November 1, 2018 · 9:41 pm

Social Studies: Rare Device Discusses Top Social Media Challenges for Small Businesses

We spoke with San Francisco-based store, Rare Device, about they set a social media marketing strategy

By Kelly Johnson

The story of how Rare Device became owned and operated by Giselle Gyalzen is the stuff of fairy tales.

Gyalzen, a long-time Bay Area resident and former project manager at a major advertising company, always loved San Francisco-based Rare Device and often wished she could own a store that sold art, jewelry, and other curiosities. However, the recession in 2008 made that dream impossible. Or so, Gyalzen thought.   

A meeting with the store’s owner led to a conversation about selling the store to an interested buyer. Gyalzen couldn’t pass up the opportunity to own and operate her favorite store — so she took a chance and bought it in 2011.

Rare Device owner, Giselle Gyalzen

However, after fulfilling her dream of buying Rare Device, Gyalzen found that she was not as close to living “happily ever after” as she thought. Even though the store had a built-in following, she still had to get new and old customers in the door at a time when social media became the main driver for brand awareness and in-store traffic.

Like most small business owners, monitoring and managing social media for Gyalzen and Rare Device was challenging.

In our inaugural Q&A series, we sat down with Giselle Gyalzen to discuss the initial challenges she and her team faced when building social media channels for Rare Device and what’s next for the San Francisco-based retailer.

Sensai: When did you decide that social media was essential to your business?

Giselle Gyalzen: I knew from the beginning that having a social media presence was crucial for Rare Device to stay fresh and relevant to our loyal audience. Having a strong social presence would also help us attract more people and potential customers. When I took over the store, I wanted people to get to know me and the brand better.

When I took over the business in 2011, my team and I immediately started promoting our events and new products consistently on Facebook. I made sure we were active on Instagram and put up our first post five months later after I became the new owner.

We tested several types of posts and posting times to see what worked and how our new and old audience responded to our content and which helped us come to better decisions about our social strategy.

S: How did you determine which social channel you would use?

GG: At first, I used the social media channels that I used personally — Facebook and Pinterest. Now my team and I have pivoted, and we post mostly to Instagram.

We decided to focus on Instagram because that’s where we see the most engagement and interactions.

I also monitored the referral traffic from socials that drives people to our website and we focus our energy on time on those channels — again it’s mostly Instagram.

S: What challenges did you encounter when you started posting content?

GG: We had to find our social media brand voice. Establishing the voice was crucial to how we represent ourselves to our potential new followers and customers. It took some trial and error and some testing but we found what works.

We also needed to know how often our audience wanted to hear from us on social media: How often we should post? And when should we post?

We got in the groove of that after a while, but once Instagram changed their algorithm, we saw a drop in engagement.

It was hard to bring that back up, and we didn’t have any data to help us really understand what worked and what didn’t. My team just went with their collective gut.

Moving forward, to maximize my team’s time, I’m looking for a way to collect more data that can help us make better marketing decisions versus just going with our gut all the time.

S: What’s your process for posting to social channels today?

GG: Currently, we’re primarily posting to Instagram. We post to Stories at least once a day, we post to the feed about every two days. Stories also feel more authentic than posting in the feed.

We usually promote our events, our gallery, new products and behind the scenes. My team also likes to post to social media in the moment.

Things change in the store frequently (i.e. we sell out of the product) so my team has to make sure that the promotions and social content are always up-to-date.

S: What are your current social media marketing goals?

GG: For us, the goals are to keep our followers engaged, promote our events and products, establish our brand, and gain new followers who will become brand loyalists.

S: What advice would you give other small businesses who are using social media?

GG: Find your voice and your social media aesthetic. Figure out — and it will most likely be through trial and error — what works for your brand.

Also, determine your goals and come up with methods to achieve those goals. Additionally, if you have data, look at it so that it can guide your decisions about posting.