May 12, 2010, 5:22 PM

Social media helps bring in the green for an e-retailer on Earth Day

Better World Books, a for-profit venture that collects and sells new and used books online and donates a percentage of each sale to help fund literacy initiatives worldwide, recorded Earth Day sales 300% higher than the previous year, thanks, in part, to an aggressive social media push, the company says.

Better World Books, a for-profit venture that collects and sells new and used books online and donates a percentage of each sale to help fund literacy initiatives worldwide, recorded Earth Day sales 300% higher than the previous year, thanks, in part, to an aggressive social media push, the company says.

To promote the site’s Earth Day promotion—20% off purchases of three or more books—the retailer sent an e-mail to its house list the Monday before the sale. The same day it also posted notes advertising the discount on its Facebook page and on Twitter. It continued with notes on both sites highlighting the offer each of the three days leading up to the sale. A year ago the retailer only announced the discount via an e-mail on Earth Day.

“Last year we saw a number of retailers promote their Black Friday promotions before the day,” says John Ujda, vice president of marketing, referring to the Friday after Thanksgiving. “We figured we could use that model to generate excitement for our Earth Day sale.” Better World Books was able to leverage Earth Day as a promotional hook because it purchases carbon offsets for every order—a fact it highlighted that fact in its e-mail, says Ujda. The retailer also claims to have diverted more than 13,000 tons of books from landfills.

On Better World Books’ Facebook page, those messages promoting the discount were greeted with dozens of the more than 31,000 people who like the page noting that they “like” the promotion and several dozen posting comments. Each time a user engages with the page—by posting a comment or clicking he “likes” the offer—his friends see that activity. For instance, on the Monday before Earth Day 36 people noted that they “like” the promotion and 11 posted comments such as “I have reposted on my FB page for all of my friends to see” and “Well I know when I'll be doing my shopping. =)”

Also contributing to the strong sales was a 92% increase in the retailer’s customer base from the previous year, says Ujda. That was particularly important, he says, since about 80% of the customers who bought from the site on Earth Day were repeat buyers. “They know that we rarely have offers more than 10% off,” says Ujda. “So they recognized that this was a great deal.”

Better World Books, No. 293 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, declined to disclose its Earth Day sales in dollars.

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