When Cory Schifter, owner of Casale Jewelers in Staten Island, New York, took over his family-owned business a few years ago, he wanted to create buzz and excitement about the store. He tried placing ads in local papers, but nobody came in as a result. That’s when he developed a company Facebook page and invited everyone he knew to “like” it.
“It was a challenge at first to get people to the page,” Schifter says. But when he launched his first “Race for the Ring” contest, in which the couple with the most votes would win a $10,000 engagement ring, the page exploded. As couples begged their friends and families to vote (after liking his page, of course), suddenly all of Staten Island was seeing Casale Jewelers pop up in their feed.
Fast forward to present day, and Casale Jewelers has close to 27,000 fans. He also was last year’s winner in the nationwide “Big Break” contest from American Express, which was based on garnering the most Facebook votes.
Through trial and error, Schifter has learned how to engage customers, build an online community and become top of mind for locals who want to purchase jewelry. While contests and giveaways have given him big boosts, it’s the daily exchanges that have really paid off, he says. From jewelry cleaning tips to sharing photos of newly engaged couples to product spotlights, Schifter posts every day, and responds to comments in a timely manner.
Keeping new followers engaged over time after the initial capture is the true test, however. Let's take a closer look at how Schifter did it.
Provide incentives. While small businesses rarely have the time and resources available to dedicate to full-blown social marketing strategies (or $10,000 ring giveaways), there is still a significant opportunity to grow your following and boost sales on Facebook with coupons and discounts, says Aaron Everson, COO & president of Shoutlet, a social media management company. “Incentivizing consumers via Facebook with an offer like $5 off a weekend purchase is a great way to encourage likes and shares, as well as build customer loyalty.”
Do good. After his “Big Break” win, Schifter decided to ask for votes once again, only this time he asked fans to choose which three local charities would receive $1,000 donations from Casale. He decided to repeat the contest again this year (as part of his ongoing commitment to giving back to his community), and says in just three days, he’s gained 1,000 new fans.
Be part of a movement. You’ve probably seen companies create special posts and promotions for everything from Veterans Day to the Super Bowl. The upcoming Small Business Saturday initiative, which encourages shoppers to support small businesses the day after Black Friday, is the perfect opportunity for local businesses to be a part of a larger conversation, Everson says. Last year, Schifter used the “Shop Small” Facebook tools and shared facts about small businesses in the days leading up to the shopping event. “Our business was up over 200 percent from the 2011 Small Business Saturday to 2012,” he says.
Post regularly, and give fans something to look forward to. Latch on to the “throwback Thursday” trend or find a funny meme to share, and make entertaining posts work for you. “It takes some time to build and maintain a consistent social strategy,” says Antonia Genov, social media professional with Clearpoint Agency, which manages Facebook accounts for small- to mid-size companies. “Posts like 'caption the image' or 'finish the sentence' usually generate tons of engagement, and reach three times more than a regular post. It’s worth a try,” she says.
Get your fans involved. Take a page out of Dunkin’ Donuts’ Fan of the Week promotion, and put your customers in the spotlight. “Many times, it may seem hard to come up with content on our own, but remember that social media is a dialogue and you can let your customers participate more and drive the conversation,” Genov says. Stay on top of comments, and respond. If your customers connect with you, they will feel appreciated if they get a reply from you as well.
Captivate with your cover photo. Your main image is the first thing your audience will see, and can help them decide whether they want to stick around and explore your page, or leave, says Ingrid Kibler, social media account supervisor for HCK2 Partners, a public relations agency. “Your photo should be relevant to your business, have strong branding elements, and easily identify with your audience,” she recommends. If possible, switch out cover photos at least every quarter to keep things fresh.
Developing a legion of fans on Facebook will take time and persistence, but it is doable even for smaller establishments. Think of it as amplifying the friendly conversation you’d have at the register, and bringing it to a larger online forum. Be friendly, consistent and customer-driven on Facebook, and your customers will “like” you for years to come.
Dawn Papandrea is a freelance writer, blogger, editor and content marketing writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, women's lifestyle, careers, higher education and more.
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Photo: Courtesy Casale Jewelers