Promoting your business

Why social media is so important for business pivots

Over the last decade, social media has become one of the most important marketing tools for businesses of all sizes. Amid this year's challenging economic climate, many businesses have had to think on their feed to adapt to social distancing and lockdown measures.

We spoke with Guy Vadas from Céramiques and Ben Lucas, owner of Flow Athletic, about how social media has helped them pivot to create alternative revenue streams during the pandemic.

Céramiques: Social DIY success

When the first lockdown hit at the end of March, Guy Vadas was forced to cancel all classes across his two Melbourne-based pottery studios.

With 300 unused pottery tool kits sitting around and plenty of clay in stock, he says selling at-home kits was the only logical next step – and his only option.

"Before COVID-19, we weren't doing much online," he says. "We had a reasonable Instagram presence and we had quite an engaged audience, but in terms of our online offerings, there were none."

Within a couple of days, Céramiques clay kits were for sale on his website and he was ready to get the word out.

Making use of his 11,000 Instagram followers, he uploaded a number of free tutorials on Instagram TV to accompany the kits.

He also upped his ad spend from $200 a month pre-pandemic to $2,000 to $3,000 a week. 

With the help of social media advertising, he's sold 4,500 clay kits over six months with ten-fold returns on his ad spend.

"We did our best month ever in April compared to running two studios full-time with classes," says Vadas.

Going online has meant his customer reach is now much wider. Before COVID-19, he could only service those close enough to attend a studio class. Now he can sell to the whole of Australia.

"A lot of the orders have been from buyers that wouldn't have been able to reach the studio, like Geelong, or quite far out west that it would be a two-hour drive to the studio, and I've been able to access them through going online," he says.

Aside from sales, the ads have attracted the attention of outlets like Broadsheet and Concrete Playground, adding valuable media exposure for the brand.

He's also doubled Céramiques' Instagram followers and plans to make the clay kits a permanent offering.

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Flow Athletic: Around the world with social

Despite being in business since 2013, until this year it never crossed Sydney-based gym owner Ben Lucas's mind to offer online classes.

When forced to shutter Flow Athletic's doors in March during lockdown, Lucas and his business partner thought about how they could continue to service their 1,000 members and keep 17 trainers employed.

"When it all went down with the shutdown, we said our two most important values are that our staff are paid the full rate the whole time until we either go broke or things turn around, and that we find a way to service our clients with world-class health and fitness," Lucas explains.

Within 24 hours, they had a weekly schedule of 65 adapted-for-home yoga, strength, spin and Pilates online classes. They lent out 50 bikes and rented another 50 so members could continue to attend spin classes from the comfort of their own homes.

"Within 24 hours of closing, we had a full online operation," he says.

Driving sign-ups to online classes via social media advertising on Facebook and Instagram, Lucas suddenly found himself with Australia-wide and international clients.

"We were able to expand our reach of clientele to all over Australia, plus we had clients in London, New York, Los Angeles, Singapore and Hong Kong who joined the live streams,” he says.

"That's an extra income stream that we didn't have before the lockdown and something that we will continue with."

Flow Athletic also offered virtual personal training sessions using FaceTime, Zoom and Facebook Messenger, something Lucas says will also become a permanent part of their business model.

"In the background we are building an online on-demand platform. It will launch with over 200 on-demand classes, plus grow by 10 to 20 classes every month."

Thanks to social media throughout the initial lockdown period, Flow Athletic managed to retain the majority of its members, attract new ones, keep all of its trainers employed and grow its online following.

"Facebook and Instagram grew by around 10%. We were kind of leading the Australian industry with what we were doing," he says.

Their studio space is now open but social distancing means they can only operate at 40% capacity. They've reduced their weekly online streaming classes from 65 to 20, but it's become a lucrative lifeline for the business.

"Even though we've handled the pandemic really well, some people are really scared about coming to the gym and getting COVID-19, which is fair enough.”

The virtual land of opportunity for business

So what advice do these business owners have for others wanting to unleash the power of social media? "Don't get paralysis by analysis," says Lucas. "Don't get stuck in the facts and figures about what is going to work. Just launch something and then learn on the fly.”

“We've seen many other fitness businesses spend weeks and months thinking about what classes to offer, but if you wait that long, you've lost all these clients and then it's hard to get that market back."

For Vadas, it's all about staying open to opportunities. "Never limit your thoughts and your creative drive because there are so many opportunities out there at the moment," he says. "Give away free stuff on social media. That's something we've done a lot of. The more that you can give, the more you'll end up getting back long-term."

He is adamant social media has been central to their success. “If we hadn't used social media, we wouldn't have made any sales. For me, it's the most valuable way to market at the moment."

With so many people spending more time than ever at home and going online, using social media to market your business is more important than ever. It's an opportunity for your business not only to survive through difficult economic conditions but help it move into the future.

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