- FourSquare integration – for easier ‘check ins’ and local offers
- Guess the Product and Guess the Location – mini games on Facebook to encourage local engagement
- Google Places integration and Google+ Communities contribution – because Google+ doesn’t just give a successful profile on a plate, you have to work for it
- Google Hangouts – in association with big brands, placing themselves as experts on Q&A panels. Their first hangout is due to go live in March 2014.
- Product Tweet reviews – asking local ‘fitness enthusiasts’ to Tweet daily fitness diary reviews of in-store products
- Pinterest Page – as one of the most improved social networks of 2013, Pinterest is the place to be for retailers
- Christmas Countdown #FitForChristmas and New Year #FotFor14 – Hashtags were a great seasonal branding tool
In real terms, Receptional and Supplement Central working in partnership impacted massively upon their web presence. Growth within the initial stages was huge, but over the next five months, Supplement Central saw their follower growth increase by 479%:
What Supplement Central thought:
“We are a bricks and mortar retail business in a specialist market dominated by a handful of established internet retailers, and as such wanted to increase the awareness and reach of our premises thereby increasing footfall. We needed the awareness to include our knowledge base, range of products and just as importantly our family friendly personality and attitude.
We decided that social media was the way forward but had limited knowledge of the workings and etiquette of tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.
Receptional were chosen by us as a direct result of Sarah Bradley’s personality and obvious knowledge base. Throughout the last 6 months we have seen an increase in trade and footfall from both existing and new customers giving a significant return on investment and this continues to be the case. Under Sarah’s guidance we ran a Christmas campaign involving Christmas characters, a close up magician and a daily advent calendar which was extremely cost effective and contributed significantly to our best Christmas takings ever. This is even more significant when you factor in an average increase of 5 new, previously totally unaware, customers per day actually spending in store.
All in all this has been a significant but worthwhile investment for us which continues to reap rewards.
Thank you Sarah and thank you Receptional.”
Owner, Supplement Central
Due to impressive levels of engagement on their Facebook, Twitter and Google+ profiles, Supplement Central in Cwmbran began ranking in Google search results for the term ‘Supplement Central’ – in many cases beating it’s brand keyword competitor, an e-commerce site based in the states:
Additionally, through Google+ activity and Google Places integration we were able to add a new dimension to the search results increasing online enquiries for a brand without a website, despite the presence of Ads for competitors:
While the organic follower growth for a small, local shop based in the South Wales valleys is enough to shout about alone, the fact that this was achieved without a website or e-commerce presence is even more incredible.
The community they built online continues to go from strength to strength and we would urge the reader to follow their fun, exciting and informative updates on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.
Supplement Central are a great case study to showcase the power of social media for community building and local businesses, even without a website.