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Skating to social media marketing success

For roller-skater Kirsten Slade, creating a genuine community on social media has been key to quickly establishing Seaside Skates as a big name on the NZ roller-skating scene.

At a glance

Here’s a snapshot of the advice from our interviewees:

  • Use Instagram to connect with people in the industry and seize opportunities for collaboration.
  • By creating genuinely informative content, you can add value to your customers’ lives – don’t push a hard sell.
  • Direct relationships with manufacturers create additional avenues for social exposure.
  • Social purpose gives the brand additional depth and cements the brand as a community people want to be part of.

During the pandemic, Nate McCall, Merryn Mcauly and Georgina Bollinger – eagle-eyed and entrepreneurial members of the New Zealand roller-skating community – couldn’t help but notice a social media explosion of people roller-skating.

“We noticed a lot of people were sharing skating videos on social media during lockdowns, but there was nowhere in New Zealand for people to go and try on quad roller-skates,” says Nate’s wife Kirsten Slade.

“They were either trying on friends’ skates or tracing outlines of their feet and sending them to the US, then waiting 10-12 weeks for skates to show up which may or may not fit.”

That set in motion a chain of events that culminated in the opening of Seaside Skates, a bricks-and-mortar and ecommerce roller-skating business, towards the end of 2021.

With a strong background in Roller Derby in the US and retail, Kirsten became involved and, thanks to some innovative thinking and savvy digital marketing tactics, the team has quickly established the brand as a major player in the NZ roller-skating market.

Seaside Skates offers skateboards and longboards but primarily focuses on quad roller-skates. While it was initially envisaged as an online-only business, the warehousing premises the business found had previously been a retail store, so it seemed a natural fit to open the doors to the public, too.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Seaside Skates (@seaside_skates_nz)

Establishing a new retail business is difficult at the best of times, but doing it mid-pandemic comes with significant challenges. However, by taking a genuine approach to social media, demonstrating commitment to the roller-skating community as a whole and creating educational content for a growing audience, Seaside Stakes has managed to quickly carve a very impressive niche. 

An Instagram page was launched to build a community of the skate enthused and curious, and this community has been vital to the success of Seaside Skates.

“Through Instagram, we set about connecting with other people within the same niche area, collaborating with people who either have a skate-related business or are skating athletes,” Slade explains.

One such collaboration has been with Let’s Roll Coaching, which is led by Ivy Knivey – a New Zealand roller-skating champion.

“She’s one of the ​top-ranked skaters in the world – she went to the World Cup overseas for roller derby,” explains Slade. “She does children’s coaching too, so our classes here are affiliated with Let’s Roll coaching – it extends her reach, but it also extends our reach as well.”

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Being skater-owned-and-operated is a critically important aspect in this sector, and has helped the business form direct relationships with manufacturers, rather than going through distributors.

Not only does this mean the product goes direct to New Zealand – rather than stopping off at a distributor in another country along the way – it also means that those relationships are more likely to create social media benefit.

“When we do a post and tag in the manufacturer, they’ll often share it if it’s interesting and creative, and that opens us up to a whole new audience who may not have realised they could get that brand here in New Zealand.”

Building customer loyalty

That relationship-building aspect of social media extends to customers, too – with a growing band of ‘skate mates’ creating loyalty and a sense of community, deepening the relationship and the desire to share stories and content online.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Seaside Skates (@seaside_skates_nz)

Of course, getting new ‘skate mates’ to the website to buy products is ultimately key, and after capturing visitors’ email addresses with the offer of a discount code, Seaside Skates sends a regular newsletter to customers that’s focused on information and education.

“We use our newsletter – and a lot of our social posts – to share information and education tips. For example, sometimes people don’t realise that you have outdoor and indoor wheels – the outdoor wheels make skating a much smoother experience, but people don’t always realise that and we can help people in that way.”

By establishing genuine community, and being generous with time, conversation and content, Slade has proven you can build a genuinely engaged audience that feels part of something much bigger, and elevate the relationship above the regular transaction retailer/consumer relationship. 

Making a wider community impact

In addition to the business being a natural extension of Slade and her business partners’ interest, it gave a new outlet to something she’s very passionate about – social good.

“As a sport, roller derby attracts kids who might be lost to traditional athletics pursuits,” she says. “I have undertaken counselling and addiction studies, and want to have a positive impact on children and their families.”

Seaside Skates offers free skating classes for everyone who buys skates from them, holds holiday programs and offers skating lessons to the community.

“We’re always trying to figure out how to do those at a sliding cost scale or make reduced cost space available in our classes for those to whom price may be a barrier. We have skates for hire too so people don’t actually have to own skates to participate, and ultimately we want to get as many kids involved as possible.”

As for the future, Seaside Skates has some serious ambition that extends beyond New Zealand – the indoor roller sports facility is still very much on the cards, and community will remain firmly at the centre of its approach.  

Need flexible access to funds that could help your business grow? Speak with one of our small business lending specialists.

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