5 Small Business Social Media Success Stories
A recent study conducted by the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business showed that nearly one in five small business owners are integrating social media into their business processes, and that technology adoption rates in the U.S. among small businesses have doubled in the past year from 12% to 24%.
Whether your business is ahead of the curve or looking to catch up, small businesses on both sides of the track can learn from the success stories of others. Here’s a list of five companies that are kicking tail and taking names while staying on top of their social media efforts.
1. Emerson Salon Creates a New Business Model
In 2008, when co-owners Matt Buchan and Alex Garcia decided to buy and makeover a hair salon in Seattle, Washington, which they renamed Emerson Salon after Ralph Waldo Emerson, they decided that theInternet would be an important focus for their business. Little did they know that two years later, 75% of their business would be sourced from Facebook, Twitter and their blog. After talking with these savvy entrepreneurs, it was obvious that they had created a whole new business model in the hair and beauty industry, in which social media was king. Social media is so ubiquitous in their salon that Buchan noted that, “it’s rare for even a walk-in customer to come in and not have read our blog or seen our tweets.”
Buchan and Garcia have lent tremendous efforts towards building an online community while keeping up with the latest trends. You can measure their efforts by taking a look at their website. Right away, they have links to all of their social profiles, links to all of their stylists’ social profiles, their blog feed, and a button where users can book their next hair appointment online. Even more impressively, after booking an appointment, a user can share their appointment with friends on Twitter or Facebook. Since introducing social media into the mix, traffic to their website has more than tripled. It’s no wonder the salon believes so strongly in the power of connecting.
Lastly, Emerson Salon makes it a point to stay involved with the local community and build a place where customers can gather for just about anything. Buchan elaborated that, “whether it’s talking about the next local street fair, things we are passionate about (like the Lost finale), or just our latest hair cut special, social media is a great place to engage the community.”
2. Butter Lane Supports a Following
If there’s a cupcake bakery out there with an knack for social media, it’s Butter Lane. Not only are they onFacebook and Twitter, but they also run a Yelp offer and manage their Yelp venue page, maintain a blog on Tumblr, run group-buy specials on Groupon and LivingSocial, and have a special on Foursquare.
How do they keep up with all of it? Co-Owner Maria Baugh said she and her team are avid users of Postling, a social media management tool that allows businesses to see all of their brand activity on various social media platforms all from a single interface. Baugh noted, “It has a dashboard where we can see on one screen the most recent tweets, Facebook posts and Yelp reviews. And simply click one button to reply to any post immediately. Very convenient.” For small businesses who are strapped for time, a tool like Postling offers a one-stop place for staying in contact with customers.
For Baugh, the focus for Butter Lane will always be on perfecting their products and delivering excellent customer service. She stressed that:
“Obviously it’s crucial to make a great product, but it’s also extremely important to give the customer a great experience. It’s so incredibly simple, yet it’s so often overlooked. Go the extra step with service and you’ll win customers for life. Social media helps us do this in a variety of ways. Yelp particularly is very helpful for us to monitor our customer service and make sure our staff is going above and beyond. We take all of the reviews very seriously and have made modifications to both staff and product based on Yelp reviews over the months.”
It’s no surprise then that Butter Lane has gained a dedicated following. When recently asked to explain how Butter Lane had created a cult following, Baugh’s response was that, “it never occurred to us that people viewed us that way, and of course, we were thrilled. But if we do have any kind of cult following it is due in large part to our involvement in social media.”
3. The Social Man Gets Personal
In a business like social coaching, there’s no avoiding one-on-one conversations. A typical session could entail a lesson at the bar, a discussion on social dynamics, or a break-down of an interview with a hot girl. Jonathan Christian Hudson, founder of The Social Man, a small social coaching business based in New York City, explained the dynamics between coaches and clients. “Our clients have to trust us and like us in order to work with us,” he noted, “and there’s no better way I know of to demonstrate that than by putting our faces out there and having a real dialogue with them.”
Hudson asserted that one of The Social Man’s biggest competitive advantages was the natural personalities of his teammates:
“I’ve been told that the biggest thing that sets us apart is our personality. We come across as, and I’d like to think we are, down-to-earth guys –- the sort of cool brother that a dude always wanted. It’s the casual nature of the conversation we have with our audience that separates us from the pure marketers.”
Videos sites Blip.tv and YouTube have allowed The Social Man to get personal with clients and prospects. Through their channels on both sites, they run a series called “Ask the Social Man,” in which Hudson and his colleagues answer questions on dating and pick-up techniques. Since they began uploading daily videos, the company has seen a rise in site visits and sales.
4. Liberty Bay Books Starts Conversations
Liberty Bay Books is an independent bookstore located in Poulsbo, Washington that specializes in Scandinavian and nautical books. From a brief conversation with Owner Suzanne Droppert, you immediately understand that she places a very high value on conversation and the exchange of intellectual ideas. Social media, then, is a natural outlet for a community thought leader like Droppert.
Droppert began experimenting with social media after attending an educational seminar early last year. The presenter absolutely insisted the attendees join Twitter immediately. Droppert believes it is important to stay connected with online social conversations regarding your business’ space. She stays abreast on books, travel, food and local events via her store’s Facebook and Twitter pages. She also keeps the community up-to-date on book signings and in-store events on the company blog and YouTube channel.
In the end, Droppert’s goal is to share views, ideas and conversation with her customers and the authors who visit her store. Her social media efforts, which are an extension of her genuine interest in her customers, have led to a growth in sales, as well as a growth in genuine connections with her customers. Droppert mentioned, “People will mention they saw a post of mine on Facebook, and we’ll talk about it over coffee here in the store.”
The types of connections that Droppert has with her customers are rare in our fast-paced, self-centered world — something that every business, big or small, can work towards.
5. Feather Your Nest Makes a Name for Itself
Set in the tourist destination of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Feather Your Nest is a specialty shop for homemade and vintage-looking gifts. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Etsy and their blog. Owner Gina Drennon, a web designer and self-starter, is a gem in the rough when it comes to Internet-savvy small business owners in her neighborhood. Drennon explained,
“Eureka Springs is a tourist resort with literally dozens and dozens of shops. We stand out in the crowd because very few [of those shops] are active in social media. Very few businesses here sell online, and those that do have not seen the success that we have.”
Drennon illustrated the situation perfectly. Eureka Springs is a town where not even use of the Internet has begun to blossom among small business owners. In that type of environment, an entrepreneur like Drennon is positioned to pull ahead. And that she did.
Drennon has made a name for her shop, and she has had tremendous success. Says Drennon:
“I’ve seen our web stats increase, followers increase, interactions increase, and most importantly, sales increase. But not only that, I’ve made many meaningful connections with bloggers and magazine editors that have featured our products and our store, which bring us huge amounts of attention that you really cannot put a price on. I can positively say that at least half of the national press we’ve received is due to contacts we’ve made over social media.”
Small businesses with shoestring marketing budgets should never underestimate the power of word of mouth generated by media. The folks at Feather Your Nest have certainly taken advantage of it.
There are countless examples of small businesses taking the reigns of social media and leading their businesses to success. Let us know which success stories stick out in your mind in the comments below.