Getting To Grips with Facebook Superstar Grapple Gear

image of the Grapple Gear logo
  • Published
  • August 28, 2015

Grapple Gear claims to be Canada’s #1 store for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu apparel and accessories, and you know what? Who am I to argue?

I’ve seen what owner Randall Roberts can do with an opponent!

All joking aside, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is exploding in popularity across Canada and around the world and Grapple Gear is poised to come along for the ride.

Featuring a lineup of athlete-focused apparel and accessories for men and women, Grapple Gear is at the forefront of this exciting sport.

We interviewed owner Randall Roberts and he explained why success on Facebook is the key to success in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu industry.

How long has your business been on Facebook and what made you decide to join?
We’ve been on Facebook since day one. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community communicates almost exclusively on Facebook. Tournaments, gyms, and new products from manufacturers are all communicated predominantly on Facebook, and thus, so do we. It’s incredibly important to know your customer, and communicate with them as often as possible. Grapple Gear thrives on transparency & good communication.

Was there an ‘a-ha moment’ when you realized that being on Facebook was actually helping your business?
We’ve had a few sudden spurts in terms of our growth on Facebook, and after the second wave of “Likes” (brought on by a sponsorship, plus a few key posts we made), it became very clear that this was working. Grapple Gear is still fairly young, but there has been a marked difference in reader participation & engagement. “Shop Now” clicks have increased dramatically, and sales have been growing faster than I anticipated.

image of randall roberts performing an armbar
Grapple Gear’s Randall Roberts executes an armbar.

How often do you post? Describe your day (or week!) on Facebook.
We post multiple times a week, for the most part. I am reluctant to post too often – the last thing I want is for our page to become annoying. When we have important announcements, new products, or like something in the BJJ Community, we’ll post about it. It’s very important to me that we post with purpose. Grapple Gear was created to help grow the community, and to create an equitable brand for everyone, so I’m very careful about our voice on the Facebook page.

What’s the greatest success you’ve had on Facebook? Any big mistakes?
We had a huge surge of interest a few months after starting. That’s when Grapple Gear started to see some traction – we quadrupled our Likes in a week or two, and people were finally starting to know the brand. I can’t really take credit for that one though. It was mostly due to more popular Facebook pages helping us out because they loved our message.

image of grapple gear's Randall Roberts
Grapple Gear owner Randall Roberts

We were also featured in a blog that is very popular in the community, and it went viral very quickly, again thanks to several popular Facebook pages & people sharing it.

As far as failures go, we’ve been fairly lucky. Any mistakes have been minor. For quite a while, I had no idea I was able to filter out ads from people who already like the page, so that was some wasted money, but ultimately, it worked out either way. Thus far, our advertising has been more focused on brand awareness than specific products, so it wasn’t really a lost cause either way. Facebook has made it pretty easy thus far.

Are there any tools or software you use to make posting easier?
I’ve really started to leverage Facebook’s Power Editor much more heavily. I schedule almost all of the posts, and this lets me really customize exactly how I want to message the post. I’m also a really big fan of how specific I can get with the tool, so for example, advertising our free pickup/drop off option in Toronto doesn’t really make sense to advertise outside of the GTA.

Similarly, we work very hard to provide a lot of women’s options, which are nearly impossible to find in most stores. Martial arts are so male-dominated, and equity & equal choice is a huge part of Grapple Gear’s brand, so it’s important we get that message out there. Again, it wouldn’t make sense to advertise that to men as much, so we target women with certain posts as well.

Eventually, Grapple Gear is likely going to leverage other social media as well, so we’re still weighing options for some kind of automation tool so we can post to the other major sources. We have been reluctant to go that far though, since that personal touch & communication is so important to us.

image of grapple gear products
Some of the products available at GrappleGearStore.com

Do you buy ads on Facebook?
Yes, we’ve used paid ads. So far, I’ve found it very helpful for brand awareness – it really helps spread the word. I haven’t found it as helpful for specific product sales, but that is likely my own inexperience talking. We’ve got a social media/PPC expert who is coming on board, and will be leveraging it much more thoroughly than I know how to. Facebook turns out to be quite a deep rabbit hole when it comes to how ads work, & I haven’t even touched specific product advertising or re-targeting yet. I’m hopeful that we can use that more effectively, as I think it would be more effective, and likely a lot less annoying for our customers.

Any secret tips for businesses just starting out on Facebook?
Like everything in entrepreneurial life, there aren’t really “secrets”. It takes purposeful practice, work, and attention just like everything else.

I would say get your brand on Facebook as early as possible, and message with intent. The worst examples I’ve seen of brands on Facebook are the ones who can’t be distinguished from their owner’s personal account. Your branded page is not the place for you to argue. It’s amazing to me that this needs to be said, but unfortunately many small businesses forget this, perhaps because we can be so emotionally tied to our business.

Decide on your brand’s message early, and stay consistent with it. People know insincerity when they see it, so you need to choose your brand’s identity in a way that is meaningful, and show that passion with transparency. The difference between a successful social media presence & a poor one is going to be decided by the users, not you, so choose your words carefully, and be honest. Nothing will turn the Internet against you faster than an insincere message online.

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Content Manager at FS Local


Jesse is a typical class clown. Born and raised just north of the Toronto, he fell in love with the City on school trips to the ROM and the Science Centre. He tried Vancouver for a few years, but the call of home was too strong to resist. Today he lives in the North-East Upper Beaches. (What? It’s a thing!)

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