Toy Stories: Show-and-Tell Blog Hooks Customers

Toy Stories: Show-and-Tell Blog Hooks Customers


By SIMONA COVEL
August 29, 2007 5:00 p.m.

Five years ago, Steve Spangler was a science teacher
outside Denver. These days, his educational toy company, Steve Spangler
Science, employs nearly 30 people and he speaks to groups of science
teachers across the country.

Mr. Spangler largely credits his blog for his success. Steve Spangler Science recorded more than $5 million in revenues last year.

"One of the secrets," says Mr. Spangler, "is to make
sure you’re writing headlines and content that are picked up by
[content-sharing site] Digg.com and other bloggers."

He wasn’t always a believer in blogs. It was after a
video of Mr. Spangler demonstrating the explosive effects of dropping
Mentos into Diet Coke spread across the Internet that he realized their
power to help his business.

The Wall Street Journal spoke with Mr. Spangler about his blog’s impact on his business.

WSJ: When did you realize it was time to update stevespanglerscience.com?

Mr. Spangler: I took the business online in
2002. Every small-business owner thinks as soon as you push the button,
[customers will] come – but they don’t. I remember a day in 2002 when
we did $200 in sales – I was celebrating. We had some people coming to
the site, but we weren’t converting [into sales].

WSJ: So what did you do?

Mr. Spangler: I found a couple Web sites [that
I liked] and they said "Netconcepts" on the bottom. So I contracted
[the company] to redesign the Web site. I wanted to find somebody that
wasn’t in my industry, to not get the same old stuff. I liked what [the
Netconcepts LLC founder Stephan Spencer] was saying about showing
people you’re the expert in that field by what you write. I found out
how important it was to have more content, like our experiment library.
People started visiting.

[Steve Spangler]
Steve Spangler Science
Steve Spangler and a teacher perform a science demo

WSJ: What was your reaction when Netconcepts suggested you write a blog?

Mr. Spangler: I said, "I don’t think I have
anything to say." But I developed the blog. A lesson came when
Insta-Snow [a powder that turns to snow when water is added] was
featured as one of the month’s top stupid products on Good Morning
America. I thought I should refute it [in the blog], but [Mr. Spencer]
said I should blog this as: "It’s great to be stupid." So I said on the
blog that in fact it was stupid that someone else hadn’t thought of it…
I watched sales skyrocket.

People didn’t know my blog from anyone else’s — but they happened to pick up the headline: "It’s Great to be Stupid."

WSJ: What was your next lesson about headlines?

Mr. Spangler: In Sept. 2005, I went on network
television to demonstrate the Mentos Diet Coke experiment [where the
candy is dropped into the bottle of soda, triggering a geyser]. I had
done it before, but this time by accident the news anchor got soaked.
She was wearing this beautiful St. John’s outfit, and she was
absolutely drenched. [The local NBC station] streamed the video, and
the number of views on the site – 9news.com – hit an all time high. It
went viral within a couple of weeks and ended up on VH1.

Lots of people grabbed the post from my blog. The
headline was: News Anchor Gets Soaked; Mentos Experiment Sets New
Record. It wasn’t misleading, just tantalizing. Thank goodness I knew
how to blog.

WSJ: How has your blog changed site traffic and sales?

Mr. Spangler: These days, the blog gets 15,000
to 20,000 unique visitors each day. Early on, if I got 200 or 300, I
was ecstatic. I attribute 13% of overall sales online to the blog.
People come in to us through the blog. They’re searching on something,
and the blog indexes so well on Google.

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