August 22, 2013

How A Small Business In A Niche Market Found A Big Audience On Social Media

How A Niche Business Found A Big AudienceThink building a large audience on social media is only for the big companies with broad appeal? Think again.

While it’s true that many small companies, or companies with a more niche focus, choose not to bother with social media (or worse do it all wrong), there are tons of small businesses that are absolutely killing it on social media. After all, social media management is both a science and an art. It’s the companies that understand this (regardless of size) that are seeing fantastic results from their social media efforts. Rignite sat down with one of these companies, Sports Studio, to get the inside scoop on how they are using social media to build a larger audience and lift their bottom line.

Introducing: Sports Studio.

Sports Studio’s business is as niche as it comes. They cast sports-related extras and provide sports-related costumes to the film, television, and advertising industries. (If you saw Troy Polamalu’s Head and Shoulders commercial or the Bush’s Baked Beans Tailgate Research Institute commercials, you’ve seen their jerseys.) They have an active and impressive presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and are using these tools to engage their customers, grow their business and provide services.

Where Sports Studio Came From

Sports Studio started as a mom and pop sporting goods store in the 1970’s with a few locations around the Los Angeles area. Everything changed for Sports Studio when the production team of the film ‘North Dallas 40’ asked if they could provide some football uniforms for the movie. After successfully filling the order, word spread. Because of these initial referrals and plenty of positive word-of-mouth advertising, Sports Studio was able to close their retail shop and focus solely on providing sports wardrobes to the entertainment industry.

They are Hollywood’s only sports wardrobe provider and they get calls from television shows like ‘Modern Family’ to blockbuster movies like ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (remember the scene where Bane sinks the football field? Yep, that was Sports Studio).

As their business has grown, they’ve also gone beyond providing jerseys. Sports Studio also has a database of over 15,000 athletes — the largest database of athletic actors in the country. This impressive database catalogs people in every state that are interested in being cast in roles as ‘special ability’ extras.

So if you need a sports jersey, they can make it. If you need a sports extra, they can find you dozens (and sometimes even hundreds) to choose from.

Why Sports Studio is on social media

When we asked Sports Studio why they chose to focus on growing their social media presence, we got a very simple and honest answer: it was the best way to tell their story. What they do is really cool but no one outside the industry knew about them. Word-of-mouth is what grew their business in the first place and they wisely realized that social media is the new word-of-mouth.

But that’s not the only reason – casting extras isn’t just as simple as pulling a few names from the file. To get the right abilities and look (that special ‘something’ that the director will know when they see it) and ensuring there are enough options, is all about communicating the opening. Turns out, social media is a pretty good place to do just that.

The Sports Studio Social Media Content Strategy

When it comes to their content strategy, it comes down to three simple words: engage, engage, engage.

“That’s so obvious,” you might be thinking, but you’d be surprised how often this simple and important element is ignored.

For Sports Studio, engagement means focusing on telling their stories and managing their database of extras – keeping potential extras interested and adding new candidates. Because the majority of the people in their casting database (and social community) are sports fans, the Sports Studio Facebook page and Twitter feed are full of sports-related posts, promotions, updates, and contests. The true gems, though, are the stories about what they’ve done, and where their products have been placed. Showing what Sports Studio has accomplished is the best way to grow new connections.

They’ve hit some home runs…

Engaging their audience in a way that proves Sports Studio knows who they are and what they like, is a key element to Sports Studio’s social strategy. They used this effectively simple strategy when helping to cast the movie ’42’ last summer. Sports Studio was hired to help the Atlanta-based production generate a large list of casting profiles for baseball extras. While we’re sure that they got some response because of announcements and general calls to action, the real progress came when they reached out to local Atlanta sports players and radio stations.

Because of this personal touch, they even received a helpful re-tweet from Jamal Anderson (ex-Falcon and innovator of the ‘Dirty Bird’). Sports Studio ended up driving over 500 people to fill out profiles, and the open casting call was a big success – all because they engaged with the right members of their audience.

And there have been a few fumbles, too…

(Who says you can’t mix your metaphors?)

Sports Studio had this great idea to do an NFL football pick ‘em contest and give away a signed Victor Cruz jersey at the end of the football season. Their audience is made up of sports fans AND they’ve had a lot of success with NCAA March Madness promotions, so this should have been awesome, right?

They got 70 people to sign up. 70. Seven-zero. Not the number they were hoping for and they had to run the contest all season long for 70 people. In the end, the promotion wasn’t as successful as Sports Studio would have liked.

The lesson they learned (and are passing along to our readers) is you can’t always predict success.

Just because something should work, doesn’t mean that it will work. If a promotion doesn’t perform as expected, that’s okay, just be sure to learn from the experience.

Better yet, apply those learnings to your next promotion to better ensure success!

For the Sports Studio team, this meant applying these learnings to their next big promotion, a March Madness bracket contest. Guided by this new knowledge, Sports Studio was able to generate 350 NCAA contest entries in a fraction of the time it took them to get the 70 signs ups for the NFL pick ’em promotion.

The Bottom Line

Has social media affected Sports Studio’s bottom line? With no marketing budget other than human capital, they are 60% ahead of where they were last year when they did not have any social media pages. (Can we get a what-what?) They have been able to expand more into product placement and by telling people their story through digital collateral, they have been able to reach athletes who are true influencers in their social community. We are not jealous at all. (Okay, maybe a little – but they did promise to bring us on set…)

Parting words

All in all, it’s very clear that their smart digital branding and social savvy has helped Sports Studio to grow beyond their niche and get recognition from a much broader audience. As Sports Studio told us, “In Hollywood you are only as good as your next project and the stories about projects you’ve done.” Telling their stories and engaging with their audience has made all the difference.

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About the Author
Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is Sr. Marketing Manager at Rignite. She helps businesses get better results from their social media activity. She blogs about tips, best practices, and social media success stories.