Buffalo Exchange and Tiny Hanger

Retail Social Media: Small Business vs. National Chain

By Alicia Deily and Lindsey Jones

Social media is imperative to the success of a business. When companies interact with consumers through these websites, they are more likely to attract new customers and develop stronger loyalty with current ones. We wanted to compare a local retail business with a national retail chain to see the differences and similarities in their social media usage.

Buffalo Exchange
Buffalo Exchange is a clothing store that buys and sells gently worn clothing and accessories. The store was first established in 1974 in Tucson, Arizona. After the initial success, the business was franchised and now can be found in 15 states. There are 42 stores and 3 franchises which collectively create $72.9 million a year in revenue (as of Dec 2011). Buffalo Exchange is an independent and privately held company. They have Boston-area locations on Harvard Avenue in Allston and in Davis Square in Somerville.

We got in touch with Michelle Livingston, Marketing Director, to learn more about how they manage their social media. The first few search engine results of the store are: the company’s website, Twitter, Facebook and blog. Their website is extremely user friendly and engaging. It features information about the history of the business, locations, current events, customer reviews and publicity.

The company has a very healthy Twitter feed. They have over 5,000 followers and almost 2,000 tweets. Their tweets are very useful and interactive that appeal to their target customers.

Buffalo Exchange has a very strong Facebook presence. They have over 30,000 likes. The company uses Facebook to promote deals and upcoming events. They are active on other websites like Tumblr, Myspace, Pinterest, Flickr, and Youtube.

This company jumped on the social media bandwagon early. By 2003, Buffalo Exchange had been updating their bulletins on their website more frequently.  Then, in 2004, Buffalo Exchange began their Myspace account. In 2007, the company joined Youtube and Facebook. Their Flickr and Twitter accounts were established in 2007. In 2010 they began their blog. Most recently, in 2011 the company established an Iphone application for their customers.

Buffalo Exchange believes that social media is a fun yet powerful way that they can interact with their customers. They recognize and take full advantage of the fact that social media acts as free advertising for their business. Buffalo Exchange uses Hootsuite in order to manage their social media presence. They have a schedule for posting blog posts and bulletins on their website. Buffalo Exchange uses Google analytics to measure the effectiveness of their online presence. They have noticed that their Facebook page is by far the most successful for reaching their customers.

Buffalo Exchange is a prime example of a company using social media effectively. They started gaining a following early and it has strengthened over the years. Although the company is  a national chain, their stores often have the feeling of a local boutique. Our suggestion to them would be to further emphasize this feeling through their use social media. Their online presence could be even more connected to the communities  where their stores are located. For example, they could promote local bands and local events. Focusing on the ‘small boutique’ feeling of their stores will drive more traffic and help them gain an even stronger following.

Buffalo Exchange realizes that their online presence has a large impact on their success, and that their target market responds effectively to social media. Michelle said it best with this summary:“Our target audience is the driver for our decisions”. As long as the company continues to cater to their customer’s interests and needs, they will be successful. We were very impressed with their extensive use of social media.


Tiny Hanger
Tiny Hanger is a local boutique located on Coolidge Corner in Brookline. They offer fun clothing and accessories to children ages 6 and under. They also offer exclusive designer goods and handmade crafts. Currently they have a Twitter feed  a Facebook page and a Blogspot blog. They also have a website.

We interviewed its owner, Lucia Berman-Rossi. Tiny Hanger opened in October of 2011; this is when they began using Facebook and Twitter. Lucia said that it was obvious Tiny Hanger needed a social media presence. She said that everyone is on Facebook and it has become essential for businesses to connect with their customers there.

They currently update their website using Dreamweaver but due to the fact that it is so complicated, they do not update as frequently as they would like to. They end up using Facebook more. Lucia feels that the website is not where she wants it to be so they are switching their website to WordPress. She hopes that this will make frequent updates easier and less time consuming.

“Facebook by far is the most successful social media site. People will come into the store and specifically ask for clothing items they have seen highlighted on the Facebook page” said Lucia.

She is still getting used to Twitter but she tries to tweet several times a day. Eventually, she would like to tweet more interesting and useful articles along with style advice. She feels that the Blogspot blog is probably the least effective medium so far but they still feel it is important to maintain for the store to have a complete online presence.

