Much of the world has taken a negative view towards firearm ownership. This has resulted in companies taking a firm anti-gun approach throughout their operations. Social media companies in general have launched a strong anti-gun campaign.
With this being the case, it can be hard to achieve fast social media growth for gun stores. It’s an arduous process that can seem discouraging at times, but take heart. There are ways you can still experience incredible growth for your gun store’s social media pages.
The Problem With Online Advertisements
As a gun shop, you can’t run ads on Facebook or Instagram — period. Very few firearm-related companies have ever been able to get Facebook to run their ads. Other social media sites like Instagram can be even trickier.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, doesn’t care if you’re a licensed dealer. They offer no way for you to verify your legitimacy as an FFL holder. If firearms are involved in the ad, they don’t want it on their platform.
In fact, by even trying to run an advertisement via one of their “We’re giving you $5 to run ads” schemes, you can hurt your page in the long run due to the ad getting denied.
With this in mind, your best approach to growing your social media presence — and your firearm business as a whole — is organic growth.
Organic Facebook Growth for Gun Shops
Organic growth for a gun shop on Facebook isn’t a task for the light of heart and I’ll explain this with a story. Once upon a time there was a group on Facebook called GunHub. GunHub grew to 60,000 members and they were very strict about what could, or couldn’t be posted (including not allowing any external links to websites).
Despite the steps taken by the group owners the group was taken down; this happened multiple times until the creators either gave up, or Facebook blocked their devices entirely.
In order to gain organic growth on Facebook, you need to be as proactive as possible. Discover some of the steps to gaining organic growth on Facebook below.
Finish Filling Out Your Information
One of the best ways to help organic growth is by filling out all of the information for your gun shop on your social media pages, from your location to your email address.
There are a lot of scam gun shop pages across Facebook that are constantly skimming comments. You differentiate your shop from theirs by completing all of the applicable information regarding your store.
This sets a baseline level of trust for individuals that are visiting your page for the very first time.
Push For Reviews
Reviews are critical for new and established businesses alike. These reviews allow new leads to see whether your business is worth visiting. Facebook reviews allow potential customers to see what your clients have thought about your gun shop, and it helps establish legitimacy on social media.
You can gain Facebook reviews in a couple of ways. The first is offering a discount to current and even new customers on their next visit if they leave a review. The second is by asking your current customers to leave a review.
An added benefit is that Facebook’s algorithm responds positively to reviews, meaning your growth can accelerate as new positive reviews are given!.
Facebook’s algorithm tries to bury posts with links — especially links to gun shop websites. That’s because Facebook wants to keep its users on its site, scrolling through the Newsfeed and clicking on the ads they do allow. But you can still make effective posts on Facebook that guide potential customers to your website.
The best strategy for promoting your gun shop’s site on Facebook is to have one post every week or two that contains a link to your website. Avoid linking in all your other posts during that time. The frequency at which you can post a link to your site is different for everyone. Your specific metrics will determine how often you can post a link on your page’s timeline.
You can also get creative with how you give potential customers a link to your website. Interacting with your customers through comments on your page provides an opportunity for you to provide a link to the product they’re wanting without jeopardizing your page’s standing with the algorithm.
Even if you hire a marketing agency like The Coutts Agency, you still have work to do on your end to ensure marketing success. For instance, doing a live video at least once a week on Facebook increases your engagement substantially.
The image below showcases week-long Facebook metrics on an account we manage. One week (top) shows the metrics from having three live videos. The following week (bottom) shows the metrics from having a single live video. Having three live videos increased engagement by 50% compared to going live once. Engagement drives impressions and reach. As people comment on posts, their friends will see the same posts, which continues to grow the number of people who will view your content.
The algorithm loves live videos that retain viewers for the duration of the video. The longer people stay during the live video, the better your post will perform. When Facebook’s algorithm sees that live videos are being watched until the end, it will boost the reach of non-live content for the next week or so.
Examples of live videos that would gain better viewer retention include weekly updates on inventory, display updates, etc.
Organic Instagram Growth
Instagram is a lot more difficult to decipher than Facebook. From banned hashtags to what’s called “shadow banning” of your account, many firearm manufacturers and gun shops have larger hurdles to jump through than any other industry. Despite these hurdles, Instagram continues to remain the number one place for firearms-industry companies to grow their online presence.
The best way to properly use hashtags is to have a memopad on your mobile device or PC (if you use the Meta Planner) that has a few groups of 20 to 30 hashtags per group.
Each hashtag group needs to contain location based tags for your region. For instance, if you live in Indianapolis, Indiana, you’ll use hashtags like these: #GreenwoodIN #Greenwood #Indy #Indianapolis #IndianapolisIN.
Look at Google Maps, and then look at the towns within a radius of 1 to 2 hours from your location. Find some actively used tags and two that aren’t as active but still appear in posts.
Each hashtag group also needs to contain hashtags used by firearm enthusiasts such as #GunsOfInstagram #PewPew #EveryDayCarry, etc. These hashtags aren’t going to be as static as the location based hashtags, but they may differ by group type. For instance, you aren’t going to put #SMG in a post about an AR-15, or #handguns in a post about shotguns.
Leave a minimum of 3 available hashtags open to be able to tag the brand, the caliber, and a theme page’s hashtag (like #GlockFeed) for the post you’re making.
Strive to engage with accounts for 15 minutes every day on Instagram. This is where the bulk of your growth will come from. Engage with manufacturers, accounts that have tagged manufacturers in posts, and with theme pages (such as @suppressednation). Liking posts, leaving comments, and sharing posts to stories are ways of engaging with accounts.
