Open Sky Copywriting

Case Study: Realistically Profiting with Social Media

The old saying, “the money is in the list” holds true for your social media audience. If you have an audience, you have a list of interested prospects. On social media, your customers become your audience.

Small businesses thrive on the personal interaction they can give their customers. Social media enhances your ability as a small business owner to interact, nurture, and build an audience that trusts you enough to give you money when you offer solutions they are interested in.

As a small business owner, you’ve become adept at packaging your solutions in attractive print and web-banner ads. But social media is a different animal; ads share the same space as customer service conversations.

Yet everyone is using it and big businesses are flocking to each network as if this were the next gold rush.

So how do you, as a small business owner, give proper attention to your customers in person and on social media? How do you package your solutions on social media to turn that audience into a “money list?”

We’re going to pick apart a big corporation’s social media promotions, find the simple things you can use, and discover what mistakes to avoid.

The Structure of a Successful Promotion

Creating a social media promotion is easy. Think about your usual advertisements. What makes them successful?

  • A gripping headline
  • An irresistible offer
  • An easy next step
  • An attractive image

Those aren’t the only elements of a successful advertisement, but you can win attention and make money with those four. Examine this social promotion from the Facebook Page of a small town restaurant.

Myrts Facebook Promo

It’s very simple and very effective. It catches your attention and spreads the word efficiently. It is urgent, forcing people to make a decision quickly. The offer is strong enough to make a hungry reader think twice. The next step is a simple click.

The only thing Myrt’s could have done better was link directly to the pizza menu. Here they link to the home page. Then the user has to make one more click to get to the pizza menu. One less click makes it easier to access the offer and more likely to make a purchase decision.

The image is large, directly related to the offer, and branded with their logo. This will stand out on someone’s newsfeed. If they are remotely hungry, the visual of people eating pizza will trigger their own desire.

This is a very time sensitive promotion (part of it’s power). Traditionally, you can’t be this flexible. To do a one day promotion would require buying ad space in a daily publication. I can tell you, the small town this restaurant is in doesn’t have a daily publication. Social media has allowed Myrt’s to make a quick, effective offer on a typically slow day (Wednesday’s are brutally slow in the restaurant industry here).

Profit is exponential too. Myrt’s paid nothing, spent 20-30 minutes creating this promotion, and drew a few more pizza sales than they usually would have. The cost of preparing a large instead of a medium would be minimal. This promotion is all profit because of one post to Facebook.

There are many other ways to use social media and many social networks you could use to your advantage. Don’t try to be on every network. Just be where your customers are.

Here is a deeper examination of a bigger corporation that uses social media to serve it’s customers as best as it knows how.

Indigo Chapters Case Study

Indigo Chapters is a large chain of bookstores in Canada. They not only sell books, but like most major bookstores around the world, Indigo has added trendy knick-knacks, interior decorations, journals and diaries, and house making products to their inventory.

Indigo has embraced social media and done their best to bring valuable content to their audience. They have built a substantial following on various social networks. Here are their social media counts from the beginning of January:

  • Facebook: 425 000 Likes
  • Twitter: 110 000 Followers
  • Instagram: 45 000 Followers
  • Pinterest: 12 000 Followers

We’ll go through each network and take a look at how they do with those audiences. Then we’ll examine Indigo’s customer service practices on social media.

Big Facebook Following Doesn’t Mean Big Engagement

This was the most recent and promotional looking post from Indigo’s Facebook page.

Facebook Indigo Promo

The first thing I noticed was the interaction on this post: 51 likes, 2 comments, 16 shares. That’s extremely poor engagement considering Indigo has over 425 000 Likes on Facebook.

Granted there were better performing posts than this one. They featured specific products or they were promotions with more attractive images.

I chose this one because it looked the most like a promotion. That’s why I believe it was largely ignored by Indigo’s audience. But there are a couple of other reasons.

  • The text in the image is repeated in the post. That’s redundant and a waste of image space. If they kept that text as the headline and dropped in an image of some hot new books, it would have drawn more attention. It’s easier to want something you see (like people eating pizza).
  • On a scale of 1 – 10 the offer is a 5. As a book lover, I don’t really care that the second book is 50% off. If I’m going to buy it, I’m already willing to pay the price of the second book. However, a more attractive offer would have been “buy 3 get 1 FREE.” I’ve done that before. If I pick out two books that I really want and realize I only have to buy one more to get a fourth book free, that’s a hard opportunity to pass up (this sentiment has been repeated by many people I show this ad to).
  • The post is a block of text at first glance. It takes a moment to sort through the information. There is no rule that says you can’t put line breaks in your posts. In fact, it’s a good idea to divide your posts into small sections. It’s easier to read. Even the Myrt’s post above has a structure that is easier to digest.

This post isn’t completely terrible. One thing Indigo does very well in this post is give clear instructions on how to take advantage of the offer. You know exactly what you have to do if you want 50% off your second book.

Twitter Forces You to Refine Your Creativity

Here is the same promotion from Indigo, except adapted for their Twitter account.

Twitter Search Indigo Promo

Just because they are the same promo, they aren’t structured the same. The image is even slightly different.

You have to get right to the point with Twitter. You only have 140 characters to work with. That being said, you can still put line breaks in your tweets to give them some structure. Blank space makes it easy to digest and much more noticeable in a flooded timeline.

An attractive image is even more important on Twitter. Images communicate information much quicker than text. You can enhance images with text, but this image is only text. It seems like a waste of space if the image has the same text as the tweet.

Instagram Will Surprise You

Enough bashing. Now you get to see how Indigo has really done well with social media. Let’s start with their Instagram account. Check out the number of likes on the image below.

