Let me tell you a story. A long-time client of ours, MarketPlace Raymond Terrace, is a thriving regional Shopping Centre with Big W, Woolworths and over 40 Specialty Stores. It is visited by around 65,000 people per week, with a smaller competitor located not 400 meters away. We started our journey together when we were engaged to build their first website in 2012, although I have known the Management team for many years prior.

The centre was already establishing a VIP Membership program which involved providing members with a VIP card which gave them ongoing access to retailer offers, and entry in a weekly Jackpot Draw that takes place every Thursday in the Centre. Members could also opt in to their eNewsletter which we also set up and watched quickly grow to nearly 5,000 subscribers.

For years, MarketPlace Raymond Terrace had already been a strong supporter of the Raymond Terrace community, supporting many events, the local business association, charity events and community organisations, local schools and sporting activities. The centre walks the talk when it comes to being part of the community which they serve (I wrote about the benefits of this in my last post).

Being strong in marketing already, and community engaged, the Centre Managers asked of us what more can they do to promote the Centre and their retailers to the wider community, to which I answered: social media. There was apprehension at first, for all the reasons I had heard from businesses already, around copping abuse, negative feedback, privacy and security concerns. I then demonstrated how it works, the protections and the strategies in dealing with negative comments. We also talked about the importance of engagement, being authentic, and the importance of publishing engaging and informative content. We looked at what the wider regional competitors were doing and saw we can do better.

So what happened when we created the channels for the established, engaged, and growing offline community to participate online? It went nuts. Implementing a co-publishing strategy we, as content publishers, craft and publish larger form content around retailer promotions, centre events, & seasonal information with calls to action back to their website, while the Centre Management team each have the responsibility to capture what happens on a day to day basis within the centre with a focus on photo based content. The weekly VIP Jackpot draws for example is almost a live experience on Facebook as the team capture and comment on the draws, winners, and grinners.

The Facebook audience has grown exponentially over the almost 4 years to almost 4,300 likes (at time of writing), a retention rate of 86%, and almost 200,000 engaged users. While their website too has grown at a similar rate from 905 sessions per month in 2012/13, to 2117 in 2015/16.

Why has it worked so well?

  • They are already recognised as part of their community and supporter of community and business activities.
  • Shared responsibly for content, the Centre team took it up with gusto, while we handle larger & more detailed promotional and informative content.
  • They communicate and are responsive, they join the conversations online, they answer questions promptly, and do it with the same sense of friendliness and commitment to serve they demonstrate in person.
  • It drives traffic to their website which is the metric for us. After Google & their monthly eNews, Facebook is the third highest driver of traffic to their website, and Twitter is growing as well.
  • It’s authentic, although larger content is published and crafted by us under direction, it is the Centre team that responds to social engagement, answers the questions, responds to the issues, and joins in on the banter. They are well known in the community offline and it is them that you get online. Also, we don’t auto post as we believe strongly in this authenticity.

We are constantly looking at new and emerging channels, although Twitter has been plodding along for the same period, we also use YouTube, Google+, and Instagram has now been added to the suite of tools and we expect it to grow at similar rates going forward. They are also now transferring their commitment to community and marketing strategies to their new sister centre in Warner, Brisbane. We are lucky enough to be able to come along for that ride as well.

“HyperWeb is an important part of the MarketPlace Team and is an integral part of our success in connecting with our retail stores, customers and community through our social media.” – The MarketPlace Raymond Terrace Team

What have we learned? Digital Marketing, particularly Content Marketing is a journey. It sounds cliche but it is true, it starts with trepidation mixed with excitement, build gradually but surely when it is backed with commitment and persistence, and more gears are added to the engine and larger audiences come along for the ride. What is important for us is how it translates into business. For MarketPlace Raymond Terrace, 65,000 visits per week, and nearly 8,900 VIP members can’t be wrong, for a mid-sized regional centre sounds like good numbers to us.

Cultivate a community, give to that community, recognise the importance of it, and it will become your community of loyal customers and advocates for your centre or business, and what you are aiming to achieve. Is this opportunity unique to shopping centres? No. There are very similar ways many businesses can engage their local community, become involved, and create a team with loyalty programs, member events, and many other ideas. Why not get in contact with us to find out how.

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