In this instalment of Words that Bite, I look at an example of a small business in the United States that has used Facebook to help it evolve into a nationally recognised and much-loved brand – Sprinkles Cupcakes.
Facebook and small business
Although everyone running a small business is constantly told how he or she must embrace Facebook, there is a lot less information on the nuts and bolts of actually using the platform to sell your product or service. As I have mentioned before, the trick behind a successful Facebook campaign is to use it to ‘engage’ customers. In short, you need to give people a reason to ‘like’ you on Facebook and, more importantly, visit your page regularly. In a perfect world, this strategy will lead to sales.
The questions that no-one provides specific answers to are:
I don’t think you can apply a one-size-fits-all formula to Facebook marketing. Every business is different, and what works on Facebook for one business might not work for another. In addition, social media is evolving at a rapid pace, meaning that what worked last year might flop this year. Finally, you need to be creative about how you approach Facebook marketing.
Since Facebook is such a difficult marketing tool to master, over the next few weeks I will provide some case studies of small businesses that have successfully used Facebook to market their products and services.
Case Study: Sprinkles Cupcakes
Candace Nelson, a former investment banker, set up Sprinkles Cupcakes in Beverly Hills in 2005.
There was no doubt that Sprinkles was a high-risk venture because, at the time, people were obsessed with avoiding carbs. This was even more so in California – a place where everyone seems particularly focused on being thin.
However, Candace’s cupcake idea worked. Having previously set up a custom-made-cake business, where people ordered fancy cakes for special occasions, she realised that the humble cupcake had untapped potential, primarily because it was likely to be consumed more frequently than custom-made cakes.
Candace gave the cupcake a modern twist, and opened one of the first cupcake stores. She is credited as being one of the people who triggered the current enthusiasm for cupcakes.
There is no doubt that part of Candace’s success with Sprinkles was due to her cupcakes being a Rolls-Royce kind of product. After all, the website states that they are ‘handcrafted from the finest ingredients, including sweet cream butter, bittersweet Belgian chocolate, pure Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, fresh bananas and carrots, real strawberries and natural citrus zests …’
In addition, the shop has a sleek and minimalist design, and is modern and funky. It has become the kind of place where you might spot celebrities apparently, Oprah and Tom Cruise enjoy munching on Sprinkles cupcakes.
However, the most interesting aspect of the Sprinkles success story is the way Candace used social media – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – to market the business.
The Facebook campaign
It was principally through Facebook that Sprinkles went from being a relatively unknown bakery in Beverly Hills to a business with 12 outlets across the United States, which is now opening stores in the Middle East. More recently, it has introduced the world’s first cupcake ATMs, allowing customers to purchase cupcakes 24/7.
No-one can deny that Sprinkles’ expansion has been impressive.
How did Sprinkles Cupcakes manage to attract over 445,000 likes on Facebook?
Yes, Sprinkles has managed to accumulate over 445,000 likes on Facebook.
It has used several strategies to build up its popularity on Facebook. In addition, its Facebook presence has expanded to include specific Facebook pages for its shops outside Beverly Hills.
Strategy No. 1: Use lots of images and make them pretty
Sprinkles always illustrates its Facebook posts with images – creative pictures that relate to their messages.
I admit it helps that:
Sprinkles, as a company that is always pushing the boundaries of how Facebook can work to promote a business, has also started creating Sprinkles Short Films on YouTube and posting them on its Facebook page. A recent one set in New York depicts a woman dressed like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s enjoying breakfast at Sprinkles. As Don Draper has often pointed out in Mad Men, there is nothing that sells a product faster than a large spoonful of nostalgia.
Strategy No. 2: Offer a deal
One of Sprinkles Cupcakes’ most effective strategies has been to have a secret word of the day.
If you walk into a Sprinkles store and whisper the secret word of the day, you will receive a free cupcake. For example, on 11 October 2013, if you checked Sprinkles’ Facebook page, you would have seen that the secret word was ‘berry is caring’. If you were one of the first 50 people to walk into the store and whisper ‘berry is caring’, you would have received two free mini strawberry cupcakes.
Basically, anyone who likes free cake is therefore motivated to check the Sprinkles Facebook page, and I doubt that anyone is going to then walk into the Sprinkles store, collect his or her free cupcake and not buy anything. Yep, it’s a no-brainer strategy that shows how you can steer Facebook fans through the sales-conversion funnel simply by offering a great deal.
Strategy No. 3: Run competitions
Sprinkles often runs competitions, which attract large numbers of enthusiastic participants.
For example, there was a Valentine’s Day Competition, where Sprinkles fans were asked to email their proposal plans and were then entered into a competition to win a box of cupcakes that said ‘Marry Me’. The deal was that if that special someone said ‘yes’, the couple would receive 150 Sprinkles cupcakes for their wedding. Who wouldn’t want 150 delicious cupcakes to make an appearance at their wedding?
Strategy No. 3: Provide serving suggestions
Quite often, Sprinkles includes serving suggestions for its cupcakes. For example, for Halloween 2013, it showed how you could create a spider from two Sprinkles chocolate cupcakes, some Sprinkles vanilla ice cream and what the Americans call ‘candies’.
Strategy No. 4: Tell your Facebook fans that you are a company that ‘cares’
As Sprinkles has grown, it is has become more involved in fundraising activities for worthwhile causes.
Recently, it donated cupcakes to Determined to Succeed’s 5th Annual Movie Night Family Fundraiser. This organisation identifies low-income middle-school students who show exceptional determination to succeed and are at risk of getting lost in the system.
In addition, Sprinkles will show its staff members participating in fundraising activities for charities such as the AIDS Walk in Los Angeles.
All this helps to show people that Sprinkles is a ‘caring’ company and to build a sense of community around the brand.
Strategy No. 5: Show what goes on behind the scenes
Sprinkles also occasionally provides links to what goes on behind the scenes at Sprinkles. For example, there are often links to stories about what Candace Nelson is up to in the kitchen as she comes up with new cupcake flavours.
Strategy No. 6: Announce new developments
Sprinkles uses Facebook to announce exciting new developments. For example, it recently announced that Sprinkles Ice Cream and a Cupcake ATM would open in New York over the winter. Even more innovatively, attached was a link to a short film it made about a couple who end a romantic day in New York City with a cupcake and coffee at Sprinkles.
Strategy No. 7: Ask for feedback from your customers
Sprinkles periodically asks for suggestions for new cupcake flavours; apparently, the vegan and gluten-free red velvet and margarita cupcake came about this way. Recently, Candace announced that, because of customer feedback, she was working on bacon cupcakes.
Sprinkles also runs polls to determine the most popular cupcake flavours. This enables people to ‘cheer’ for their favourite flavours.
Even more shrewdly, Sprinkles encourages customers to tell it where they would like to see stores open.
Strategy No. 8: Advertise jobs
Sprinkles also advertises jobs with the company on its Facebook page. This is smart strategy because, that way, it gets to hire people who are already fans of its product.
The Sprinkles Cupcake campaign on Facebook is a great one to examine because it shows a range of strategies to create a community behind your brand and engage your customers.
In Sprinkles’ case, these include:
Now you need to look at your own business, and work out whether you can use or adapt any of these strategies to devise a Facebook marketing strategy for it.
Personally, I believe the best way to approach Facebook is to:
I hate to say it, but there are no shortcuts to success on Facebook.
In the next instalment of Words that Bite, there will be another case study of a small business that has set up a successful Facebook marketing campaign.
Are you too busy running your business to think about whether you should embark on a social media marketing strategy? Would you like someone to look at the issue for you? If so, call the Pink Rottweiler on +61 (0)409 609 903 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.