Facebook Fuels Sales for Small Businesses

by Sheryl Nance-Nash on November 12, 2012

With less than two months on Facebook, toy company CharlieDog and Friends is typically selling $500 to $1,000 in product per day — the bulk of its online sales — thanks to traffic on the social media site. These are significant numbers for the year-old startup, says Suzy Allman, the company’s founder.

The Rye, N.Y.-based company, which bills itself as “The Little Toy Company With Giving at Its Heart,” makes stuffed animals based on real-life shelter adoption success stories, as well as pet collars and matching bracelets for their owners.

What is it’s secret? Animal rescue is central to its Facebook activity, not an afterthought. “We’ve used a ‘back door’ approach with our page, building a community of animal adopters and rescuers around a cause, the sales come naturally,” says  Allman. “Our Facebook fans love sharing photos of dogs and cats that have succeeded outside the shelter, or videos of ‘Death Row dogs’ that, in the nick of time, found a loving home and are being driven to their new families. These feel-good stories and pictures bring in new fans.”

To date, Allman has attracted 3,350 followers to the CharlieDog and Friends fan page without offering contests or sweepstakes, running Facebook ads, or asking people to click the “like” button. “We limit our ‘sell’ posts to no more than 10 percent of total posts,” she explains. “We never sell our friends. We never ask them to post something on their page for us. We maintain a [storefront] within our Facebook page, so it’s easy to find.”

Traffic also comes from the company’s alliance with the Facebook page for the rescue organization Bruised Not Broken, which has more than 205,000 followers. Employees of CharlieDog and Friends have volunteered for the New York City-based group, transporting adopted dogs to their new homes. The organization has supported them in return with posts about CharlieDog’s toys on their Facebook page.

Post Images to Boost Metrics

Facebook is a boon to larger small businesses, too. Voices.com, an online marketplace that connects businesses with professional voice-over talent, says the social media site has boosted its sales. After three years on Facebook, the Canadian company’s fan page is approaching 200,000 likes.

“We concluded a 12-month analysis of an ongoing Facebook marketing initiative and traced $369,000 in revenue to Facebook customers,” co-founder Stephanie Ciccarelli says. She adds that the company, which employs 25 people, aims to post gross revenues of $5 million (Canadian) next year.

What works? “Posting images reaches the broadest audience. Photo albums and status updates with images always receive the highest amount of Facebook metrics like reach, engaged users, people talking about this, and virality,” Ciccarelli says. In September, the Voices.com page had an average reach of 35,000 unique views from people who saw its posts, with the highest rating of 2,300 engaged users.

Ciccarelli advises other small businesses to “make a commitment and stick to it.” Dedicate resources, including staff, to create and promote content. Draw up some social media guidelines. Create a daily schedule for posting.

Convert Contacts Into Clients

Marketing expert Stephanie Ward, owner of Red Lime Media, says she’s made at least $45,000 via Facebook this year. Her strategy: She responds to every new person who clicks “like” on her fan page.

“I link with my new contact on Facebook, then I post information that I think will be of value — interesting articles, events, apps,” she says. “I make sure to ‘like’ their posts and occasionally add a comment. After I get the engagement up, I invite them for coffee or to an event. I’ve gotten about 15 new clients over the past two years from Facebook.”

Quite simply, she says: “Have a plan. Don’t just hire a college student to do the work for you. Facebook is a part of your brand — protect it.”