Indigo Popular Instagram Photo

Remember, Indigo has 45 000 followers on Instagram. That’s 10% of their following on Facebook. And this one photo gets 2196 likes! There are also over 130 comments on this picture as well.

This isn’t strictly a promotion. There is no offer and no next step. But it illustrates the power of an attractive visual and a story. The caption mentions the original person who posted this picture. Indigo tells a small story that their audience can connect with.

Fuel your promotions with small stories. Make an offer or just give each reader the opportunity to have a similar experience to what you’re depicting. Spark their interest by triggering their imagination. Indigo knows their audience likes to dream of travel. They trigger those dreams.

Instagram doesn’t let you link to anything from their captions. Even though Indigo isn’t making a direct sale, they are nurturing their audience. Attractive content like this is something your audience can enjoy. Continue to deliver inspiring, helpful content and your audience will trust you. Your posts will have more influence on each individual.

In business talk, that’s building perceived value. The more your audience values what you have to say, the easier it is to lead them through a purchase decision.

Another powerful tactic Indigo is using here is collaboration. They mention the original person who posted this photo. It’s Indigo’s cup, but it’s not their photo. They’ve borrowed this person’s talent and promoted their story. That’s unavoidably “real life.” Real life that looks this good is hard to ignore.

Become a Part of Their Creative Process With Pinterest

With Pinterest we see real life inspiration in play again, as well as collaboration. Indigo has pinned this image from a lifestyle blogger, “Stephanie S.”

Indigo Popular Pinterst

On average, Indigo’s pins usually get 20-30 re-pins. This one was re-pinned 640 times, with 81 likes. Collaboration exposed Indigo to a smaller, but devoted audience that loves the kind of products Indigo offers.

Pinterest serves the “do-it-yourself” audience; crafty, creative people who use Pinterest to find ideas for their projects. Position your products as ingredients that easily fit into your reader’s next creation.

Indigo does this very well. They have boards for personas (his, hers, gold things, up and coming books, film adaptations, etc). Each pin is a product that links to the product purchase page on the Indigo website. Conceivably, you could plan out the decoration of an entire room with Indigo pins, then buy each product online by clicking through the pins.

That’s demonstrated in the next two images below:

Indigo Pinterest Chess Set

If you liked this chess set on Indigo’s Pinterest profile, you could click on the pin or its link. That brings you to this product page:

Indigo Pinterest Chess product page

From there it’s a simple online purchase. That’s a very easy next step. Again, it may not be a promotion, but it illustrates how you can make it easy for your audience to take advantage of your offers and have a similar experience like the one you’re demonstrating.

Your Social Media Presence Doesn’t End With Selling and Storytelling …

Your customers’ journey has just begun when they make a purchase. Serving the customer through the life their new purchase is just as important as the sale.

Your audience will use social media to access you when they have questions, complaints, concerns or praise. Immediate customer service is possible with social media and your customers expect a reasonable level of response.

The usual standards and expectations for customer service over the phone or over the counter still apply to social media. Although there are a few unique quirks when responding to complaints or concerns on social media. Here are some examples of how Indigo wins at customer service on Twitter:

01 Indigo Twitter Customer Service

Notice that Indigo responds to this first case within an hour. This demonstrates that Indigo cares about their customer’s concern.

Indigo is polite (which I have seen other business fail miserably at online) and they take the concern off of social media (DM is “direct message,” a private conversation between people on Twitter). Then the matter gets special attention and isn’t open for public observation. I imagine Indigo would take it further past the DM and get a phone number or email address to completely resolve the customer’s concern in a private, personal way.

The next customer service case demonstrates more of a tech support role:

02 Indigo Twitter Customer Service

Again, Indigo takes the concern away from social media and makes it a personal interaction.

03 Indigo Twitter Customer Service

Here is some praise that Indigo got from a happy customer after the bookstore resolved a customer’s issue. The customer may not have been expecting a response when she tweeted her praise, but Indigo responded joyfully. They are human, they are interactive and responsive, they are relatable and grateful for their customers. One response demonstrated all of that.


Social media is just another communication tool. It has strengths and weaknesses. It’s just as easy to screw up on social media as it is in print or any other medium. Here’s what’s important to remember when establishing a social media presence:

  • Like any advertisement, social promotions need: a gripping headline, an irresistible offer, easy next steps, and an attractive image.
  • You don’t have to be on every social network, just be where your customers are.
  • Your customers are your audience.
  • Large social followings don’t mean high engagement.
  • Space out the information in your posts so they are easier to process.
  • Capture real life.
  • Be inspirational.
  • Make your posts (and pins) easy ingredients for projects and creations.
  • Fuel your promos with stories, especially stories that feature your customers.
  • Give your audience the opportunity to have a similar experience to the one your promo depicts.
  • Build perceived value with your audience by delivering content they enjoy.
  • Collaborate with bloggers or other businesses that have a devoted audience who will enjoy what you offer.
  • Quickly respond to your audience, especially if they are bringing questions or concerns to you.
  • Take customer service cases away from Social Media.
  • Stay human.

Your audience enjoys social media, so find a way to enjoy it as well. Even through cyberspace it is easy to tell when someone is happy or cranky. Get used to the quirks of social media and learn how to enjoy yourself. Your audience will see you having fun and feel comfortable interacting with you. A comfortable, interactive audience is worth their weight in gold.

This case study is part of “Making Social Media a Business Asset,” a hefty social media training presentation for small business owners. Click the picture below for FREE access the full 286 page training.

Making Social Media a Business Asset Blog Footer Graphic

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