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Home > Search Engine Marketing News PUT THIS IN YOUR ROI PIPE AND SMOKE IT


by Eric Brown

Sometimes, When you are so very passionate about something, it is challenging to understand why others around don't "See It" Perhaps they just think you will go away, grow weary or just loose interest. But then when you don't wear down, the next best thing is for the pundits to fire a zillion questions to discredit or confuse the issue. That's what seems to happen frequently with non-believers of Social Media Marketing, and it is very so frustrating.

At first everyone poked his or her head in to see what was happening in our little shop. How are you doing that with No Paid Advertising? That won't work long term, and the yuck went on and on. Years later, the word now is it only works because you are a small boutique shop. What? At the end of the day, continued success in a small business hinges on how you market yourself, and there are lots of ways to do that, both traditional and not so traditional. Our vote is for the not so traditional path. Why, because with Social Media Marketing, You are connecting with your Customer in a much different fashion. You are creating a Relationship.

Our hats off to the crew over at Goodwill of Greater Washington, D.C. They have gone online with a vengeance, seizing the chance to capitalize on a social media strategy.

How would you like to have a blog so readable and persuasive that one out of every 14 readers promptly clicked over to your eBay store and bought something of yours? You'd be ecstatic. You'd close down your direct-marketing department.

If it cost you nothing except 15 percent of your star blogger's time, you'd be thinking end-of-the-world thoughts. And if you were the first nonprofit in a nationwide chain whose social media program actually made money, well, you'd make history.
Em Hall discusses why having a mission and keeping a schedule is key to her blog's success.

All this happened to the nine stores of Goodwill of Greater Washington, D.C. in the last 18 months. In that short time, a full-blown social media strategy with a wildly successful blog as its centerpiece has suddenly taken this familiar nonprofit into unfamiliar territory.

Brendan Hurley, head of marketing for Goodwill of Greater Washington, credits the creative minds of his marketing team. The four of them met in June 2007 to develop a way to expand the nonprofit's social media strategy.

The group resolved to do two things:

1) Transform their live fashion show into a virtual fashion show. The virtual show, to be held Sept. 12, 2007, would drive traffic to, and coincided with, the hard launch of Goodwill's new eBay store. (In 2008, Goodwill of Greater Washington held both live and virtual fashion shows, generating the largest net profit in the event's four year history by more than 50 percent.)

2) Start a fashion blog to reach a younger, hipper population of shoppers. Many people know Goodwill stores are filled with vintage fashions, and a blog would help reposition those stores as a destination for quality clothes that are cheap. They also hoped that the blog would drive traffic to their eBay store and their stores (a national Goodwill auction site that operates like eBay).

They had no way of knowing that this strategy would succeed beyond their wildest imaginings.

Em Hall, Goodwill's retail marketing manager, volunteered to write the blog and Hurley, who knew from Hall's work as his retail marketing manager that she was a strong writer with a passion for fashion, approved her as the official Goodwill blogger.

On July 12, 2007, Em Hall wrote her first blog as the "DCGF". At the start, the blog averaged fewer than 25 visits a week. Now 18 months later, Hall's blog averages 3,500 unique visitors a week. The busiest day of the week is Tuesday, which is the Goodwill-centric Day, when Hall promotes the Goodwill Good Buy of the Week.

Hall is making a regional--and perhaps national--name for herself as a fashion writer and expert.
"Which is great for Goodwill," says Hurley. "It can only increase our credibility in the retail and fashion fields, and give more credibility to the quality of the fashions that can be found at Goodwill."

Hall appears as "The DC Goodwill Fashionista" on Twitter, and as herself on Facebook. She's made almost 400 online friends for herself and Goodwill of Greater Washington.

This is only the beginning

One out of 14 people who read the blog click over to one of Goodwill's sites (eBay, to shop. And, one out of six people who visited the virtual fashion show then went to or its eBay store to buy goods.  The blog retention rate is over 60 percent and the "Fashion of Goodwill" marketing strategy has already received three awards from the American Marketing Association and is a finalist for an ISES award.

Hurley primarily credits the blog--costing almost nothing financially--as the driving force behind the success of the fashion show, eBay site and

"Remember, the blog is just one component of our social media strategy, but of course the blog is the linchpin, raising our credibility and driving the traffic to the virtual fashion show which drove traffic to our e-commerce sites. That was the strategy we developed, and it worked, and continues to work."

The nonprofit's social media strategy generated a significant amount of interest in Goodwill as a source of fashion. They've been featured on CNN, FOX News and NPR, as well as in The New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, The Washington Times and every local TV stations.

While the blog got some buzz when it launched in July of '07, the floodgates of publicity opened after the Washington Post business section ran a cover story about the virtual fashion show. In addition, Hurley and his team have been asked to speak at several conferences about their social media fashion campaign and the "DCGF" has even been invited to blog from New York Fashion Week.

Has the social media campaign reached its peak in buzz, publicity and increased sales? Hall and Hurley believe they've barely scratched the surface.

"There are millions of potential Goodwill shoppers out there we haven't reached yet," Hurley says. "Goodwill's mission is job training, but that mission is funded through the resale of donated goods at our retail stores.  So anyone interested in donating to Goodwill or purchasing inexpensive fashion is in our crosshairs."

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- Copyright 2009 - version: 1.5

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