Currently it is just Lucia and her husband managing Tiny Hanger’s social media. She is planning on having Christa Tuon, the store’s Visual Merchandiser, take on some of the responsibilities. Christa said “I think Tiny Hanger is taking advantage of social media and headed in the right direction however, more needs to be done in the acquisition of ‘followers’ and ‘friends’. Tiny Hanger is still a young company and if it stays on the right path, it will really take off.”

Tiny Hanger does have a Hootsuite account but Lucia has not had time to fully figure out how to effectively use it. With Christa’s help, Lucia would eventually like to get on a social media calendar to streamline all of their outlets. As for analytics, Lucia explained that they do use Google Analytics but since they have been so busy with the store, she barely has had time to look at it. She is aware of the benefits and would like to utilize it more when she recieves more help.

The business uses social media to promote special events and offers. They are involved locally and they have held events like “Story-Time” and “How to Make Your Own Baby Food.”  For the baby-food event, she brought in an outside source to teach customers how to make their own baby food. She promoted it through Facebook and Twitter and so did the outside source. People came to the event specifically because they saw it promoted heavily online. This shows how effective social media can be locally.

However, Lucia says that she will often run sales that last only a day and promote them through Facebook or Twitter. She does not feel that this is effective because the sales are too short and does not give customers sufficient time to make it into the store. If she ran a longer sale, she believes she would better be able to better drive traffic through online promotion.

Social media is important to Tiny Hanger because it creates customer loyalty. Fans can follow events and promotions more easily. It also drives traffic especially when new shipments arrive, people see specific items they want and come to the store looking for them. Customers lead busy lives and they do not have a lot of time to spend online. Tiny Hanger has to keep this in mind when posting.

Lucia feels that social media is great because it is “free, easy and people use it.” But the downside is that it is a limited audience and that it is easy for a business to “rely on it too much”. She guesses that only about 25% of her customer base followers her on Twitter or Facebook. She said that she has posted information about upcoming events online and then realize that she forgot to put up posters in the physical store. In this case she estimates that she missed 75% of her customers or potential customers by relying too heavily on social media.

One suggestion for Tiny Hanger is that they create a mobile application for busy parents on the go. Creating an Iphone-friendly application would be yet another way to effectively reach their target market. For being such a new business, Tiny Hanger has done an excellent job of maintaining an online presence. If they keep up their momentum, we are sure that they will continue to grow and gain followers.

Whether a business is a national chain or a local boutique, social media is essential to connect with current and future customers. Buffalo Exchange and Tiny Hanger are two examples of businesses that know how to effectively reach their target market with social media. Both businesses recognize that having a heavy online presence is essentially free advertising and they take advantage of this.


Reduce stress: get a pet

By Alicia Deily

When many college students leave home for the first time they often report missing their pets the most out. As students move through their college career, move off campus and graduate, they may get a pet of their own. Is getting a pet actually beneficial?

I got my first pet on my own this summer when my roommate rescued a cat from her hometown. We named our new cat Babygirl. At first I wondered if we would have enough time to care for her or if she would have enough space in our tiny city apartment. I was used to my parents caring for our cat and being able to let her out to roam free outside. However, within the first few months of owning Babygirl I came to realize that I truly enjoyed having a pet.

After a long stressful day Babygirl is always at the front door waiting for me and following me around the apartment. She is also always the center of attention at parties and friends always  stop by to see her.

Studies have long shown that having a pet can be greatly beneficial to the elderly and the sick. However, recent studies also show that pets can help young adults cope with stressful or difficult situations. Learn more about the benefits of pet ownership as a student.

Both young adults and college students typically deal with a lot of stress. They often work long hours with little pay and must deal with school related work. Owning  a pet may be the thing to help relieve this stress.

Research also shows that pets can promote a general sense of health and well being. Taking care of another living thing can also be a way to gain more responsibility and learn valuable life skills. Studies show that people who own pets are actually less selfish. Read more about the benefits of pets here.

A cat may be a good ‘starter pet’ since they tend to be more low maintenance. A dog may be the pet to own when you have a more reliable job schedule. This is due to the fact that they need to be let out every 7 or 8 hours.

Here are some links to some ‘No Kill’ shelters in the Boston area. If you are living off campus next year or graduating definitely consider getting a pet.


