Social Media Puts Novelty Industry, Customers In Sync

Ariana Rodriguez

The advent of social networking sites revolutionized marketing online with a new method for brands to get to know their consumers — and vice versa — to establish a personal bond that translates into ever-lasting brand loyalty. In the novelty industry, manufacturers, distributors and retailers are now dedicating staff, time and energy to building fruitful relationships with their target audience.

CalExotics recently announced the addition of Nichole Grossmann to its team to focus on the company’s social networking efforts.

We are able to engage fans on a daily basis and update them about news and new products.

“Nichole Grossmann is our social media guru,” said Al Bloom, CalExotics director of marketing. “She oversees the day-to-day activity on our social media sites, interacts with both the public and the industry, and manages social media initiatives such as our Sexperts, our blogs and online contests.”

Chad Braverman, Doc Johnson’s director of product development and licensing, said that the company brought a social media expert on board more than a year ago to help advance Doc Johnson’s presence online.

“Through this initiative, we continue to come up with new online marketing strategies and new ways to interact with our valued customers,” Braverman said. “We feel that social media is incredibly valuable to our brand. It not only helps us communicate directly with consumers, but it allows us to understand our consumers’ wants and needs.”

Castle Megastore Marketing Director Jasen Bartlett said that since Keith Kielbasa took on the role of the company’s social media specialist, his constant presence on Castle-Megastore.com’s blog and social-networking sites has made him a familiar face to Castle Megastore fans.

“They know him as Keith from Castle,” Barlett said. “People will say exactly what they want online. It’s another customer service touch point besides promotions and sales. It becomes a locking mechanism – if you respond to them, you create a relationship with them.”

According to Bartlett, compared to a year ago, customers online have become more open in their feedback. “The key is to find your own mix and blend [of content to get them engaged.]”

According to Grossmann, her position allows her to reach not just the end-user of CalExotics products, but serves professionals in the industry.

“Both the consumer and businesses play on Facebook and Twitter,” Grossmann said. “I keep both in mind during our social networking strategies. I may post information about a new product that a consumer is excited to buy, and that same post might be read by one of our distributors who picks up the new product.”

Susan Colvin, CalExotics president and founder, said having a presence on social networking site allows the company to conduct market research on the fly.

“Nothing beats a quick Facebook survey to get some fast, genuine, customer feedback,” Colvin said. “It also opens us up to an emerging demographic. According to AllFacebook.com, young adults in college age 18–24 made up the fastest growing segment of users on Facebook in 2010. It makes sense to target a demographic where they go to socialize.”

In addition to brand building and customer service, social media also can convert to sales.

“We post deals and coupons on all the social media sites — Facebook, Twitter and Yelp — analytics shows that several people go to our site and shop,” Bartlett said.

On flyers in-store, Castle Megastore promoted its Yelp review page, and offered a promotion that yielded a large response, Bartlett said. “When we ran a Foursquare promo, 140 customers unlocked that deal that got them 25 percent off one item bought in-store.”

Among the most-used social-networking sites used by the novelty industry are Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“We find Twitter and Facebook to be the most beneficial because of the conversational aspect of the sites,” Braverman said. “We are able to engage fans on a daily basis and update them about news and new products. YouTube is a great tool as well since great video content has the capacity of going viral, which is what happened with a few of our molding videos. We’ve decided to show how our realistic toys are molded from actual adult stars and the public has really caught on. The more conversation about your brand online, the better.”

Grossmann said that CalExotics also has implement bookmarking tools like Del.icio.us and will likely expand into Digg, StumbleUpon, as the company continues to ramp up its social media outreach.

“CalExotics also is building an online fan base through its Sexperts program, a team of reviewers and bloggers in a network designed to create several online conversations about CalExotics products on a variety of websites and social media pages,” Grossmann said.

The company also recently launched Cal TV, a product video server that gives CalExotics customers and online retailers the ability to download and stream the company’s product demo video library featuring 698 products and counting, said Desiree Duffie, CalExotics’ director of public relations.

The industry’s marketing professionals agree that engaging their social media audiences is the key to successful social media marketing.

“We create a balance between our marketing speak and educational messages on our social media sites,” Colvin said. “Teaching the consumer about our products is important. Education helps them feel comfortable about California Exotics’ products and that promotes trust and customer loyalty. Social media offers us a direct line to the consumer, one that allows us to have conversations that were never possible prior to the Web 2.0 boom. It’s a two-way street. We learn a lot from the consumers as well. They have ideas, offer feedback and we absolutely love reading their product reviews.”

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