April 28, 2016
For a company of less than 15 people, Indiana-based mobile accessories brand, Carved, packs a powerful voice. By employing unorthodox social media methods on Instagram and Snapchat, founder John Webber is expanding the brand and triggering exponential growth.
Last year, Carved applied a unique social strategy for the launch of a new product. Two weeks before the product launch, they posted a video teaser on Instagram and asked viewers to guess what the new product was. They accompanied the post with a prize: the top three craziest guesses would receive a free product, whatever it was. Carved received 364 comments in response to the promotion.
Two weeks later, when the product was launched, the response was overwhelming—the product sold out in two hours. Webber’s hands-on engagement played a big part. He sat and fielded comments and direct messages on Instagram for the first two hours of the launch, capturing a bulk of new sales through direct message.
Lose the Social Playbook
Carved is a small company, with limited resources. When they began developing a social strategy, a massive marketing project was not an option. Webber started with a simple question: “What can we do that will not require a massive effort from our team, but can help build the brand?”
Carved turned to their own artisan products for answers. They wanted to convey their focus on craftsmanship to their customer base. At the same time, they were looking to deviate from the tech space, where social marketing can feel cold and distant. This meant personalizing their social marketing just like they handcraft their unique products.
To connect with their customer base, Carved threw out the social playbook. Social media is a communal effort at Carved. “Across the company, it’s pretty open to employees to post, comment, or respond either from the Carved account, or from their personal account,” says Webber. Communal efforts and person-to-person interactions across social channels are working for Carved. They have built a culture inside the company where employees take part in the social strategy and are empowered to engage directly through the corporate account. This creates authenticity and transparency for the brand and gives them a real connection to customers.
When Carved launched in 2011, photo and video sharing app, Instagram, was less than a year old. Webber immediately started to build the brand on Instagram. He foresaw the positive impact the platform could have on a small business like his: “We are selling products for the phone. Going after an Instagram audience would, long term, have the most payoff for us, because Instagram is typically done via mobile phone.” Today, Carved has over 24,000 followers on Instagram. They have slowly built and cultivated their following, never buying followers or likes.
Success was due in part to their artisanal approach. Webber found that Instagram followers were looking for an authentic experience, not an advertisement, “We really try to respect the fact, that a person looking on Instagram, took the time to open it up on their phone, and they are looking for something to engage with. They don’t just want a product pitch.” By personalizing engagement between employees and customers, Carved garnered more and more followers. “We are connecting with them and talking to them every day, so they have a rapport with us,” Webber explained about the high engagement rate.
Instagram is not optimized for online sales. Retailers cannot readily link to a product in a post. So just like their premium Satellite Series that let a customer create a one-of-a-kind case, Carved’s social media playbook focuses on cultivating relationships one DM at a time. By connecting with customers through the direct message box, Carved was able to bypass Instagram’s “link problem.” Carved uses simple promotion techniques such as posting a product with a time-sensitive call to action: “Available for $20 now for 20 minutes. If you want one, DM us.” Products often sells out in minutes.
Carved uses Snapchat to share the day-to-day goings on at the shop, but has found success with sales in the direct message box too. A typical Snapchat promotion offers a discount, requests customers send a screenshot of the promotion through direct message in 10 minutes or less. Once a case is sold, they delete it from their Snapchat story. Only a small fraction of the customer base views the promotion on Snapchat, allowing Carved to run promotions more frequently, instead of clogging up their feed on Instagram.
Building Relationships One Handshake at a Time
Carved is using a unique approach by exercising the direct message box of their Instagram and Snapchat accounts. The strategy starts with a “handshake”—a simple expression of interest or intent works far better than asking for payment up front. A social handshake in the direct message box can thus lead to increased sales as it allows more flexibility for customers and captures sales where advertising doesn’t. Carved also found that over 90% of customers who made that social handshake on a sale in the direct message box fulfilled the transaction; the other 10% provided a valid reason for not buying.
“We just need someone to make that first small commitment,” says Webber about direct message, “and the payment follows.” With 60% to 80% of Carved’s traffic coming through mobile—adopting the direct message box as a sales tool has helped the brand grow rapidly. The result is a loyal customer following that is highly interactive and engages with content and product frequently.
“Our approach to social reflects our approach to our overall business. It’s all about how we can stand out from the crowd and build lasting relationships with customers,” said Webber. “Trying to do something like this on Shopify isn’t possible. It was clear to us from the start that only Magento could give us the flexibility to differentiate our brand and support our vertically integrated operations as we needed. We’ve been able to make a huge connection with customers and drive incredible success and growth with a small team.” The company’s responsive site reflects its unique social media strategy from its “Build Your Case” product configurator to the custom checkout, the company’s Magento Community Edition 1.9 site focuses on being quick and easy on mobile.