February 24, 2011, 10:25 AM

Social networks provide a good way to converse with customers

Beau Ties generates conversations on Facebook and Twitter to draw shoppers to its site.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

Beau Ties jumped on the social marketing bandwagon, starting in 2006 with a blog that was ghostwritten for the retailer’s founder and a YouTube channel that used videos to answer common questions, such as how to tie a bow tie. But those efforts failed to generate conversions, explained Justin Perdue, web manager of the online neckwear retailer at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference this month in Orlando.

They failed, he explained, because they didn’t engage consumers in a conversation. That’s why the Vermont neckwear manufacturer turned to Facebook and Twitter, which he considers better means of sparking dialogues.

While Facebook and Twitter might seem to skew too young for a bow tie manufacturer, that’s actually not the case, said Perdue.

“The average age of a Facebook user is 38, that’s right smack in our demographic,” he said.

Beau Ties uses a variety of methods to generate conversation-starting content—including posting notable quotes about ties, reposting consumer’s reviews on the social network and encouraging staff members to comment on consumers’ posts. The efforts are working, said Perdue, as about 5% of the retailer’s site’s traffic stems from social marketing.

However, social marketing cannot only be about producing a sale.

“You can’t only post products and specials,” he said. “You have to get people talking.”

For instance, Beau Ties’ fabric buyer posts about which prints the retailer is planning to roll out. That’s important, said Perdue, because there’s a six-month lead time when the retailer orders new designs and getting feedback on Facebook can offer valuable insights.

“We’re literally working on Christmas in July, so getting comments ahead of time is invaluable,” he said. 

That’s why Facebook is the retailer’s best focus group, he said.

“You can spend countless time and money getting focus groups together,” he said. “Or you can spend five minutes to get feedback from your Facebook fans who can provide an instant focus group.”

Beau Ties incents consumers to Like the retailer’s page by offering a free shipping coupon code.

And Facebook isn’t the retailer’s only means of finding new customers in the social space. It also aggressively sorts through Twitter posts using social search tool 48ers.com to see what is being said about its brand, and about bow ties in general.

For instance, when a consumer posted that he couldn’t find a particular bow tie style at a rival retailer’s store, Beau Ties responded that it carried the style.

“It can be analogous to walking into competitor’s store and luring a customer into your store,” he said. “It allows you to maybe get another customer in five minutes of work.”

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