From Staid To Social: A Social Media Case Study

by Jason Falls |

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 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, 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.

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls 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 Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).