October 03, 2013
Case Study

Social Media Marketing: How a small e-commerce site attracted 293,000 Facebook fans

SUMMARY: A single picture can be worth a thousand words of copy. A customer can snap one and send it in seconds, giving you a testimonial, product review and free content that’s easy to share.

This e-retailer collects product photos from customers and uses them to support its website and social media marketing. The images increased conversion rates 13% on product pages and helped attract more than 293,000 Facebook fans. See how the marketing team receives a steady supply of customer photos and makes them sell.
by Adam Sutton, Senior Reporter

Diamond Candles launched in 2011 to offer scented, soy-based candles with a twist: each one has a ring at the bottom. The excitement of claiming the prize, worth from $10 to $5,000, helped the company grow.

The company's marketing strategy is largely based on ad-free social media marketing and word-of-mouth, said Justin Winter, Co-Founder and CEO, Diamond Candles.

According to Winter, the average Diamond Candles customer tells three people about the brand. Even if they have never heard of the company before, he said, those customers will actually end up making a purchase.

Customer-contributed photos are a central part of the company's marketing. Adding them to product pages increased conversion rates by about 13%. They also helped the company attract a jaw-dropping 293,000 Facebook fans since 2011 without using ads. Update: 469,661 Facebook fans as of October 7, 2013.

In this case study, discover the social media marketing tactics Winter used to grow Diamond Candles and how he plans to push results even higher.

Tactic #1. Sell a conversation starter

Most of the rings embedded inside the company's candles are inexpensive, but a few lucky customers see real diamonds surface in the wax.

"We initially had this gut feeling, 'Hey, women love rings!' With a candle, it's kind of a surprise. It's kind of exciting," Winter said.

Other than giving customers more incentive to buy, the rings help the company's marketing by making the product well-suited to social media and word-of-mouth.

"Rings are something that women wear out and frequently compliment each other on," Winter said. "People can wear the ring around afterwards and mention us."

Even the candle is easy to talk about.

"People generally burn candles in public places, in their homes on different occasions, and when they're having people over," he said.

Put it on the product

To remove any question about how the product works, each candle includes instructions for how to get the ring inside. Customers also see a call-to-action urging them to take a photo with the ring and share it on Facebook or the Diamond Candles website.

Tactic #2. Harness the power of photos

Winter is a big believer in the power of user-generated photos.

"A photo can create an intensely emotional response while at the same time requires only minimal invested effort," he said in a recent blog post (see related resources below).

Creating and sharing a photo activates and engages a potential customer, he added. For example, that behavior helped Instagram and Pinterest build audiences.

"Ring reveal" photos

Diamond Candles focuses on what Winter calls "ring reveal" photos. These images, captured by customers after their rings surface, are the content that drives much of the company's social media strategy.

"Early on, we figured out that the best way to communicate the value proposition was really in a succinct photo that shows the ring coming out of a candle," Winter said.

Add to product pages

The "ring reveal" photos have several benefits. One of the biggest and most measurable, Winter said, is their impact on the site's conversion rate.

Customer photos are featured prominently on the site's product pages and visitors can click to view them in a gallery. The photos increase the conversion rate of a product page about 13% on average, Winter said.

"It's the additional social proof of having a whole gallery of hundreds of lavender-lemon photos that people can easily see," he said. "It's a ton of help when it comes to building trust and legitimacy."

Tactic #3. Gather more photos

To collect these photos, Diamond Candles’ website has a "share your photo" button on each product page and gallery page. However, many of the photos are acquired through product giveaways that are promoted on social networks.

The campaigns typically encourage people to create images, share them, or complete another social action for a chance to win free products.

For example, the team ran a giveaway in April called "Pin It to Win It." Entrants were asked to create a Pinterest board titled "Scentsational Spring Fever" and add at least 10 photos of their favorite candles or rings.

The team even extended this approach to YouTube where it has given away products to the first 20 customers who uploaded a product review video to the network.

Tread carefully

Some social networks, such as Facebook, have terms of service that restrict giveaways and contests. This creates a sensitive legal issue for marketers, and Diamond Candles treads carefully.

One way it handles this is by promoting giveaways on social networks while centering them on the company’s website or a third-party tool.

Before running a similar campaign, be sure to review each network's TOS with your legal team and create a list of "dos and don'ts."

Tactic #4. Create a culture of sharing

Diamond Candles has user-generated photos almost everywhere. Its pages on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and its website emphasize them heavily. This turns the company's social profiles into pseudo product catalogs with proof that customers love the experience.

The photos also help create an impression that snapping and sharing a photo is part of buying a Diamond Candle. Anyone who crosses the brand online is likely to see a customer photo or a photo-based giveaway. Even the product label encourages people to share.

"One of the first things we tried was, rather than telling people to do it, we would frequently repost photos that people had posted and say, 'Hey, this is what Sally found in her candle,'" Winter said. "So to a degree, we're setting an unspoken expectation that this is kind of what you do. This is the product experience."

Tactic #5. Automate and personalize

Most of the company's social media marketing has focused on Facebook, and Winter is excited by the potential he sees in the photo-based networks like Pinterest and Instagram.

"Instagram has increasingly been very huge for us," he said.

Using a third-party tool, the team tracks photos on Instagram that users have marked with hashtags related to the brand, such as #diamondcandles. The tool can aggregate and display these photos on the company's website.

"What we found is that it's not just the collection of the photos, but also interacting with people at those points of user-generated content has been very valuable," Winter said. "Right now, with some tools we have set up, within a day of someone mentioning us on Instagram, our account is responding or acknowledging in some way that person’s post."

Add more social proof

Winter also hopes to one day test showing shoppers product photos that were taken by their friends.

"If we know that someone sees a photo that a friend of theirs took on a product page and the conversion rate is 20% higher, or what have you, compared to a relatively anonymous photo, then we can know how much we can play with incentives to get more of this content," he said.

Creative Samples

  1. Ring reveal photos

  2. Product page w/customer photos

  3. Customer photo gallery

  4. Product giveaway

  5. "Like" to start a contest

  6. "Pin It to Win It" giveaway

  7. Product review video


Diamond Candles

Instagram will Make You Billions and Keanu is Still Confused – Justin Winters' blog post

Related Resources

Social Media Marketing: 4 tips for developing a winning social media strategy

Social Media Marketing: Travel company uses Facebook as a tool for generating testimonials

Social Media Marketing: 4 questions to ask yourself about social media buttons

Social Media Marketing: Have you tested your website’s social links and buttons?

Value Proposition: How to use social media to help discover why customers buy from you

Social Media Marketing: Which type of content is appropriate for different platforms?

Social Media Marketing: A quick look at Facebook EdgeRank

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