Elsmore Aquatic: A Case Study on Facebook Marketing
Elsmore Aquatic
Diving in

This is a summary of our first three months working with Elsmore Aquatic. The goal was to establish a strong presence on Facebook through community and brand identity. During this timeframe:

Elsmore Aquatic was the first client for Giraffe Creative. We learned a lot by addressing the situation with understanding of the consumer and the medium used to reach them. From this experience, we gained first-hand experience with: 

Elsmore Aquatic is one of the top 10 competitive swimming distributors in the United States. Originally starting in a Minnesota garage, the company has blossomed in the competitive swimming market with two retail locations. Elsmore Aquatic is a licensed reseller of Speedo, TYR and Nike products among others.

Since it's creation, Elsmore Aquatic has been committed to providing the necessary equipment for competitive swimmers. Swim meets are usually on weekends, starting early in the morning and held at an obscure middle school pool (or outdoor in the summer.) These meets are littered with swimmers ages 7 to 18. Each of these swimmers has a large bag filled with a towel, goggles, swimsuits, swim caps, water bottles, and everything else Elsmore sells. Although availability has improved, quality brand-name equipment is difficult to find at major retailers. When goggles break minutes before the big race, swimmers better have a spare or they'll be sunk.

Elsmore Aquatic has adapted to this market by bringing their product to the consumer. This method has been used for years and has created a consumer association between swim meets and Elsmore Aquatic. For these meets, Elsmore loads up a truck with merchandise and sets up a booth on location. Here, swimmers' parents can find everything they need for that meet and the rest of the season. It is a system that has reconditioned buying habits of the consumer and provided a niché for Elsmore Aquatic.

Elsmore Aquatic asked us to help them have an effective presence on Facebook to reach the consumer where they are. They wanted to be the top swimming retailer on Facebook based on fan count. They also wanted to use Facebook as a medium of increasing sales similar to their email marketing.

Growing up in the world of competitive swimming industry, I had a strong understanding of how the consumer interacts with Elsmore Aquatic. My understanding is that the swimmer is the influencer while the parent makes the purchase. Usually, if the kid sees a product that they "need," they tell their parent and they buy it. Therefore, it is important to target the swimmers and their parents will follow suit.

We examined their Facebook analytics and discovered that this prediction was correct. The highest demographics in their fan base were females 13-17 and females 35-44. We concluded that these two are positively correlated.

An objective was set to increase the fan count from 288 to 2,000 between January and August of 2010. This increase would be achieved by creating an authentic and consistent brand identity on Facebook. We would also conduct a promotional giveaway to drive traffic to the fan page.

The first step in the Facebook campaign was to build a solid foundation of branding and communication. The profile picture was updated from a simple logo to a photo and logo (above.) An update was also sent to the existing fans to notify them that Elsmore Aquatic's Facebook would be changing. In this update, I formally introduced myself and provided my background in swimming to add credibility. I then explained Giraffe Creative's involvement in the process and previewed what we intended to do.

For this effort to be successful, the content generated had to be authentic and relevant to the audience. Fortunately, my background in the sport allowed me to communicate successfully.

From mid-January to March I continued to update the fan page with relevant content, monitoring fan response. Prior to our involvement, Elsmore Aquatic was posting content related to the company with little to no response. We knew this had to change.

Our focus for content would be on both the local and overall swimming communities. Interesting articles, videos and news that could spark fan buzz were posted. These links usually gained a few likes, but hardly any comments.

In an attempt to increase conversation, we tried posting questions such as "what's your favorite stroke?" These questions did not have much of a response rate and were used minimally.

The strongest response was seen from posting of local swimming news with the most response coming from posting the standings for Boys' High School Swimming in the middle of their season. This worked well because this news is hard to find on the internet, but is very appealing to a large part of Elsmore Aquatic's target audience.

Collectively, this attention to generating relevant content established a strong foundation for the rest of our campaign by demonstrating Elsmore Aquatic's attention to their Facebook audience.

With a solid foundation in place, it was time to begin the promotional giveaway. This would be the largest task of the campaign and would provide a major stimulus for growth of the fan base. 

In competitive swimming for the target age group, the longest and most daunting race is the 1650. At the start of the promotion, Elsmore Aquatic's fan count was 438. With an end goal of 2,000 by August, 1650 seemed to be a very lofty and ambitious goal, but we were going to go for it. We decided to name this endeavor the "Drive to a Mile."

Due to budget limitations and current promotional status of the brand, we needed this endeavor to encourage participation and maximize organic, word-of-mouth growth from the target audience. We wanted to involve the fans and connect the promotion with the feelings of swimming the big race.

The promotion would encourage fans to invite their friends to be fans by working towards a common goal. We presented a deal that if 1,650 fans was reached by March 31st, 2010, Elsmore Aquatic would give away a Speedo Aquabeat underwater MP3 player. To encourage participation throughout the promotion, we planned on including a backpack, goggles and a swimsuit in the giveaways as checkpoints were reached.

Responsibility for success was placed in the hands of the fans.
The promotion officially began on March 18, 2010. Fans responded immediately, demonstrated by a strong increase in fans (above.)

For the duration of the promotion, updates from Elsmore Aquatic were focused on checkpoints and updates on progress. The most effective post was a question asking how many people each fan had invited, including an incredible 401 invites from one person. 

Toward the end of March, fan growth began to plateau around 900 fans. It was evident that we needed to re-evaluate the goal to be more attainable. We decided to adjust the target to 1,000 fans with the hopes of energizing the fans to give it one more effort.
We posted an update about readjusting the goal and were surprised by the result. A fan actually encouraged us to keep trying. This was a perfect opportunity for express our gratitude for the contributions of the fans and publicly showcase our customer service to new fans.

The last three days of the promotion were a close race against the clock. On the last day we reached and exceeded the adjusted goal of 1,000 fans.

Although the initial goal of 1,650 fans by March 31st was not met, the campaign proved to be a great success. The major focus of Facebook growth should always be on the quality of fans gained rather than quantity. Our final update of this promotion proclaimed victory and thanked the fans for their efforts. This update received 11 likes, showing that it truly was a collective effort rather than exhaustive attempt to increase numbers.

The chart below provides a comprehensive summary of results from our campaign from the start to June 9, 2010. The purple line represents fan growth with black dots reflecting key events explained below. The blue line is page views, and the yellow line is unique page views.
January 14: Begin work with Elsmore by developing Facebook communication with
(288 fans, 12 views) consumers.

 January 21: High School Boys Standings posted. Nearly doubles previous page view
(313 fans, 67 views) record. +23 fan increase.

 March 4: Survey posted on smartphone use. 3.4% response.
(385 fans, 64 views)

 March 18: “Drive to a Mile” promotion begins. 3.6 times previous page visits record.
(496 fans, 222 views) +54 fan increase.

 March 24: Goggles added to prize list. Tutorial issued on inviting more friends.
(814 fans, 339 views) Record page views and new fans. +93 fan increase.

 March 31: “Drive to a Mile” ends. More than doubles pre-promo fan base.
(1013 fans, 172 views)

 June 9: Focus on maintaining fans and building communication. Siginificant increase
(1117 fans, 40 views) in consumer interaction. Visit loyalty evident.

Overall, our campaign was decidedly successful. Although our goal of 2,000 fans was not met by August, 2010, we significantly increased Elsmore Aquatic's fan base on Facebook. More importantly, we established a brand identity and relationship with the target audience.

Lasting success is evident in the maintained increase in page views after the "Drive to a Mile" promotion. We helped Elsmore Aquatic stick their necks out into the world of Facebook.