Social media marketing, if performed strategically, can do a lot of things. It can effectively engage an audience around your brand. It can empower a group of fans to spread word of you virally through social networks. It can do this with less money than you would spend on advertising to reach a similar audience.

And despite what the social media purists try and tell you, social media marketing can drive sales.

Case in point: Justin Boots wanted to break out of a somewhat conservative rut and become hip and trendy to the 18-to-24-year-old audience. Keep in mind Justin Boots are kind of the workhorse of the boot category. Cowboys, country music lovers, ranch hands and hillbillies buy them because they’re dependable and affordable, not flashy and hip.

In the summer of 2009, however, Justin had a new product to launch. It was a new product line focused on 18-to-24-year-old boot lovers called Justin Bent Rail Boots. They were a new boot for a new (or young) audience. They were trendy and hip in the boot world. To get these new kickers on people’s feet, Justin put aside a $120,000 advertising budget that would have been eaten up with just a couple of print ads in a typical Western magazine.

Justin Bent Rail Boots websiteJustin turned to its ad agency, Balcom, in Fort Worth, Texas, and said, “Do it cheaper.”

The strategy was to talk to the the target audience where they were: online. Bent Rail launched branded pages on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Blip.fm and invited fans to follow the music of Justin’s hip, young country music endorsees (namely Randy Rogers Band, Casey Donahew Band and Wade Bowen). But it wasn’t just following the music. It was following the people.

Balcom armed the three bands with smart phones and asked them to capture behind the scenes video, interviews and snapshots of their lives as burgeoning country music stars. The bands uploaded the videos in real-time to JustinBentRail.com, where they were then promoted and used as content on the social outposts. The promotion was called, “I’m With The Band,” and gave that sweet-spot target audience exclusive access to the hip, new country music stars whose music they were discovering.

As an aside, having soon-to-be, or already celebrities on your marketing roster isn’t something everyone can grab. The Justin folks assured me there isn’t a huge financial piece that goes into these endorsements, but the truth is there was no more money spent to get these guys to provide the content. Consider content costs when thinking through your strategies.

What resulted for Justin Bent Rail was enough to send the social media purists running for their communes … and in Birkenstocks, no less.

While Justin Boots, a Berkshire Hathaway company, could not immediately divulge actual sales numbers (but I’ve been told they will provide them soon), they did exceed their sales goal for the new product line by 30 percent. They attribute 95 percent of their sales to social media marketing because that’s where they elected to spend their dollars, rather than the previous go-to tactic of expensive print ads.

Justin Bent Rail saw 181 band-uploaded videos in five months, over 360,000 impressions of those videos and 10,000 embeds on blogs and social sites. While fan page (525 by December 2009) and Twitter followers (700 in the same time frame) aren’t eye-popping, the strategy focused on driving website traffic and Justin Boots’ most valuable metric, clicks on the “Find a Retailer” tab on its website. Those numbers? A 116 percent increase in website traffic over five months and a 213 percent increase on “Find a Retailer” clicks.

And, oh by the way, the results were produced for approximately half of the original advertising budget of $120,000.

Yeah … half.

None of this would have worked had the brand and its agency not approached social media marketing with strategy in mind. They identified a target audience; narrowed where that audience was consuming content online; developed exclusive, value-adding content especially for them; made the content compelling enough for people to share; and drove people to specific calls to action to see, try or learn more about the new line of boots they were selling.

The somewhat staid, old boot company kicked off the dust a bit and got hip; got cool; got social. And now they’re planning even more. The success of the “Band” social media effort has them thinking of doing more with Bent Rail, but also adding specific strategies for Justin’s overall products, including several other brands within the family. I’m told the company also wants to learn more about its customers using social media including their preferences and pain points.

But ultimately their goal with social media marketing is to increase sales. And they’re doing it. Because they approached social media strategically, not as a “we gotta have some” tactical time killer.

Social media marketing does five general things for your business:

  • Enhances Branding and Awareness
  • Builds Community/Engagement Around Your Brand
  • Provides Customer Service Channels
  • Facilitates Direct Research and Development
  • Drives Sales or Sales Leads

Figure out which one (or more) you’d like it to do for you, identify a target audience for that activity, find them online, then deliver content, programming or activity that will compel them to do what you’d like them to.

It may just take you from staid … to social.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://nickhuhn.com nickhuhn

    did you mean 'staid'? ;)

    I like this recap because it sets realistic expectations for success, and – while a shotgun blast of tactics may have yielded more online 'hits' – the brand was instead reinforced by the right strategy for its target audience and the direct link to bottom line results.

