Owners: David King and Rachel Turner
Location: The Rocks, New South Wales
Industry: Retail and consumer products
Founded in 2001, boutique lolly store Sticky used the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to implement a creative and staggeringly successful social media marketing campaign.
Located in a central tourist precinct in Sydney, Sticky ordinarily relies on trade from foot traffic as well as catering weddings and corporate events. So, when the pandemic hit in March, the business shifted online to both sell its goods to existing customers and to find new ones.
“We began live-streaming our hand-crafted confectionery on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and eventually TikTok,” co-owner David King says.
Sticky’s streams now get hundreds of thousands of views from around the world, with 350,000 followers on Facebook, 100,000 followers on Instagram, and 2.7 million followers on TikTok.
Two months after implementing its social media strategy, Sticky was operating at capacity, employing new staff and seeking extra space.
The business’ focus has shifted from producing customised sweets to manufacturing high-margin retail products, with 80% now exported overseas, primarily to the United States.
Social media now accounts for all of Sticky’s promotion and marketing efforts. And, it’s also opened up new revenue streams in itself.
“We are now earning revenue as content creators through the placement of targeted, minimal advertising within some of our live-streams,” King explains.
“These revenue streams are beginning to become significant.”
However, King doesn’t only use social media to put the spotlight on Sticky’s unique personality, its staff and, of course, the process of making sweets. He also uses it to give back to the community.
King created a group attached to the business’ Facebook page, called Sticky Friends, which now has about 8,600 members from all over the world, who share their feedback, stories and support with one another.
What’s more, using social media, Sticky raised money for the people of Beirut after the devastating explosion in August this year, and for people affected by cancer during Dry July.
The team has also used social media to promote social distancing and raise awareness about the COVID-19 virus, as well as championing social justice issues, mental health and action on climate change.
In fact, Sticky was the only business to be shortlisted for two SmartCompany Resilience Awards, ranking among the top five for the Community category too.
“Social media, for all its faults, has an amazing capacity to bring people together in goodwill as well,” King says.
In fact, the founder warns others not to underestimate the power of an online community, and not to take social media marketing strategies at face value.
Social media may be, at heart, a marketing tool. But, “as far as business is concerned, don’t treat it like that”, he advises.
“Engage the people and personalities in your business and integrate them into the public face of your business.
“Trust them to represent you, give them encouragement to do so, and a sense that they are a part of the business and they can become the reason people want to connect on a deep level.”
Resilience Awards judge and Salesforce vice president for growth business Adrian Towsey said Sticky’s overnight transformation into an e-commerce business, combined with a creative social media strategy, was “truly a sign of agility”.
He also commended the team’s willingness to learn a brand new online skill — and ultimately, the mastery of it.
“They were purely a bricks-and-mortar business, and they had to truly be agile to learn to be digital-first during this time,” Towsey says.
Of course, the shift wasn’t without its challenges. The team had to completely rebuild the online store to cope with higher levels of traffic, and it crashed three times.
But the business has managed to keep up with demand.
King says Sticky’s turnover for the 12 months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to be three times greater than the previous 12 months.
“The world is an uncertain place right now, and no one’s future is assured. We have been incredibly lucky and take nothing for granted,” the founder says.
“But our silly little lolly shop has exploded, and we are growing faster than we ever have.”
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