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You know Country Outfitter. You've heard the name, you've seen the boots. If you used Facebook at all in lateit was practically impossible to have missed. The company spent a lot of read more to guarantee as much.

Intending to bring industry to Fayetteville, Arkansas, Acumen recruited talent with the enticing carrot that it might transform the city that less than 80, people call home into the Silicon Valley of the South.

Country OutfitterAcumen's flagship brand, was a boot company that could hardly move a boot. They gave away at least one pair of boots a week for more than a year via an audacious, unproven, and arguably infuriating takeover of countless targeted Facebook feeds. Within four months of its initial giveaway push, Country Outfitter amassed 7 million Facebook fans.

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The brand was loved. The brand was reviled. The brand was relevant. But now, after a few years of staggering success, it appears 7 million Facebook fans—now down to 6.

The company only began designing its own line of boots last year. In the beginning, Acumen sold scrubs. They know country because country keeps the lights on. Wherever there was an underserved niche, James began to see opportunity for a new digital storefront. Acumen went after nurses and cooks, artists and moms, baseball fans and dancers.

These days Nowitzki never drinks in season. Those in-house brands team up frequently on special collections with country music stars like John Rich and Colt Ford. The marketing schedule was meant to juice every post, like, and potential fan.

The company bore no singular identity. But scale became an ever-growing roadblock. To be everything to everyone, the company needed a staff equipped to handle global sales. It had neither the money, the time, nor, in Northwest Arkansas, the source. That begun to take its toll on us.

Acumen ditched them all, in addition to dissolving partnerships with Capezio and Gannett Healthcare, in an effort to streamline. What was left—what Acumen believed it could leverage best—was country. Enough of its verticals were country-adjacent that it seemed like a natural consolidation. Dustin Williams sat on the team that came up with that catchy slogan. Country Outfitter sells leather. Country Outfitter sells fringe. Country Outfitter sells cutouts and embroidery and studs. Country Outfitter sells cowboy boots from companies like Lucchese, Ariat, Frye, and Corral, brands invested in showstopper shoes.

Country Outfitter sells home goods, accessories, and apparel that capitalize on recognizable iconography of country living, like the American flag, guns, and Johnny Cash. It quickly became important to not isolate Country Outfitter in its genre specificity, but rather to stretch the meaning of the name without shredding its value. The hope was that "the country look" and "the country life" could appeal to anyone. Presentation was the trick.

As Acumen grew in that summer of from a multi-vertical e-commerce business to a singularly-focused retailer, the company invested time and money into stylized photo shoots, taking care to present its products not as purely functional, but as fashionable too. But Western brands keep all the products from previous seasons and continue to roll those out.

For a startup company, that made a lot of sense. Banner ads Cowboys Dating Meme Funny No Commitment No Results surfaced on the site inthe year Facebook launched. These ads appeared in the sidebar margins of profile pages.

You probably ignored most of those ads, until you caught on that the same ads appeared again and again and again. The brute force via blunt object approach.

InFacebook went public and began to feel pressure to monetize its platform. This meant more ad products and opportunities for companies like Country Outfitter. Clemence adds that the algorithm that served ads at the time was aggressively viral. Overly-promotional posts had yet to be penalized.

Country Outfitter knew it wanted to corner a more non-traditional country enthusiast, but wasn't sure where exactly to find that unique flavor of customer. It guessed that this consumer pool existed not as one particular subset, but within several potentially overlapping groups, so it targeted ads at a smorgasbord of demos: People love free stuff.

His team took painstaking efforts to "segment" Facebook, or break down users into different categories that could be approached in different ways with different language and imagery. Country Outfitter began to gather likes and amass the foundation for a devoted fan base, but there was still that arsenal of dead inventory. The marketing schedule was meant to juice every post, like, and potential fan.

Some people get caught up in being a renaissance man, but he follows his heart. How were at least 15 warning signs missed? You currently have no favorite teams. Which county in Ireland has the most pubs per person?

It went like this:. On Monday, Country Outfitter would announce a new contest where Facebookers would like and share photos to vote for their favorite pair of boots from a choice of five. On Tuesday, Country Outfitter would announce the top three choices.


