Buffalo Exchange – A Social Media Case Study

As Marketing Director since 1999, Michelle Livingston has been overseeing marketing, advertising, graphic design, public relations, promotions and the online presence for Buffalo Exchange, a national chain of hip resale clothing stores based in Tucson. Michelle has participated in the impressive growth of Buffalo Exchange to 36 stores and 2 franchises in 13 states, with $56.3 million a year in sales.

Currently Buffalo Exchange has 5,414 MySpace friends, 3,606 Facebook Page fans, 1,193 Twitter followers and 222 Flickr photo favorites posted by other members.

When did Buffalo Exchange wade into the social media pool?

Buffalo Exchange started social networking on MySpace, where we signed up on April 4, 2005. We had already gotten into the habit of posting regular bulletins to www.buffaloexchange.com/bulletins.php since 2003, when I oversaw the rebuilding of www.buffaloexchange.com to be instantly updatable like a blog. We created a Facebook group in November 2007 and a Facebook page in February 2009.

We created a Twitter profile in October 2008 and got on Flickr in December 2008. We’re in the process of revamping www.buffaloexchange.com to integrate it with social media, including offering social media sharing options on each web page and creating streamlined syndication on our end. This will launch in November 2009.

What prompted the decision to try social media?

We noted that social media was becoming popular with our employees, customers and other businesses, and that Buffalo Exchange had an opportunity to connect with our customers in a way that’s comfortable and fun for them. We also recognized that social media is free advertising, and that if you don’t reserve vanity URLs on the various sites, someone else (a random person or perhaps a competitor) will.

Did you have a target audience/objective in mind or did you just jump in?

Our target audience is a driver for our decisions, so because that demographic was excited about MySpace, so were we. Buffalo Exchange targets alternative culture with a unique sense of fashion (and those who admire it). Young working adults, college and high school students are our top customers, the 13- to 35-year-old clothing-obsessed individual looking for something unique or for a bargain. Yet we have a diverse clientele of all ages and clothing styles.

We quickly reserved our site (that was the jumping-in part) and then gradually fleshed out our profile. We waited to promote these sites, such as linking to them from www.buffaloexchange.com, until we had enough friends/fans.

What tactics did you use to achieve what result?

Microsoft Word - 2006 CoatsForCubs flier.docWe join social network groups, add fan pages/favorites/followers and request friends relevant to new markets (for example, businesses and groups related to Ventura, CA). To spread the word about new store locations, we distribute online coupons via social media posts and bulletins. When we do company-wide promotions such as Coats for Cubs, we create images and bulletins that can be readily shared via social media.

Our partners, such as nonprofit organizations, can easily share these on their social media sites. We do the same thing with music cross-promotions, and on MySpace we add the band to our Top Friends and their music to our playlist. Social media is part of the publicity campaign process. We don’t send out a media release before a bulletin is posted with hyperlinks.

Do you consider your campaign successful – measured how?

Yes. We know we’re doing the right thing when:

  • We get new friends/fans/followers every day
  • We do social media outreach and new friends/fans/followers join us from new cities where we’ve opened stores
  • Bloggers and people’s social media profiles share our online coupon with others
  • Online coupons are redeemed
  • We get lots of Coats for Cubs
  • New stores have strong sales when they first open
  • We get positive comments on our social media sites, including career interest
  • Customers post positive videos on YouTube, which we share on social media sites
  • Traffic to social media sites and www.buffaloexchange.com increases, which we track through Google analytics and Facebook page Insights
  • Publicity results from blogger and social media profile interest: Google alerts/searches, Technorati, Blogpulse and Twitter and other searches help us track this.

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