Running on Social Media

18 April 2012

This is the first in a series of case-studies about local professionals using social media marketing and communications for their small and medium businesses. We’re interviewing some early adopters who are using free or low-cost tools to positively impact their bottom lines. It was originally published to MatrixMediaFX on June 16, 2010.

James Young is the retail systems administrator and social media manager for Runners’ Choice, a running specialty store that provides technical running apparel to elite athletes and recreational runners in Kingston, Ontario. In its infancy, the Runners’ Choice social media strategy took the form of a website that posted updates about new products and running events in Kingston, but James has since expanded the store’s online presence to Twitter and Facebook.

Initially, James was skeptical about the marketing power of social media. “I sort of halfheartedly established a Facebook page for the store, and it wasn’t until Facebook sent me a snail mail, real life ‘Welcome to Facebook’ package with a voucher for free advertising that I really started to think, ‘This is probably a good idea and I could get on board with this.'”

James says that Facebook has shown the greatest results in terms of raising awareness about the store, and although he is unsure of how the store’s social media strategy will translate into bodies through the door, his outlook is optimistic. “Within about a week of having the Facebook page up we had over one hundred fans, so that’s pretty good.”

So far, Runners’ Choice has committed between forty and sixty hours and zero dollars to its social media strategy, although James would like to establish a formal budget in the future, saying, “Facebook ads are going to be critical in establishing ourselves in the Queen’s University student community. The demographic of the store is definitely older and I feel like we haven’t really tapped into the market at the university yet.”

For James, the greatest advantage of social media is that it levels the marketing playing field for small businesses. He points to Twitter as an example of social media that gives stores like Runners’ Choice an opportunity to stand out from the pack. “The thing I like about Twitter is that it forces you to be creative so you can fit as much pertinent information in 140 characters as possible. It’s fun to see bigger companies post their tweets, but I don’t like auto-posts. I find that lazy.” In addition to communicating a message about the Runners’ Choice brand, James thinks that social media has proven to be a valuable tool for keeping tabs on industry trends, suppliers, innovators, and competitors.

James has big plans for the future of Runners’ Choice. “Ideally I want to get to the point where all of our regular customers at the store are a part of at least one of our online networks. I want to make it so that the younger generation, people aged 18-25, who are hyper-engaged, are engaged with us.” Ultimately, however, his goal is to turn into a sort of Gizmodo for running tech.

“I want to turn our site into a go-to blog for runners not just from Kingston, but nationally. Globally might be a little ambitious, but I want to be the go-to blog for people who are interested in running tech and gadgets.”

You can learn more about Runners’ Choice by visiting their website, Facebook fan page, and by following the store on Twitter @runnerschoice.

Please note: The businesses profiled in this series are not our clients—they are local innovators and initiatives we admire and are learning from. Would you like us to profile how your business is using social media tools? Hope you’ll get in touch!

Interview by Alexandra Macgregor (@apvmacgregor)


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