Five Ways a Business Grew 800-Fold With Social Media

social media case studiesDo you want to increase your sales, but don’t have money for advertising?

Would you like to grow your business using social media?

In this article you’ll discover the social media “Secret Sauce” that anyone can use to grow their business without spending money on advertising.

The Cheapskate’s Guide to Marketing

Alison Prince–a self-described “cheapskate at heart” and owner of Pick Your Plum, an online retailer specializing in limited-time discount deals–grew her business 800-fold using what she calls her “Secret Sauce”.

growing your business with social media

Discover 5 ways you can use social media to grow your business.

Prince, a mother of four living in Utah, started a blog called How Does She with two friends in 2009. The site focused on tutorials for craft projects. After a small initial investment from each partner, they used social media exclusively to promote the site, which grew phenomenally and now reaches 1.5 million people per month.

After getting many requests for where to find the materials for projects featured on How Does She, Prince researched how to get good-quality materials in bulk for a good price. In April 2011, she decided to start her own business, Pick Your Plum, to sell directly to customers.

pick your plum cross-promotion of a blog post

Pick Your Plum attributes most of their success to cross-promotion with bloggers and other sites.

Organization: Pick Your Plum

Social Media Handles & Stats

Highlights

  • In three years, Pick Your Plum has grown 800-fold from its initial investment.
  • Pick Your Plum’s growth is nearly 100% from organic social media.
  • Pick Your Plum cross-promotes and has affiliate relationships with hundreds of bloggers.

To promote Pick Your Plum, “We started with social media from day one,” she said. She started the company with a moderate initial investment with no budget for advertising. But she had learned the power of social media in growing How Does She’s audience.

At first, Pick Your Plum was selling products Prince found through distributors in the United States. But her audience was growing so much that the company would run out of products in half an hour, and the site would sit dormant until the next morning’s deals went on sale.

Six months after she started the business, Prince and a friend were on a plane to China to meet directly with manufacturers. Neither of them spoke the language or knew anything about manufacturing or importing. “We were shaking our heads thinking, ‘What are we doing?'” laughed Prince.

pick your plum three year anniversary post

Pick Your Plum celebrated three years in business in April 2014.

Now Pick Your Plum has its own warehouse in Layton, Utah, and employs 40 people. They ship thousands of packages daily.

Two part-time workers spend 10-15 hours a week each managing the Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages for the site. Aside from $100 in Facebook ads that Prince spent once, all of the company’s sales have come from organic social media.

#1: The Secret Sauce

So what’s the “Secret Sauce”?

“It’s working together,” said Prince. “It’s what we were taught in kindergarten. We work with other bloggers and shops to promote each other, passing traffic and readers.”

make it and love it cross promotes pick your plum

The blog Make It and Love It promotes fabric from Pick Your Plum.

Prince has developed relationships with hundreds of bloggers over the years. She got to know them through making comments on their sites and going to blogging conferences such as Altitude Summit, the SNAP! Conference and BlogHer.

When she launched Pick Your Plum, she sent an email to her blogging contacts asking for their support. The response was overwhelming, and the reach for Pick Your Plum grew quickly. In return, Pick Your Plum promotes those bloggers on its own social sites.

pick your plum pinterest board cross promoting blogs that use their products

Pick Your Plum uses Pinterest for cross-promoting to blogs that promote their products.

The key is finding complementary, high-quality blogs and shops that she knows her customers will enjoy. She says they complement each other like meat and potatoes on a plate. Prince gives an example:

“The day that we’re selling thread or fabric or buttons, we’ll post it on Facebook as the product of the day, and a couple of hours later we’ll post, ‘Have you checked out Make It and Love It? She’s got some great patterns for free that you could use these products on.’ And that way we’re pushing her traffic back. We’ve sent her products and she’ll post, ‘Have you seen this great thread color from Pick Your Plum? P.S. I heard it’s going to be on sale in a couple of days.'”

Everyone’s traffic increases, and so do sales. Prince said that most of the sites she works with have over 100,000 active Facebook followers.

She adds that there are sites that have turned down her offer to cross-promote, concerned that they would be sending readers off their site. “[Those sites] are still at 20,000 Facebook followers,” she added. “If you keep it to yourself and keep it secret, you don’t grow as well.”

Extra Ingredients

There are a few more ingredients in addition to Prince’s Secret Sauce that contribute to Pick Your Plum’s loyal customer base and subsequent sales.

#2: Give Your Fans Ideas

Pick Your Plum occasionally sells sets of plain wood blocks. The first time, sales were moderate. The next time, they had just started on Pinterest, and included a link to a board called Wood Block Ideas.

pick your plum wood block ideas pinterest board

Plain wood blocks for sale on Pick Your Plum.

pick your plum pinterest boards

Pick Your Plum sold more wood blocks when they posted them with an idea board on Pinterest.

“We sold so many more,” said Prince. Now she says that when they link products to Pinterest boards with ideas on how to use them, sales increase an average of 50-200%. Their Pinterest following has since increased to nearly 80,000 followers.