Summer in the city

By Alicia Deily

There is nothing quite like spending a summer in Boston; it is absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately this also happens to be the time that most students flee the city, headed for their hometowns or on vacation. This year if you happen to find yourself staying in Boston for summer 2012, here is a list of four excellent ideas of how to spend your days off in the city:

1.       Head to the beach- Nothing says summer like spending the day at the beach. You don’t have to have a car either to enjoy laying out on the sand. There are several beaches that are easily accessible on the MBTA, by both bus and by train. There are beaches on the blue line that can be reached in 10-15 minutes from downtown Boston. Here are some specific beach ideas and exactly how to get there.

2.       Admire some art- Spending the day at the Museum of Fine Arts is the perfect way to pass a rainy summer day and learn something new. The best part is that admission is free for Lasell students, so don’t forget your school ID. An upcoming exhibit starting April 28 is, contemporary artist, Alex Katz who uses vibrant color in his work. Check out the MFA website for more information and events.

3.       Shop and sun-  Spend your shopping day on Newbury Street where you can soak up the sun and the atmosphere. If you start shopping in the morning at the ‘Hynes’ end of Newbury street and work your way down to the Boston Common by the afternoon, you will have just enough time to grab an iced coffee and lay out in the sunshine. It is the perfect ending to a shopping trip. For lunch, in between, I would suggest Stephanie’s, where you can dine alfresco.

4.       Sail the CharlesTake a class on kayaking or sailing on the Charles. You can take a boat out for a day or enroll in a longer series of classes. Check out more information about prices and dates at the Community Boating Website. There is no better way to see the city and to get out on the water. This happens to be the priciest option on the list but will make for an unforgettable experience.

 


5 healthy snacks on-the-go

By Alicia Deily

It’s 3’oclock and you’re starving. What do you eat?

The life of a college student can be stressful and is packed full of commitments and activities. Between classes, studying, part time jobs, extra-curriculars and friends, there can be little time left for food. Leading such a busy lifestyle can make it tough to find the time to eat healthy and balanced.

Often times students will end up spending more money purchasing snacks throughout the day then if they had taken the time to pack a few in the morning. Here are some great healthy and relatively cheap snack options that you can throw in your bag at 9 am and eat at 3 pm when you hit that mid-afternoon slump, no refrigeration or preparation required.

  1. Raw Almonds- Any raw nut will provide you with the quick nutrients that you need for your long days but almonds are one of the best and most affordable. Almonds are rich in protein and the healthy fats that your body needs to function properly. Make sure you avoid the roasted kind which contain the bad fat that you want to avoid along with other unhealthy additives.
  2. Air-popped popcorn– This delicious snack has only 40 calories per cup and is perfect for when you want to munch on something. Only when you add high-calorie oils and butter does this food become unhealthy. Popcorn is high in fiber so it will help you get your daily serving. it is also easy to carry around all day in a plastic bag.
  3. Bananas– Oranges, apples or peaches are all excellent and nutritious options for a portable snack. However, bananas have the most energy-providing nutrients to keep you going. They are made up of fiber and a mix of natural sugars that translate into instant energy that will keep you going longer than most energy bars and drinks. They also contain many nutrients like potassium that are essential for leading a healthy life.
  4. Cereal- Dry cereal is easy to pack and affordable but be careful you are picking a healthy kind. Make sure you read the labels and the ingredients. Choose a cereal with little sugar and avoid high fructose corn syrup. Those ingredients can easily turn a snack into a poor choice. Instead look for options with high fiber and vitamins.
  5. Raisins- Fresh fruit is delicious but when not eaten fast enough can easily go bad. For a college student with limited funds, dried fruit is an excellent option. Raisins tend to be one of the cheapest choices. They are packed full of vitamins like iron and B-complex. They also contain fiber. Like nuts, dried fruit can be calorie dense, so make sure you watch your portions.

 


S-Commerce, the way of the future

By Alicia Deily

The best way to gain a customer is often through word of mouth. Consumers believe their friends and coworkers more than they believe the claims found in advertisements. Consumers also like to have a direct interaction with the brands that they purchase from; they want to feel like their opinions and concerns are being heard by companies.

