January 9, 2014, 8:54 AM

How Boot Barn uses Facebook to build a national brand

The regional Western wear retail chain is expanding nationally by opening stores and buying competitors. Boot Barn, which has the fastest-growing Facebook fan base in the new Social Media 500, uses the social network as the primary vehicle for introducing itself in new regions.

Lead Photo

In the last three years, Boot Barn Inc., a store-based retailer of cowboy boots and Western-style apparel, has nearly doubled its store footprint.

In 2011, it operated 82 stores in eight western states and a modest e-commerce site. In 2012, the merchant acquired the e-commerce site of RCC Western Stores and its 29 stores from North Dakota to Florida. And in 2013, Boot Barn bought Baskins, which had its own online shopping destination and 30 stores in Texas and Louisiana.

The merchant redirects all online traffic to its main site, BootBarn.com, and all stores are rebranded under the Boot Barn name. Today, the merchant operates 155 physical stores in 23 states.

And part of the glue holding all three brands together in the minds of consumers is social media, says director of e-commerce Dave Gusick. In early 2013, the merchant began investing in the channel, and it’s starting to view Facebook as an effective way to introduce itself to online shoppers as it enters new markets.

Boot Barn has the fastest-growing Facebook fan base of all merchants ranked in the new Internet Retailer 2014 Social Media 500. In the third quarter of 2013, the merchant had 1,057,063 Likes on Facebook—a 4,811% increase compared to 21,524 during the same period in 2012.

In comparison, the 296 e-retailers that appeared in both this year and last year’s publications collectively boosted their Facebook fan bases 39.2% to 603.1 million.

Part of the reason for the fast growth, Gusick says, is a new outlook on what social media can do to grow an online base of enthusiasts to complement its increasing store footprint. “We’ve had a shift in thinking about social media and Facebook in particular because we’ve gone from being a regional brand west of the Rockies to now where we’re a national brand,” Gusick says. “If we get people exposed to us on Facebook as we build new stores, they’ll likely come to us if they are ever thinking about buying boots in stores down the road.”

As part of its increased focus on this channel, Boot Barn hired its first full-time social media director in 2013. It’s now paying a “small but not insignificant amount” for Facebook ads targeted to users passionate about Western culture, and is posting regularly content aimed at spurring engagement among fans..

Most of Boot Barn’s posts on Facebook speak to lifestyle trends or commentary on topics its fans care about like country western music, the rodeo, horses or western-style fashion. Take something Boot Barn posted around Thanksgiving on Facebook, Gusick recalls. “We posted something like, ‘Things I’m Thankful For: Number 1, My Horse. Number 2, All that other stuff,’” he says. “People loved it.”

These types of posts are working in terms of getting fans engaged with its brand. On average, each Boot Barn Facebook post gets 1,820 Likes, 109 comments and 364 shares.

And an increased focus on social media during the year is helping to drive more site visitors back to BootBarn.com. In 2013, 4.31% of Boot Barn’s web site traffic stemmed directly from Facebook, versus 2.42% in 2012, according to web traffic measurement firm Compete Inc.

That 4.31% earns Boot Barn the No. 201 spot in this year’s Social Media 500, which ranks online merchants on the percentage of site traffic they receive from social networks.

Read more analysis of the Social Media 500 data here, or purchase a digital or database subscription here.

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