#3: Give Your Fans a Way to Know You Better

“We found that Instagram isn’t a direct correlation to sales, but it is a direct correlation to fanatic fans,” said Prince. She sees Instagram as a place where fans can get to know your brand better and know your voice outside of what you have to offer for sale.

They use Instagram to let customers get to know the people behind the business.

pick your plum instagram quote post

Over 800 people liked this Instagram post in less than a day.

#4: Give Fans a Reason to Share

Pick Your Plum is constantly giving their social media followers reasons to share. They often run promotions asking customers to tag a friend and then give away something to both the winner and the friend. Prince reports that their Facebook likes always go up dramatically during these promotions.

pick your plum facebook discount post

Pick Your Plum gives fans lots of easy ways to share with their friends.

Another popular giveaway is called Winner Winner Plum Dinner. They ask followers to click Like if they’d like to see 20 random followers get a free gift, and routinely get several thousand responses.

pick your plum giveaway post

Pick Your Plum regularly gets several thousand likes to their Plum Dinner giveaways.

#5: Give Your Fans a Showcase

Pinterest and Instagram are where Pick Your Plum gives their fans an opportunity to shine. The “Plum Picks … Made by You” group board on Pinterest is where customers can pin projects they made with Pick Your Plum products. It currently has nearly a thousand pins and over 200 contributors.

pick your plum plum picks made by you pinterest board

The “Plum Picks … Made By You” Pinterest board.

pick your plum follower share

Pick Your Plum showcases a fan idea for using washi tape.

pick your plum instagram follower share

Pick Your Plum calls out an Instagram fan’s idea.

Pick Your Plum has been very savvy about converting many of their followers to their email list so they can stay in contact with them, even if social media algorithms change. But Prince is adamant about the power of social media for growing your business.

“Social media has been an absolute life-changer for me,” she said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

What do you think? Have you tried growing your followers and sales by cross-promoting with complementary sites? What’s your “Secret Sauce” on social media? Include your comments and questions below.

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About the Author, Louise Julig

Louise is Social Media Examiner’s case study writer. A freelance writer and former engineer, she has a passion for telling compelling true stories. Follow Louise on Twitter @LouiseJulig. Other posts by »




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  • Jitendra Padmashali

    Very nice information here and also i found here totally new one, Thanks for sharing with us this blog, Louise, its time to be social with this amazing sites. Be connected with glob.

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Thanks Louise for the write up. Very pleased with how you presented the information. Thanks so much!
    Alison Prince – PickYourPlum founder

  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    Great example of how imagery can really help build a following.

  • Melinda Simpson

    I think Pick Your Plum has a wonderful idea in using social media to create a community of followers and friends—not just people who buy things on the site. With the connections between Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest there is a place for followers to get to know the company as well other followers. Having a showcase for what the customers have used the items for is brilliant! It lets them have some “show off” time, and gives others ideas for the products offered on the site. The use of bloggers also introduces like-minded followers who can promote products and ideas within the community. Well thought out plan, and obviously productive results. Kudos!!

  • Janis Evans

    What a positive article! I love the idea of working together so that everyone benefits. I still see people who won’t share anything for fear that someone will steal their ideas! There is so much to gain and very little to lose from networking,sharing and boosting up other people even your direct competitors. Bravo and thanks for the inspiration!

  • http://warrenwhitlock.com/social-media-expert Warren Whitlock

    Awesome example of a business being a serving a community.

  • Louise Julig

    I’m glad you enjoyed the article and found it helpful!

  • Chris Picanzo

    Thanks for this post Louise, It was a great read and holds a ton of value to any business owner that reads it. I couldn’t wait to share it with my circles and I hope they appreciate it as much as I did.

  • Chris Picanzo

    Great story Alison, I just love reading success stories that are true to it’s supporters :) You got yourself a new advocate :)

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ KJ Ammerman

    Great write-up Louise! I love that PickYourPlum focuses on synergy and growing together with other quality companies and websites. Beyond that, she’s not using any tricks…just thoughtful, smart social choices for her niche. Thank you for researching and sharing!

  • Abigail

    The PickYourPlum Instagram account is hilarious. I want to be friends with whoever is running it because the hashtags have me LOLing.

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Thanks Chris!

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Ha!!! We have so much fun on Instagram. It’s a place to really show we like to have fun. Thanks so much Abigail! Do you have an ig account? We’d love to follow!!

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Thanks Scott!!

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Thanks Melinda! We have an awesome team that knows how to spoil our customers:)

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Thanks Janis…it’s so true. Sharing helps you grow and learn. It’s why it’s taught in kindergarten. Thanks for your comment!!

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Thanks Warren. We have an amazing community that supports us and in turn we do our best to support them. We are truly grateful!

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Thanks for sharing it Chris!

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Thanks KJ. Your comment is so sweet. Thanks for posting.
    Louise did a fabulous job with this write up. She is very talented.