You’ll also want to go into the location-based hashtag posts (searching for #Indianapolis as an example), navigating to the “Recent” tab and engage with posts there. The posts you’ll find are made by local businesses and residents that have the highest potential to visit your shop throughout the week.
You can share Stories to both Facebook and Instagram via the Instagram app. Instagram has very strong tools that allow you to create interactive stories that get better engagement. From there, you can easily share them to both platforms.
Facebook and Instagram users can see that you’ve posted a story recently on the top of their screens. This lets them see that you’re active and gives them a reason to go look at your page for any recent posts. This is in addition to the algorithm seeing that your account is active.
An added benefit for stories is that you can post a link via the link widget to a product on your website. This won’t negatively affect your metrics on Facebook like a link in a post would; however, avoid sharing a price on the story as the algorithm definitely penalizes that practice.
Reels are getting promoted heavily by Instagram to compete with TikTok. Reels will get substantial organic reach compared to other types of Instagram posts. And, if a Reel you post is doing exceptionally well, your regular posts will see a boost in performance as well.
We’ve found that a Reel on Instagram will help your account about as much as a live video will on Facebook.
You can use Reels to promote gun shows you’re going to be attending, new inventory that has arrived, changes in your store, and more. Just make sure you’re using some trending audio provided by Instagram.
Sharing Your Posts
Sharing posts from your business account via your personal account to someone else helps tell the algorithm that the content your business page is posting is relevant, useful, and liked.
Here’s an example. You use Charlies_Guns as your business’ Instagram account, but your personal Instagram account’s name is Charlie_Doe. When Charlies_Guns shares a post/reel/story, you would switch to the Charlie_Doe account and send that post to a friend. This leads to an increase in engagement, reach, and impressions.
You Get a Meme, You Get a Meme, EVERYONE GETS A MEME!
Memes are the hottest marketing material to have ever existed. Multi-million dollar companies have been erected via memery like Black Rifle Coffee Company’s famous videos like the time they put a gatling gun in the back of a Tesla.
The firearm’s community, in particular, has taken memes to a whole new level. Entire product lines have been launched purely because of a meme taking off. Due to their ability to go viral within the firearm industry, memes are an excellent way to grow your target audience, especially if you can’t generate enough organic content for your shop.
Memes don’t get dinged by Facebook or Instagram as long as they don’t show pricing or misinformation. They can go viral, and Meta isn’t going to slow them down like they would to other firearm-related content.
And, if you find yourself in a situation where Facebook or Instagram is removing your firearms-related posts, using memes is a great way to keep having consistent posts without “triggering” the algorithm!
General Do’s and Don’ts
You’re a Business, Not a Politician
The topic of firearms is a politically heated one. Legislative issues that directly impact your business are worth spreading awareness about, but in general, firearm-related pages can be targeted if they pursue other political agendas.
Your main purpose on social media should be to further your business’s growth. In doing so, you must be mindful about the content and views you wish to publicly display.
It’s Not Your Personal Account
Avoid using your business page(s) as a personal account. Beyond celebrating very specific things like birthdays and achievements that are firearm-related, you should maintain a separation between your personal and business pages.
There’s an old saying, “Leave work at work.” This goes for the physical and the online world.
Post scheduling can be easily accomplished through the “Planner” feature you see pop-up while on your Facebook page on desktop. You can schedule Facebook and Instagram posts as far in advance as you want to.
You want to ensure that your Facebook posts don’t contain hashtags. We have seen double digit drops in metrics when hashtags are introduced to a Facebook page.
Messages, Messages, Messages
Both Facebook and Instagram monitor how frequently business accounts respond to messages. But, there doesn’t seem to be a crossover in the response rate for one account affecting the other. In other words, your responsiveness on Facebook doesn’t affect your metrics on Instagram and vice versa.
How frequently you respond will directly impact how the algorithm distributes your content to your page’s followers. Meta’s social media platforms do not promote pages that aren’t interacting with followers regularly.
Respond to Comments
There are differences and similarities when it comes to responding to comments on Facebook and Instagram.
Meta severely penalizes posts with prices regarding anything firearm-related. Commenting the price of a firearm can get your Instagram or Facebook account dinged. If someone asks for the price on Facebook, either comment a link to the product or have them message the page. If they ask for the price on Instagram, have them message the page.
Now for the nuances.
Facebook likes when you respond to comments that come through during your listed business hours. Doing this can boost the distribution of the post to the people that follow your page during the day.
Comments after the listed hours don’t need to be attended to immediately, but we suggest that you respond to them the next day during business hours.
Besides the algorithm rewarding responsiveness, people following the page can see that you’ll be prompt in answering their questions and concerns.
Instagram only cares that you respond to a comment within 24 hours since you can’t specifically list your business hours on that platform. Your engagement on Instagram drives engagement; it’s as simple as that. Lack of engagement makes the algorithm ignore your page.
Finding What Works
Social media for gun shops isn’t a rinse-and-repeat process. While there are some standard practices to follow, you can’t copy what one shop does and expect the same outcome. You may find that your follower base is enticed heavily by sarcasm, or you may learn that your follower base hates jokes and just wants to see stock photos of guns.
Social media marketing, like traditional marketing, is a long-term investment that pays dividends when properly done. If you’re interested in learning more, the next step is to check out our Digital Marketing for Gun Shops page!