 In the past these goals were difficult to achieve. However, s-commerce has changed that dramatically and now it is easier than ever for a brand marketers to connect with its existing and potential customers.

 S-commerce, or social commerce, is a term given to the use of social media in the buying and selling of goods. Essentially,  it is all about doing business through social media. It was coined by Yahoo in 2005 to describe online shopping tools like user ratings, customer recommendations and referrals.

 Since then the term has gone on to include the use of brands marketing on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.  These sites allow customers to interact with brands on many levels. They can make suggestions and comments, gain inside information and special offers, share product information and offer referrals to friends. Social media can also be a platform for companies to conduct market research and get essential feedback from consumers. Both consumers and brands can benefit from s-commerce.

It is predicted that marketers have only begun to skim the surface of what is capable through social media. By 2015 the amount of sales generated through social media is expected to top 30 billion dollars globally. Keep up to date with the latest news from around the globe involving s-commerce at Social Commerce Today.

It is clear that it is important for students to understand how to effectively use social media. It is not only useful for their personal lives but it is also important in the world of business. S-commerce will continue to be a powerful force in the global marketplace.


Market Yourself, Study Abroad!

By Alicia Deily

Studying abroad can be the most incredible experience of your life, allowing you to gain new experiences, knowledge and friendships. It can also help you land your dream job. Whether you have studied abroad in the past or your thinking about it for the future, the skills and qualities you gain during your stay are in high demand by employers. Today’s jobs often require business travel, international communication and a broad knowledge base. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense that international experience would be highly valued in the workplace. Here are some of the top marketable skills that employers are looking for that studying abroad can provide.

Cross Cultural Communication- Students who have studied abroad are more likely to have an awareness and understanding of cultural differences. This is a useful trait in today’s globalized marketplace where companies are often communicating with offices and clients abroad. Foreign language skills along with knowledge of other business cultures are highly valued.

Flexibility- Traveling in general requires a great deal of flexibility and living in another country takes that to the next level. For example, the host university may have a completely different grading policy than the one a student is used to and they must adapt in order to be successful. On the job, employers expect that the applicant will bring that same kind of flexibility to their work.

Independence– There’s nothing that says independence to employers like having traveled to a foreign country to study or work. Employers will often be more impressed if a student went abroad by themselves versus with a group or with friends. This shows that you will be able to learn on the job easily and work on your own without needing constant supervision.

Confidence- This is one of the most important traits that a student gains from study abroad. After navigating a new culture and living amongst the locals, students gain the confidence needed to tackle a variety of obstacles on the job and in life in general. The ability to live outside of your comfort zone, meet new people and function in a completely different culture all build confidence.

As someone who spent a year abroad studying and interning, I can say that I have greatly improved in all of these areas. If you have already gone abroad be sure to emphasize these skills during your interview and on the job. If you haven’t gone abroad yet, be sure to stop by the study abroad office and visit the Lasell study abroad site for more information.


Get a Front Row Seat at Burberry’s Fall Show

By Alicia Deily

What was once reserved for high fashion royalty and powerful editors is now accessible to anyone around the world. Thanks to social media anyone can stream Burberry’s A/W 2012 runway show live on Monday, February 20, at 4p.m. GMT through Burberry.com. Check out the trailer for the show here.

Anyone following the brand on Facebook or on Twitter can get exclusive sneak peaks and backstage photos, too. Chief creative director Christopher Bailey will even be live and interacting with fans on Facebook. This is a classic example of a brand using social media to directly connect with consumers.

Before the days of the Internet and social media, the public would have to wait to see the new collections. Now everyone can see the latest trends at the same time that the most powerful people in the fashion industry are. Burberry has proven to be extremely digital savvy and this has contributed to the brand being named International Retailer of the Year.

Despite being an amazing opportunity for the public to interact with the brand, the accessibility that social media offers consumers could potentially be problematic. Critics say that for brands that rely on exclusivity, social media can make the brand too accessible and even deteriorate the brands image with their target demographic.

How many of the viewers are actually going to make a purchase from Burberry? How many of these followers are customers and how many are just fans? This is something that Burberry and other high-end brands need to keep in mind as the Internet changes how their brand is viewed. In the meantime, fans or shoppers alike can see what’s coming down the runway together.