How do you build a critical mass of followers in social media—those social-grid head counts that are a prerequisite for giving a social campaign viral lift? In the case of online cycle gear seller Motorcycle Superstore, a relatively new entrant to the social whirl, the answer was in Facebook sweepstakes promotions whose entry details—and prizes—could be shared among friends.
Although it has operated an ecommerce Web site for years, Motorcycle Superstore was a relative newcomer to social media, only launching its Facebook fan page in May 2010.
“We branched out into Facebook/ YouTube/ Twitter viral interaction with our customers in early 2010,” says Chris Johnson, social marketing coordinator for the company. “It’s really taken off for us. Like most people, we’ve found a dramatic increase in visibility, and we think we’ve been able to convey a sort of personal touch behind the company’s online presence.”
Motorcycle Superstore began summer 2010 with about 50,000 “likes” on Facebook, but Johnson says the brand was determined to get that number up to 100,000, figuring that acquiring that critical mass was needed for any future social marketing efforts to pay off.
To draw those viral crowds, it called on solution provider Extole’s SocialBuilder platform. Extole constructed a white-labeled giveaway sweepstakes on the MSS Facebook page that encouraged entrants to send news of the contest to their social friends.
Why not? If that friend entered the sweepstakes and won a prize, the recommending friend would win one too, increasing their chances of success with every referral. The SocialBuilder platform lets marketers track referrals, making it possible to determine whether the winning entrant was invited in by a social friend.
“In the flow we designed, someone would land on the MSS fan page and see a message that they could not only enter to win for themselves, but that if they shared the sweepstakes with friends they would increase their chances of winning,’ says Blake Hayward, vice president of products at Extole. “So in other words, if I put the sweepstakes up on my Facebook news feed and you click on it as a social friend, you’re associated with me.”
The first sweepstakes, run for a month last summer, gave entrants a chance to win generic prizes such as iPad tablets, Oakley watches, sunglasses and gift cards, and did not require that players like the MSS Facebook page in order to win. The retailer was simply going after an increase in views of its Facebook page and sharing of the site to fans’ news feeds.
MSS ran two other giveaway campaigns later in the year, each time for a sweepstakes giveaway featuring prizes more tuned to motorcycle fans: premium helmets, boots, gloves and so on. “We wanted to be able to get our suppliers in on the viral feedback and give them the benefit of that word-of-mouth advertising in exchange for sponsorship of products,” Johnson says.
The tactic worked, Johnson says. On the second, more targeted giveaway MSS saw a 240% increase in its daily “like” rate and a 30% jump in total likes. The campaign generated more than 13,000 new likes in the course of its 30-day run. And those weren’t just fans that happened upon the Facebook page during the game period; MSS was able to correlate those 13,000 new fans directly to sweepstakes entry.
A third giveaway run on the same platform right before Christmas produced a slightly less sizeable increase, but Johnson attributes that in part to the brand’s decision to cut back on promoting the Facebook game via email and instead to stress holiday product deals and offers.
The end result was that Motorcycle Superstore broke the 100,000 like ceiling on its Facebook page by the end of 2010 and now counts about 106,000 fans of the page. Referral traffic from its Facebook page has also increased by an unspecified amount.
Perhaps most importantly, retail sales on the brand’s main ecommerce site have also increased by about 20%. While Johnson can’t track that jump back to the shareable giveaway contests on Facebook—since MSS has also ramped up its branding activity on Twitter and opened a YouTube channel in the last six months—he maintains that the added visibility on Facebook has contributed to the incremental sales.
It’s not something the brand would have been able to do without outside help, he says. “With the layout and restrictions that Facebook imposes, it’s really hard to develop features in-house that actually work in that environment.
“Campaigns we had tried to run on our own were a little spotty and didn’t have the Facebook look and feel that let users know intuitively how to use them,” Johnson says.”The result was that people got a little lost and dropped out. As a developer, Extole was able to create a format that functions well in Facebook and lets new users understand the flow right away. We were able to get our graphics together and then leave the back end up to them. For us, that was a great benefit.”
Over on its Web page, Motorcycle Superstore has resisted integrating the Facebook Like button into its product displays. While other retailers have shown interest in getting more insight into customer preferences through use of the like button, Johnson says his company believes integrating likes into the Web site “would take people out of our ecommerce pages and back to the social network, when we really want them to move in the opposite direction, from Facebook toward our transaction site.”
While MSS plans to run more shareable sweeps on the SocialBuilder platform, it has also resumed offering contests of its own, such as a running photo caption contest in social media.
And to complete the circle of social marketing driving customers to the ecommerce site, Johnson says MSS is developing a Facebook store that will offer a subset of its inventory of motorcycle gear—enabling all those new fans of the brand to buy where they’re spending increasing amounts of their time: in social media.