April 16, 2010, 12:00 AM

There’s no monkeying around in social media for MonkeySports

MonkeySports Inc. is going all out in social media to open up new lines of communication with its customers and build brand awareness. The efforts are aimed at generating traffic and increasing conversion over the long haul.

Using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and a blog, MonkeySports Inc. is going all out in social media to open up new lines of communication with its customers and build brand awareness. The efforts are aimed at generating traffic and increasing conversion over the long haul.

Social media will help the brands-HockeyMonkey.com, GoalieMonkey.com, RollerHockeyMonkey.com, LacrosseMonkey.com and HomerunMonkey.com-become better known and trusted, says Tom Barr, e-commerce manager.

“Right now people may search and see us listed next to some competitors and feel more comfortable with the more established companies,” he says. “But as we get out there in social media, having our brand out there will directly affect our traffic and conversion over time.”

Each of the five brands has a YouTube channel, with more than 100 videos combined. But the focus is on HomerunMonkey.com, which in addition to a YouTube channel has pages on Facebook and Twitter and a blog on its e-commerce site. Barr says the hockey sites are more well established and the company is happy with their performance. But baseball is a massive market, and the company, which was aided in its social efforts by technology and consulting firm FastPivot, wants to focus its social attention, for the time being, on HomerunMonkey.com.

MonkeySports is promoting its social presences on its e-commerce sites’ home pages via its rotating hero shots, as well as in e-mail marketing pieces. A hero shot is a central image on a page. It’s also presently holding a giveaway for consumers who sign up to become a fan on HomerunMonkey.com’s Facebook page.

Barr and colleague Kevin Watts, e-commerce lead, say social media is fast becoming a convenient customer service tool that saves the retailer from answering as many calls and e-mails.

“We’re already seeing questions coming in from customers about a lot of products,” Watts says. “It gives the customers an easier platform to communicate on compared with phone or e-mail. A lot of people use Facebook and Twitter. So this gives us a good opportunity to prove we do listen to our customers.” Plus, when a question is answered once, it often does not need to be tended to again since Facebook members see it as they’re scanning the page, Barr adds.

An in-house graphic designer created the look and feel of all the social media channels and pages, keeping the pages consistent with the company’s e-commerce sites. A dedicated team is responsible for keeping content fresh for each brand, and the company’s customer service team is responsible for answering questions.

“We also are getting a lot of opportunities with our manufacturers, like closeouts, and social media can be a channel where we get the word out quickly without having to spend money on AdWords or working with coupons and affiliates,” Barr says. “We can get our loyal base with the offers and save advertising expenses.”

Since launching the HomerunMonkey.com Facebook page 45 days ago, it has received 1,200 visits, the merchant reports, and the Twitter page has received 112 visits in its first 30 days. The YouTube channels, up since mid-September, have received 3,900 visits. The retailer expects visits to increase as word spreads and it continues promoting the channels and pages.

Overall, it cost the retailer $10,000 in consulting fees to, among other things, create an RSS feed that automatically updates messages on all social networks when a message is posted to one; it also cost staff time in set-up and design. The company says return on investment in social media is difficult to measure, but it has high hopes.

“The real return is being able to communicate better and more easily with our customers,” Watts says. “You can measure clicks and time on site, but the true return in social media is what the customers gain.”

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