Since it sells yarn through big box stores such as Walmart and Michaels, Lion Brand Yarn was afraid its customers had a misconception that it was a large, faceless corporation. Now thanks to social media efforts, its customers know all about Lion Brand Yarn employees Liz Shaw and Zontee Hou.
Shaw and Hou are co-hosts of YarnCraft, Lion Brand Yarn’s weekly audio podcast. They’ve also become celebrities in the tight-knit crocheting and knitting community. That’s because fans download the podcasts and listen on their iPods as they do their knitting and crocheting, according to Ilana Rabinowitz, vice president of marketing for Lion Brand Yarn.
“These are the two voices of our company,” Rabinowitz said at the Internet Retailer Conference in Boston a few weeks ago. “They just have a great conversation among themselves. They’re young, they have a passion for knitting—it’s really a deep form of engagement.”
Lion Brand Yarn at first was nervous about going with staffers as the podcasters, as opposed to bringing in an outside source. Since employees come and go, the fear was there wouldn’t be a consistent voice involved, Rabinowitz said.
But it turns out doing the podcasts “really increases job satisfaction, and they are having a great time doing them,” Rabinowitz says. “They will go to consumer shows and people will ask for their autographs.”
The podcasts are hosted on the company’s own home page, and are available at iTunes. Having them published on iTunes helped grow Lion Brand Yarn’s social media presence, which includes blogs, customer galleries, pattern downloads and a Tweeter feed. Lion Brand Yarn staffers are also active members of an off-site knitting community, Ravelry.com.
And all that has been good for business. According to research conducted with social media marketer Converseon, customers who are social media users are 83% more likely to convert than nonsocial media users.
“I was really surprised at just how vibrant the knitting and crocheting community is, both offline and online,” said Paull Young, social media strategist for Converseon. “That passion is evident in the social media space.”