Web Marketing Case Study: Social Media

Since its opening in the East Village in New York City in November 2008, Butter Lane Cupcakes has expanded from selling cupcakes to selling cake pops and Blue Bell ice cream, as well as teaching cupcake baking classes. Just a few months after opening, it added online ordering and opened a second store in Brooklyn. It draws customers to its stores and website with social media.

“There’s a pretty broad target market for cupcakes,” laughs co-owner Maria Baugh, who owns Butter Lane with Pam Nelson and Linda Lea. “We sell to hipster foodies, kids, 20-something single women who come in packs, gay tastemakers, soccer moms, the old, the middle aged, the young, and everyone else.”

Butter Lane invests a lot of time, energy, and money in Facebook, Foursquare, Groupon, Twitter, and Yelp, in addition to Constant Contact e-mail newsletters, Google SEO, Google PPC, Tumblr, and more. With all these channels, social media management became critical, so the company signed up for Postling.com in August 2009.

Baugh quickly set up the Postling account herself, to track what’s being said on Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp. Postling sends an automatic update whenever anyone refers to Butter Lane online and a daily digest of all mentions; she can respond to a mention with one click.

Though their company's social media presence definitely helps drive people to their website, Baugh cites many other benefits: getting out the Butter Lane name in a relatively inexpensively manner; building customer loyalty; engaging with customers in real-time; and managing customer service quickly and easily.

Baugh says, “It’s so easy to use social media to really engage our customers and fans,” noting that she can add or modify specials, promos, or contests any time from any location. “To change something on our website, I have to e-mail our website administrator, have several e-mails back and forth, then go through a few rounds of edits and tests.

Then it can finally go live. I can post a contest on our Facebook page in about 30 seconds with the potential to reach thousands.”

Baugh was spending 20 hours per week or more on social media until she hired a community manager in spring 2011. Sharing the responsibility has allowed the company to expand its efforts and presence significantly. “We’ve seen a huge increase in all our analytics.

It’s an investment I wish we’d made a lot earlier . . ., even when I thought we had no budget to do it,” Baugh says ruefully. ”It’s hard to imagine spending money on something like that — isn’t part of the beauty of social media is that it’s ‘free?’ But in the long run, it’s worth it.”

Butter Lane uses Google Analytics, SEOmoz, and occasionally Alexa to track its marketing results. Facebook is its number one referring site, followed by Mobile Meteor, Yelp, Groupon, and Twitter. Improved conversion rates are quite important to Baugh, but she also loves the raw numbers (performance metrics), such as Facebook Likes, Twitter followers, and Foursquare check-ins. “Basically, I'm willing to try anything to get out the Butter Lane name.”

“We engage with bloggers who have an interest in food. And we look for other unique and cost-effective ways to advertise, for example by sponsoring an RSS feed on the Swiss Miss (cocoa company) blog, targeting specific groups on Meetup or LinkedIn . . . and making videos for a YouTube channel.”

Butter Lane also plans to try out Roost, a platform that automates posting on Facebook and Twitter and helps create content. Baugh is also interested in augmented reality (computer plus real imagery) and the new Square card device, which lets people pay by using their smartphones. “I'm constantly reading Mashable.com, looking for the next thing for Butter Lane to try.”

To drive people to their social media network, Butter Lane uses more than chicklets and share buttons. “We have an iPad mounted in the shop and offer a free icing shot if you Like or Follow Us while you’re there.

We occasionally send blasts to our e-mail list and encourage people to Like or Follow Us. We also use PlacePunch, a digital loyalty program that automatically tracks check-ins at the shop, on Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and other sites.”

Baugh offers nothing but enthusiasm for social media. “Do it! Use anything and everything you can. Stay current. Social media is changing by the hour, and there’s a lot of opportunity. And whatever you do, read Mashable.com and web Marketing For Dummies, of course!”

Here’s a list of URLs for ButterLane:

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