  • http://learnhowtoblog.com.au/ Sean Rasmussen

    Thanks for sharing, Louise. It’s great to see that abundance and sharing works well in the social scene.

  • Louise Julig

    Thank you! I’m glad you got something out of the piece.

  • Louise Julig

    Thank you for the kind words on the article! I’m glad you found it useful.

  • Kari Hansen Sweeten

    I have to say…I’ve been one of those fortunate bloggers to collaborate with Alison on promotions and featuring each other clear back when How Does She began. The way she does business blows my mind and I have learned so much from her “promote each other” mentality. It works!
    Louise, this article is dead on and I can’t wait to see what else Alison has up her sleeve in the near future!

  • http://writespeaksell.com jeannettepaladino

    What a great case study about how to grow your business on social media. I think having a head start in 2009 when the field wasn’t so crowded was a definite advantage. In effect Pick Your Plum made some of the rules of a successful social media campaign. Engaging with bloggers and other people selling in your space definitely was the “secret sauce.”

  • Ankur Vyas

    I never knew social media could be so powerful. I recently created a blog entitled american upbringing and the tip about working with other bloggers is something that I didn’t think about.

  • http://www.7eyetechnologies.com Kristina Roy

    Thanks Louise to share this real success story with us. It shows power of social media if it is used in right direction. Social media has become an advertising platform for small to mid size entrepreneurs.

  • http://www.rose-again.com David Rose

    Fantastic article!

  • Serah Njoki

    This was amazing,thank you so much

  • Edith Zwagerman

    Working on launching my own travel community you truly inspired me Alison! and Louise thanks for the article. I just shared it with my Pinterest followers #thumbsup

  • http://rhogroupee.com/ Rosemary ONeill

    I had the pleasure of meeting Alison at SMMW in San Diego, and she is the real deal. Great case study with lots of actionable ideas, thanks!

  • http://www.pamterry.com/ Pam Terry

    Great article. I am curious how I can apply these principles to my speaker coaching business. You’ve given me a few ideas. Thanks for these tips.

  • James Phillips

    Great information. I strive to have the same type of impact. But, how about some tips for someone, (Me) just getting started with using social media that is struggle to get our first 100 page likes. Thanks

  • http://www.ProfitParrot.com Profit Parrot

    Thanks again for a great post. Great ideas that I will use for my biz!

  • Neal Taparia

    It’s really clever how on your Facebook competitions you award prizes to the user and the friend. What a great way to spread the word.

    Since you have a strong presence on various social media platforms, it would be interesting if you can offer a scavenger hunt that encourages people to go to other platforms. For instance, “find and like this picture on Instagram.” With more owned media, it could generate more sales

  • http://social-media-art.com social-media-art.com – barb c

    Great story – it makes me happy that social media marketing a la cheap is working – and I notice you use a lot of images – very important – and you do it great!

  • Madison McClure

    Wow. Lots of great creativity from the Plum gang! Thanks for sharing!

  • Louise Julig

    Thank you so much for your feedback! I’m glad you got a lot out of the article.

  • Louise Julig

    Just keep reading Social Media Examiner and you will learn a lot, @disqus_dg4FDUDBYN:disqus :-)

  • Louise Julig

    Thank you for the kudos and the share.

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Thanks Kari…you have always been fantastic to work with! I appreciate you!!

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Hi Jeanette…I agree. We did get that head start in 2009. I can only imagine what it would be if we would have started in 1999. Amazing! Time does help. Thanks so much!

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Ankur working with bloggers is amazing. I would love to see your site.

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    HI Neal we have done scavenger hunts of sorts before. We learned that we need to keep it simple because customers don’t have a lot of time and will get distracted easily. It would be great to nail that down further though. Thanks Neil

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Hi Barb
    Yes, it’s been amazing to see how powerful social media can be in growing your brand. We are a big believer in beautiful pictures. We believe that has helped to sell products too. Thanks for your kind comment!

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Thanks for your kind post Madison.

  • http://www.pickyourplum.com Alison Prince

    Hi Rosemary – thanks for your sweet comment. It’s good to ‘see’ you again.

  • CH

    I have found difficulty working with competitor sites in help to raise mutual exposure to increase sales. Many of them find this a threat to their business and cutting into their market share.

  • Ankur Vyas

    My website is americanupbringing dot com. Could you recommend how I would find other bloggers? Blogging is new to me.

  • Pingback: Cost Effective Ways To Get More From Your Social Media Budget | IMSoup()

  • http://www.marketerproductreviews.net/ Bruce Frazer

    Teaching your prospects and customers to use a product is a great “Old School” sales method. This can be done in any business…They make great use of it…I wonder how Facebook will respond to their contests in point #4 with the new ban on “Like Gate” promotions…it will be interesting to see if this passes through because it may not lead to an App….It will be an interesting follow up

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    We’ll have an article out soon on what to do once Facebook changes Like Gating options.









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