|By Steven Marks
Combining the antiques of yesterday with the social media of today is a winning combination for a number of antiques businesses. The use of social media as a marketing tool gives these shops and malls an online presence that translates into real-world sales transactions.
“The ultimate goal,” said Linda Bright, co-owner with her husband, Riley, of Bright’s Antique World (Franklin, Ky.) “is to gain new customers and keep the customers we have coming back.”
This is one of the goals that social media expert, David Meerman Scott, lists in his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR (Wiley). His list of four possible, bottom-line goals are: “adding revenue, building traffic, gaining donations, generating sales leads.”
Traci Ostrander, owner of Talmadge Road Mercantile (Clayton, Ohio), concentrates her efforts on building traffic, particularly on her Facebook page, with the ultimate goal, of course, of growing her business. Since creating her Facebook page in June 2012, she has approximately 300 “likes,” people who have actively linked to her page to chat, post messages, and receive updates.
“That is 300 people I may not have been able to introduce to my shop if Facebook wasn’t around,” she proclaimed, adding that she hopes to add another 300 “likes” by June 2013.
Antique Marketplace of Lemoyne (Lemoyne, Pa.) has only been on Facebook for a couple of months, but already has 120 “likes,” according to manager Charlie Platkin. He claims to be an “old guy” who doesn’t know a lot about these new marketing technologies, so he has given over the work on the Facebook page to some younger people who work at the mall. But, he does know that “it’s the way to go.”
“We’re jumping on the bandwagon,” said Platkin. “We’re putting the Facebook page in all of our advertising. We’re anxious to see what will happen.”
Platkin noted, however, that the mall has been growing at a 20 percent annual rate during its six years of operation. He would like to see how Facebook affects that figure, and already has plans to add Twitter to the mall’s Facebook presence and website.
“Our strategy on Facebook is to feature our vendors, build a base of customers, and disseminate information about our antiques mall to bring in more people,” said Platkin.
Ostrander has concentrated her marketing on Facebook because it is “enormously popular.” In addition, she notes that there are no costs and a business page is easy to maintain. She created her Facebook page herself and said that the task “really is quite easy.”
Linda Bright, on the other hand, uses a number of social media tools. She admitted that the wide range may be “a little easier with Bright’s Antique World because we are an established business at 10 years old.” In fact, she and her husband are launching their own social media business, so she is “learning at an accelerated rate” and following through with what she has learned by applying it to their antiques business.
Bright said that their shop currently uses Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, TripAdvisor, LinkedIn, and even eBay, which she uses as an advertising tool. To this mix, she plans to add Etsy, the social media marketplace for handmade and vintage items, and a blog.
“In this uncertain economic time,” she explained, “you have to make your presence known if you are going to be successful.”
The ’Secret Sauce’
Ostrander, of Talmadge Mercantile, was pleasantly surprised when she started her Facebook page “to find people from all over the country and even overseas who have the same love of antiques and primitives that I have.” Consequently, she belongs to a lot of groups associated with these areas of interest.
“I share my business page in these groups, and other folks may choose to share my business page with their friends and so on, and so on,” explained Ostrander. “I don’t have to market quite as hard to get the traffic as you would probably have to do with a website.”
What Ostrander is describing is the “secret sauce” of the business use of social media – viral marketing. Viral marketing is word-of-mouth at Internet speed.
People tend to trust what people they know like and buy. So, if you tell five friends to take a look at a Victorian dining room table at an antiques shop on Facebook, and they each let five friends know, and these five second-generation friends alert five more people, you can easily see how social media marketing can work. Of course, not everything sells like hotcakes, but the potential to reach a larger number of people than through traditional marketing is there.
Strategies for social media marketing
Bright’s approach to social media marketing is to use Facebook and the shop’s web site “to go into more detail about who we are, where we are, and what we stock.” As for Yelp, Foursquare, and Twitter, she uses them for “short, precise bits of information like sales, hours, and special offers.”
Like most Facebook business page users, she posts photos and responds to people’s comments on the page. Bright allows her employees and dealers to share photos on the page as well. She said that shop manager, Josh Quesinberry, helps “me with the Facebook business page.”
Ostrander has a similar strategy to Bright when it comes to Facebook.
“I try to post lots of pictures from around the shop,” she said. “Pictures are worth a thousand words, they say.” She reports that people often see the photos and “want to come in and check the items out.”
Ostrander said she also tries to post “something, anything” in order to let folks know that she’s still out there. Many of the posts have to do with “new pickin’s.”
“Whatever I can come up with to draw a new customer or have one of my regular customers stop by to see what’s new since their last visit,” she added.
And what are the benefits of social media marketing for antiques businesses?
“I do have people coming into my shop because of seeing me on Facebook,” Ostrander reported, “both locally and from afar.”
She then relates a story of how she met a couple of women on a two-day antiquing trip through Ohio. They saw her shop on Facebook and included her in their route.
“I was so excited they were going to drive several hours just to visit my shop,” said Ostrander. “I met two new ’primitives’ friends that day and they will go tell their friends, and so on. Social media does work and I will continue doing for many years to come.”
Bright of Bright’s Antique World said her social media marketing results are going well. She added a new event at her shop this past summer and only used online advertising and e-invites.
The results were good, she claims.
Bright also uses eBay as more than a marketplace for her antiques. She calls it “an advertising tool,” as well. Listing her high-end furniture on the site, she reports that customers “call all the time asking about the items” or if she has certain other items.
Measuring and monitoring
Most social media gives you the means to measure and monitor the traffic it generates. This obviously means that the results of your efforts can be accurately tracked. Bright said that she particularly likes Yelp, Foursquare and LinkedIn for their statistical reports.
Again, social media experts agree that the ability to measure accurately and in a timely manner is one of the major benefits of social media.
Google Analytics is a free service that provides data on how visitors found your site, where they were just before they clicked to land on your site, and what type of device the person was using. With mobile devices and tablets becoming increasingly popular, this would be an important piece of information to know as antiques shops plan their marketing campaigns.