Facebookers were invited to like and share to vote again. On Wednesday, Country Outfitter would announce the top two. Facebookers were invited to like and share to vote once again. On Thursday, Country Outfitter would announce the winning pair of boots that would be given away. Facebookers were invited to like and share to actually enter the contest. While the company is unable to provide the exact number of free giveaways, Lela Davidson, who joined Acumen in as a publishing manager and transitioned into a new role as VP of media and entertainment this past January, says that from late through mid, Country Outfitter gave away hundreds of pairs of boots.

These were not "Click for Free Boots" banner ads.

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You saw a Country Outfitter giveaway because you had already liked its page, or your friend liked its page, or a friend shared its posts. Country Outfitter paid for likes and shares to get the ball rolling, but after that initial investment, virality took over.

In order to sign up for a contest, you had to enter your email address. The more fans Country Outfitter accumulated, the more users wanted to join the crowd. And during that time John [James] was spending quite a bit of money on that, but it was paying us back in spades. It was pretty crazy. However, James did tell press earlier this year, as reported by Northwest Arkansas-based online publication The City Wire"We cracked the code on Facebook on Labor Day of and went from zero Facebook fans to 7 million in just four months time.

It was the perfect growth strategy. Country Outfitter collected scores of fans in record time, enjoyed word-of-mouth advertising, and perhaps even more importantly, got free market research. Not only that, it also learned which demographics preferred which boots.

It no longer had to shoot in the dark. I keep reporting it as offensive and as SPAM to no avail. By the comments on the page, there are plenty of others who are being harassed constantly by this unwanted, unsolicited ad.

What would be the next step? Some things to consider: First of all, "love these boots" and "need these boots" comments abound too, in caps lock with exclamation points and more wide-mouthed smiley faces than a text read article from your grandma.

Secondly, Facebook is not always a breeding ground for positive or thoughtful discussion.

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Complaining happens to be part and parcel of digital advertising, and in this brave new world, digital reputation and real-world reputation are very much tied together. Former Acumen employees agree that the giveaway strategy angered a huge cross-section of its fan base. Says Clemence, who left the company in Decemberimmediately after that insane quarter of skyrocketing popularity, "As many people as we attracted, we also annoyed.

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Seconds McCratic, who left Acumen in August"A lot of Facebook users got really irritated with us because they thought that we were taking over their feeds. Those ad spots were won via a bid system, and with little competition over them, Country Outfitter was able to exploit the model to its furthest extent and be everywhere, all the time.

Surely you've spotted the paradox here: It wants to be seen as a folksy boot retailer in an Arkansas town, but it has leveraged the same tools as giant corporations, unafraid to harness tech innovations and new trends.

Take the fact that its distribution warehouse uses Kiva, a state-of-the-art robotic fulfillment system bought out by Amazon last year; other companies using Cowboys Dating Meme Funny No Commitment No Results include Walgreens and Zappos. Acumen has employees. Country Outfitter has those millions of Facebook fans.

The blog reports on country music superstars, country cooking recipes, and creative ways to use mason jars. Content turnaround is quick, with an average of 32 posts a day, ranging from word entries to meme roundups to lists: We literally sell in all areas of the United States.

Natalie Harber-Romero has been a Facebook fan and customer of Country Outfitter for two years, and reads the blog nearly every day. The year-old seems to be a good example of that "not a zip code" idea Acumen is so feverishly after. The country lifestyle for me means bonfires, country dirt roads, some alcohol, and spending with friends and family.

Soon, Country Outfitter Style will be its own standalone site, living separately from CountryOutfitter. It no longer posts for marketing purposes—you won't see product photos or links—but rather to promote stories from Country Outfitter Style. Engagement see more these posts is drastically lower; Country Outfitter is seeing well below likes per post, compared with the tens of thousands giveaways attracted.

You can't blame it all on algorithm changes though; source company's social media methods are no longer cutting-edge. It's clear the company hasn't learned to game Facebook inand it certainly hasn't learned to game Facebook as a media company in