by Adam T. Sutton, Reporter
In April, Ace Hardware launched a multichannel rebranding effort to position the hardware retailer as a place for consumers to quickly and easily purchase what they needed.
Mark Lowe, Manager, eCommerce Marketing and Digital, Ace Hardware, wanted to bring the campaign to the company's Facebook profile, where consumers could learn more and interact with the brand’s new message.
"I really saw social -- and Facebook in particular -- as a great opportunity to expand the campaign and give it some additional legs beyond the 30-second TV commercials or the radio ads," Lowe says.
The team launched a visual and interactive experience for their Facebook visitors and communicated with the audience through wall posts and comments. The team’s message got through:
- Profile page traffic spiked 350% since the campaign’s launch (Lowe expects the traffic to settle at a lower level).
- Interactions, such as comments and "likes" on posts, nearly doubled since launch to an average of 72 per day.
- They added more than 26,000 fans, more than doubling their previous number.
Here are four tactics the team used to build a Facebook presence that connected with their larger branding effort and captured consumers’ attention:Tactic #1. Prepare for a younger audience
Ace’s core customers are generally aged 35-50, Lowe says. Facebook’s audience, however, skews toward a younger demographic, with an estimated 63% of members between 13-34, according to InsideFacebook.com.
The team adjusted its strategy to reach younger members. They targeted 25- to 50-year-olds through display advertising on the social network, driving "likes" and traffic to their profile page.
- Target by interests
Facebook enables marketers to target ads by members’ declared interests. For this effort, the team chose keywords for hobbies and TV shows related to home improvement, such as:
o Home repair
Targeting helped the team reach consumers with relevant interests, even if they were younger than Ace’s traditional demographic. Tactic #2. Be interactive, fun and helpful
The team created a visual, interactive Facebook experience for visitors (see creative samples below).
The top of the profile page featured additional navigational tabs, such as "Helpful Place" and "Spring Guide," which brought visitors to different pages within Facebook.
- On arrival, visitors saw the "Helpful Place" tab by default, which included:
o Graphic interface
o Links to the team’s seasonal content
o Links to locate an Ace store and view a weekly ad
o Links to learn more about Ace’s rewards program, mobile offerings, and contests
- "I Will" Facebook application
The team’s seasonal content included a link to the "I Will" application, which allowed visitors to personalize a sentence and declare their summer plans.
The application used a "fill-in-the-blanks" approach with entry fields embedded in a standard sentence. For example, users could type in "I will [mow the lawn], and then I will [hit golf balls into the lake]."
Then, users could click the "update my status" button to add the sentence to their Facebook profiles. The update included the message "’I Will’ powered by Ace Hardware."
- "Spring Guide"
Visitors entered a seasonal Facebook page by either clicking the "Spring Guide" navigational tab or the "Guide to Spring" button on the team’s default "Helpful Place" page. There, visitors selected whether they were interested in lawns or gardens and clicked through a series of related tips and images.
- Relevant updates
Every Friday, the team sent a status update dubbed "Long Live Spring" to followers. The updates included a link to a Facebook page with tips on seasonal topics and related videos (see creative samples below). The team used the same page each week, extending the page with new content each Friday.
The team sent relevant status updates to their followers throughout the campaign, informing them of sales and other helpful information. They also made sure to respond to audience comments in a casual but professional manner.
"In terms of the amount of interaction we’ve gotten with each post, it’s gotten better over the last couple months as we learned and found things our consumers are interested in talking about," Lowe says.Tactic #3. Provide context and consistency
The team’s "I Will" message was central to rebranding Ace as a place to help finish home improvement tasks quickly so customers could move on with their lives.
For example, one television ad featured several user declarations that "This summer, I will not turn my garden into a botanical wonderland," and "I will paint just the living room." Finally, one person added "and then, I will read comic books."
The team incorporated this message into Ace's Facebook presence in several ways, such as:
o The "I Will" app, mentioned above
o Embedding videos of the 30-second TV ad into the profile
o Encouraging discussion about grilling and other related leisure topics
o Sending links to the "Long Live Spring" landing page mentioned aboveTactic #4. Prepare the IT team
As mentioned, Ace’s Facebook profile is graphical and interactive. Building and updating it for rebranding required a skilled IT team. We spoke with several experienced developers and asked how you can prepare your IT team to do something similar.
- Experience must dictate expectations
Adding graphical pages to a Facebook profile should be within the abilities of most Web developers, according those we spoke with. The pages can be largely HTML-based.
However, if your team’s developers do not have experience coding in Facebook, they will need time to study the nuances and learn some of Facebook’s markup language, FBML.
- Start early or hire an agency
The amount of lead time required depends on two major factors:
o How much experience the developers have with Facebook
o The depth of functionality you require
Static pages, or pages that simply link to other websites, should not be a problem to create for most developers. However, pages that require interaction with visitor profiles or other interactive features will likely require much more time for an inexperienced developer to create and test.
If you’re planning an effort like this, talk to your IT team to get a better sense of their capabilities and what your plans might require. If you’re pressed for time, look for an experienced agency with a proven track record.
- Have clear goals
Arriving with clear goals will help a developer understand the amount of work required, and whether or not they’re the appropriate resource for the job.
Be sure to understand exactly what you want to add to your social presence, how you will manage it, and how it will be incorporated into your overall marketing strategy. Having this information upfront can prevent disappointment and headaches down the line.Useful links related to this articleCreative Samples from Ace Hardware’s Facebook profile
Members Library -- Take Advantage of Facebook’s Ad Platform: Strategies to Get Great ROI
Members Library -- 8 Tips to Add a Facebook App & Attract Millions of New UsersAce Hardware’s Facebook profile
Facebook: Guide to AdvertisingFacebook Developer WikiFBML
Inside Facebook: Age, gender and growth dataGSD&M Idea City
: Built the team’s Facebook presenceSocial Cubix
: Social media app developersAce Hardware