    “buy them because they’re dependable and affordable, not flashy and hip.” — someone on Madison ave said that about print ads back in the day, ya know – heh.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Actually have a dictionary that says “staid” is often used for the
      traditional “stayed” so they're interchangeable. But since “staid” is the
      more accepted, I changed it. Thanks for the grammar tweaks.

  • http://twitter.com/techguerilla Matt Ridings

    What I most like about this particular case study Jason is that it focuses on the creative aspects of the campaign, the content attractors, and the usage of social media as a driver. And while that's missing a component that I would have implemented (long term relationship development strategy) it should make it much less scary to those who are simply looking for new tools to supplement their interactive campaigns. Sometimes it is those transitional exercises that are needed to facilitate full adoption.

    Cheers, and thanks for sharing.

    Matt Ridings – @techguerilla

  • http://techchai.com Saurabh

    Thanks for the useful information. Social Media has seen a tremendous growth in the last few years. Watch this amazing video to realize the real potential of Social Media Revolution.

  • http://impulsemagazine.net Impulse Magazine

    If you are currently not doing social media and run an online business, you are definitely missing out on people that are looking for your business. It is all about finding them

  • athensgreecehotels

    I am totally agree with Impulse . Social media improves online business . Good Post thanks .

  • JenZingsheim

    “…exceed their sales goal for the new product line by 30 percent.”

    “…results were produced for approximately half of the original advertising budget of $120,000.”

    “…While fan page (525 by December 2009) and Twitter followers (700 in the same time frame) aren’t eye-popping…”

    Net take-away– measuring fan numbers and Twitter followers will only give you a fraction of the real impact; and social media's impact can be measured.

    Great case study–and, BTW, my Justin Boots are still kickin.' I bought them in 1991, and have had them resoled three times.

  • http://twitter.com/skshukla Santosh Shukla

    Thanks Jason for the wonderful case study. You have nailed it. “Social media marketing, if performed strategically, can do a lot of things. “

    However, most of the people spend way too much time on social media to get that ROI. I faced similar problem and discovered some tips to effectively use Social Media. They can be found here: http://blog.insideview.com/2010/05/02/investing-too-much-time-on-social-media-how-to-boost-your-roi

  • http://www.simonmainwaring.com/ Simon Mainwaring

    jason,

    A rockin' case study. Fantastic. In some ways smaller brands are better equipped to make the shift to social as they have less of a drag from old habits, mindsets, relationships. Way to go, Justin Boots. Scooting anyone?

  • http://gawed.wordpress.com Gawed

    Great article and of course, proving once again that social media can help a lot in a lot of places. But I feel it is wrong to call it Social Media MARKETING when it is doing things like this:

    # Provides Customer Service Channels
    # Facilitates Direct Research and Development

    Because then it is not only Marketing, it is a whole business strategy that encompasses all functional areas of a company.
    Companies are getting so focused in the word marketing when calling it like that that they sometimes fail to see the bigger picture implications in the whole company's strategy this can have.
    Social Media Business, Social Marketing plus Social CRM and Social R&D, those are some options, but just Social Media Marketing seems wrong and misleading to me.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I think you're confusing marketing with advertising, or a similar more
      narrow function. Marketing is a more holistic process and concept. R&D and
      customer service are very much a marketing function. The core definition of
      marketing is determining what products or services a specific audience needs
      or wants (R&D) and delivering those to them. It's easy to apply
      “advertising” notions to “marketing” but marketing is, in fact, a much more
      wide-reaching process, concept and ecosystem within a business.

  • http://twitter.com/CatherinVentura Catherine Ventura

    Great post Jason, and great to see such a strong focus on quality content. Bells and whistles may attract people, but it's the value of the content that keeps them interacting. And while the FB and Twitter follower numbers may look small, they are clearly appropriate, targeted audiences who are sharing that content with their own networks.

  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    Jason

    Great case study, thanks for taking the time to post. The strategy here was perfect. Sure seeking out the up and coming bands and arming them with smart phones was great but behind thought of yeah let's get someone who they themselves needs the exposure and the following, it got down to a core interest within the community/target they wanted to be their customers. The bands needed the exposure and certainly do not have money to spend on an advertising budget and Justin Boots needed something more to promote than just our boots are cool so buy them. This cross-promotion is what I like about this campaign. It is not about the celebrity wearing the boots so to be cool, you should wear them as also they will make your feet feel and look great. It is not about selling the boots at all from the videos I watched. It is about the music and getting a glimpse inside the lifestyle of the artist. The boots just happen to be where the videos are. People probably would not be so apt to share the site with friends if was just styles of boots.

