Social Networks: You Snooze, You Lose

For Boomers, the song goes: the times, they are a-changin'

Social Networks:  You Snooze, You Lose

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For example, companies can post upcoming events or send digital invitations to their networks, Salas explains. “Then, your friends will start buzzing to their friends about the event and it goes on and on like that – it spreads like a virus.” With Twitter, followers can re-tweet messages, which is similar to forwarding an e-mail.

Stores and restaurants are also reaping the benefits of social media, by promoting in-store savings and special events, and building a community of supporters to increase traffic.

“In this economy, you have to be creative and do what works,” says Lane Muraoka, president and CEO of Big City Diner. “We use social media as just another way to reach our customers, and the results have been very positive.”

Big City started MySpace and Facebook pages last year and has almost 1,800 friends combined. In the three months after joining Twitter, the restaurant amassed more than 1,400 followers. For nine years, Muraoka says, Big City has also had a semi-monthly newsletter that now reaches about 8,000 people.

“It’s all about developing and nurturing relationships,” he says. “It’s also a way to keep our audience intrigued, and connect with a very broad demographic. We heard about Twitter from the Obama campaign, so we were hoping that if it worked for him, it would work for us.”

Piia Aarma, president of Pineapple Tweed, a public relations and marketing firm, says social media can also build brand advocates. “You can use your online community to do product testing and R&D and see what people are saying about your brand,” she says. “Then, use that information to actually get better.”

Social media also can protect a company’s brand. In April, a YouTube video that allegedly showed two Domino’s Pizza employees farting and sneezing on a sandwich was viewed over 500,000 times. But Domino’s executives acted quickly: Their own video on YouTube assured the public that the video was a hoax and the two employees had been fired. The lesson: Consumers are going to say whatever they want about your company and its products, whether or not your business has an online presence, so be ready to fight back.

Zelikman took similar action this year when his client, AIG Hawaii, faced negative backlash for its parent company’s financial woes. “We utilized social media to help communicate to the local community that AIG Hawaii is a subsidiary of AIG Corporate, has nothing to do with what’s going on in the Mainland, that we’re fiscally sound, here’s the information and here’s where you can find all the facts,” he says. “And people appreciated it because we aggressively went out and cleared up any misconceptions and presented them with the correct information.”

Nonprofits, such as Kanu Hawaii, have also jumped into social media. Olin Lagon, director for Kanu Hawaii, says social media allow the organization to promote its mission, encourage information sharing and call others to action. Kanu’s Web site has about 7,500 members and the group has amassed 1,500 Facebook friends, 900 followers on Twitter and has about 5,000 video views on YouTube.

Members of Kanuhawaii.org can create groups,
blog, share pictures, create an online hui
and send messages.

The first step in social media is to define your purpose, says Aarma. “Look at your business needs before you start. Are you doing it for sales? Are you doing it for research and development, support, content, brand loyalty, building community? There are different media that will work best depending on what you’re trying to achieve.”

At the very least, Aarma says, all companies should have a Web site because it lends credibility and legitimacy to your business. Even if it’s just to share basic information – such as location, products or services, hours and contact information – a bare presence is better than none.

“If you’re trying to find a staff person or get a job, LinkedIn is a great place to go,” Aarma suggests. “If you are trying to build community and loyalty to your brand, I would say that Twitter and Facebook are excellent, in combination with your Web site.”

 

For businesses looking to build their networks, or post pictures or information about upcoming events, Toby Tamaye, president of at m@rketing, suggests getting on Facebook and building up your fan page. Since Facebook is a closed network, which means you have to be invited or accepted to be someone’s friend, he believes it fosters more personal communication. Many users believe Facebook is the mature alternative to MySpace, attracting a more professional, experienced audience. On the other hand, Twitter is an open network, so anyone can follow your company, and messages are visible to everyone and are crawlable by search engines. Twitter is a great way to send short (140 characters maximum), instant messages to keep people updated and engaged, says Tamaye.

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