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February 20, 2020

How to Increase Social Media Engagement | Firearms Retailer

By Shannon Farlow, FMG Publications

Visiting dozens of gun stores across the country over the past few months, I started noticing a couple of consistent trends. The most obvious, and welcome, is the growing number of customers shopping for firearms.

While sales still have not rebounded to what they were under the Obama Administration, it’s hard to miss the increasingly crowded aisles in gun stores. The busiest stores I encountered all had at least one thing in common: a healthy offering of the latest rifles and shotguns designed for self-defense and home protection.

To find out how retailers are growing their sales with these types of firearms, we spoke with Lee Richeson, Owner of Rich’s Gun Shop in Donald, Oregon, Neal Bland, Owner of Gentry’s Firearms in Harned, Kentucky. and Jeremy Ball, General Manager at Sharp Shooting Indoor Range & Gun Shop in Spokane, Washington (each identified by their initials, below).

They touched on successful strategies for social media engagement — an ever-increasing tool for retailers to connect with customers.

How is your store using social media to engage with customers? What kind of results are you seeing?

JB: Obviously, social media is an outlet for people to get information quickly and efficiently. It should be — really, it has to be — used by retailers. Everyone uses different platforms of social media for different communication purposes. People on Twitter don’t want you to write a book; they’re quick-information people. People on Instagram tend to be visually engaged, so they may not “like” or comment a ton. Facebook is a whole other animal because it’s a combination of the two. You just need to stay up on how you get the largest engagement.

NB: I think we do a really good job with social media, though our Instagram is not as strong as it should be because it’s very time consuming. Also, I’ve had trouble documenting driving revenue off of anything I do on Instagram. However, on Facebook I can tell you 100 percent we can see the results of our posts. Even with the way it has restricted the types of posts we can do, we’ll still get 8,000 to 15,000 views on posts, which is fantastic.

LR: Since social media has become so strong, you need to have the right person or the right team to handle it properly. We have struggled with that a little bit. Because I’ve had employees come and go, move on to the military or other things, I haven’t had a steady social media person. But now I’ve got a younger employee who has been working with the Facebook postings and YouTube videos.

Describe the content you post on your store’s social media channels. What strategies seem to be working the best?

JB: I’ve found I can post pictures of guns on Facebook all day long and I’ll get between 800 and 1,000 people to view the post. If I do something that pertains to us locally, whether it’s political, changes in gun regulations or whatever, the number jumps dramatically. The key is to venture outside of product posts and not always try to sell somebody something.

LR: We put up social media content about our shooting gallery, gunsmithing tips and mini gun reviews. It’s been phenomenal.

NB: From a social media standpoint, we try to create a situation where it encourages interaction because that works with the algorithms and pushes it higher up people’s newsfeeds. Everything we do, we try to have a reason for somebody to comment on it. We do a lot of stuff like “Tell us what your favorite feature of this is,” or “Tell us what you’re carrying and why” or “Tag a friend who should try this.” We also do some contests based on that kind of stuff.

Neal Bland
Gentry’s Firearms Owner Neal Bland emphasizes consistency is the key to success in engaging customers on social media.

The thing we struggle with, the thing everybody else struggles with, is just consistency. Facebook, in particular, is a weird monster because two posts a day is great, four posts a day is too many and it goofs up the algorithms. When we consistently do a post or two a day, we have great results. When we don’t, we don’t. The key is just consistency.

What advice would you offer retailers who need help with social media?

NB: My biggest advice for somebody on social media is do not (under any circumstances) put pricing in your posts — ever. When we put pricing in a post, we get nailed. We get reported to Facebook or the algorithm catches us. Instead, we’ll include “please message for pricing” in our posts for those interested.

JB: One thing that ties into all of this is the conceptual idea of content marketing and giving people different content aspects. We don’t run a YouTube channel, but I think that would be a phenomenal idea. If you have somebody on your staff with the ability to do smart stuff with video, you should absolutely be utilizing it. But if you’re just going to throw stuff up there and it looks like garbage, it’s probably not a good idea — especially if it doesn’t go with your overall branding.

Content marketing is all about bringing people back to you in some way, shape or form. Remember, you’re using social media to drive business back to your website or into your store. That’s really important, because customer acquisition is expensive. It’s a giant challenge for us in this industry, because we can’t buy people’s attention: The people who run those social media organizations won’t allow us to do so. You’ve got to come up with creative ways in order to grab someone’s attention.


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