    Great campaign, great execution and just all around a means of really knowing your target market and talking the way that they talk. They like the music so Justin says so do we (and really buy our boots!)

    @SuzanneVara

  • gauravjha

    I'd agree very strongly with the following two points you put forth:

    Provides Customer Service Channels and Drives Sales or Sales Leads

    Companies globally are trying to come up with a strategy for social media. Listen to what your customers are saying about you in public domains like Twitter and Facebook, see what discussions your prospects or competitors are starting in LinekdIn, Find out how you're connected to that big prospect, and a lot of other similar questions. Social Media is helping answer these questions increasingly. I hope this boom is here to stay, and is not just a passing phase.

    I also talk about some of my ideas on how salespeople (especially in B2B space) are using Social Media at this post: http://blog.insideview.com/2010/04/27/connectin

  • http://www.buzzdock.com/?utm_source=YontooPR&utm_medium=Direct&utm_term=AG&utm_campaign=Comment Stacy

    This is an excellent case study – but this company had an ideal situation. The demographic they were trying to tap into is the demographic that is dialed in to the internet 24/7. What does a company do if they want to expand into a more affluent demographic? The online blitz wouldn't be the right approach… at least not to extent that it worked here.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good question, Stacy. The answer lies in finding out where that audience
      plays online (or offline) and deciding where it would be best to engage
      them. Justin Boots didn't reach out to young people because that's who is on
      the web, they wanted to reach young people and the web was where they could
      find them. If their target was 50+ men, they may have looked in other online
      communities/sites or even offline to reach them.

      The more affluent demographic is online, though. It's just a matter of
      fine-tuning your ideal consumer profile and seeing where that person is
      online.

  • KDPaine

    Now THAT's ROI :)

  • http://www.communicationammo.com Sean Williams

    Excellent case, Jason – especially connecting the output metrics to outtakes and ultimate outcomes…

  • http://www.communicationammo.com Sean Williams

    Excellent case, Jason – especially connecting the output metrics to outtakes and ultimate outcomes…

  • http://ubermarketing.wordpress.com Akash Sharma

    Thanks Jason, for sharing another case which will serve as a proof to social media nay-sayers, the most talked about point of driving sales is explained clearly here. If we have the right research backing us we can utilize the touch-points better and thus drive more sales.

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  • UrbaneWay

    Hey Jason,
    What a great story. Whenever your marketing strategy has a stickiness to it, or a reason for folks to return or follow what you are doing, you have blended a success. Folks love the whole “backstage” see something no one else sees.

    This is also a classic, “Fish Where the Fish Are” and makes me wonder what other opportunities exist for Partnership Marketing with bigger brands,

  • UrbaneWay

    Hey Jason,
    What a great story. Whenever your marketing strategy has a stickiness to it, or a reason for folks to return or follow what you are doing, you have blended a success. Folks love the whole “backstage” see something no one else sees.

    This is also a classic, “Fish Where the Fish Are” and makes me wonder what other opportunities exist for Partnership Marketing with bigger brands,

  • UrbaneWay

    Hey Jason,
    What a great story. Whenever your marketing strategy has a stickiness to it, or a reason for folks to return or follow what you are doing, you have blended a success. Folks love the whole “backstage” see something no one else sees.

    This is also a classic, “Fish Where the Fish Are” and makes me wonder what other opportunities exist for Partnership Marketing with bigger brands,

  • Helsinki 3090

    social media marketing is useful but there are some frag information we can't control it . so we must find our targets,withing the information they are interested in attracting their attention. in our plan ,the opinion leader is the key to control our information.

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  • http://www.socialcubix.com/facebook-developer-uk.php Facebook Developer UK

    That was excellent Jason. It was really lovely to read the case study.

    This shows how social media marketing is different from the OLD expensive print ads. Amazing to see the change in five months with half of the price which was to be given for printing ads. This is what social media marketing is all about. Save your money, just wait and watch the results in some time.

    Thanks.

  • http://www.socialcubix.com/services/facebook-connect Facebook Connect Integration

    That was excellent Jason. It was really lovely to read the case study.

    This shows how social media marketing is different from the OLD expensive print ads. Amazing to see the change in five months with half of the price which was to be given for printing ads. This is what social media marketing is all about. Save your money, just wait and watch the results in some time.

    Thanks.

  • http://www.davemadethat.com Dave Delaney

    I'm a little late to the party, but that's why we don't delete older posts, right? :)
    Thanks for this Jason. I'm currently doing some research on ROI stories in social media and this one helped.

    Cheers!

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