Social Media for Small Businesses

Posted on February 1, 2011 by

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This is a guest post by Logan Clifford (@WeAreLUKE)

Athletes, musicians, marketers, teenagers, movie stars, Wal Mart, and the Prime Minister of England: These are just a few of the major contributors to the movement that is “social media.” A few years ago, pretty much all I pictured when I thought about twitter was Miley Cyrus tweeting about the long the line at Starbucks. “All I want is my Grande soy chai with no water!!!” (Sorry Miley, life’s tough)

Well, that’s all changed and today you would be hard pressed to find a large organization that isn’t using social media to the fullest.

But what about the not-so-big ones? What about the businesses and organizations that in no way scream “social media user”? Guess what … they’re using Social as well, and they’re getting pretty darn good at it too! We’ve decided to highlight a few small businesses here in Utah and how they’re using social to benefit their operation:

New Life office systems:

@NewLifeOffice: 226 followers

New Life Office is a Utah based company that provides refurbished office cubicles for personal and professional workspaces. That’s right, I said office cubicles. Weird? Maybe not. New Life created a Facebook page and regularly updates their Twitter account with information they believe to be import to those in their industry.

In my opinion, tweeting is where this company makes the biggest impact. They tweet promotions and updates to inventory, but only about 15% of the time. The other 85% is spent talking about changes to the industry, maintenance tips, and other information that appeal to the interests of potential followers. This helps them create more than just “business” relationships with those who follow them. They create open forums that generate communication between individuals and organizations that might not do so otherwise. Isn’t that the point of Social in long run anyway?

Their facebook page could use a little help, but overall I think New Life is heading in the right direction:

Alpine Cleaning and Restoration:

@AlpineCleaning: 424 followers

Facebook: 894 “likes”

Talk about a company that smashes all stereotypes about who can and cannot use social media. Alpine Carpet Cleaning, based in Cache Valley, specializes in exactly what you would think … Carpet cleaning. But with their continuous growth on both Twitter and Facebook, social networking is quickly climbing the ladder of things they’re good at.

One area where this company has recognized the opportunity for growth is in their community participation. They post regularly on their blog, informing readers of fun activities and service projects going on in their communities. Now, the key word here is REGULALRY. Blogging, or rather the idea of blogging, has become a common business practice, especially here in Utah. The problem, however, lies in the consitency of blogging. If you don’t post regularly you give your readers no incentives to return regularly. This will stifle your abilities with when it comes to effective social media campaigns in the future.

Alpine Cleaning gets it, and as a result they are often asked to co-sponsor community activities, further enhancing their public relations. All they are really doing is caring about their community and showing it over their various social media avenues. For them, its paying off big time.

Select Health:

@SelectHealth: 562 followers

@Protect_Toothy: 127 Followers

Facebook: 309 “likes”

Facebook (toothy): 680 “likes”

Youtube: www.youtube.com/protecttoothy

Again, “health care” doesn’t exactly ring out “social media opportunity.” In fact, health care providers don’t exactly have a positive reputation for “caring” about their customers in the real world, much less through the World Wide Web. Select Health, however, has actively used various social media outlets to fight that misconception and show true concern for those who use their services.

Perhaps the most impressive initiative Select Health has undertaken is Toothy, a community campaign promoting dental hygiene … oh yeah, and Select Health dental plans. Toothy, as you can imagine, is a giant tooth that travels the Wasatch Front attending community events and hands out toothbrushes and what not. Like most otherwise inanimate objects turned to life, this guy in a giant Tooth suit appeals to both children and adults. His facebook, twitter, and youtube accounts receive regular attention, keeping readers constantly apprised as to Toothy’s daily affairs. You can even book Toothy for an event (why hire a clown or a magician for a kids birthday party when you can get a giant Tooth?!)

Silly as it may seem, Select Health has used this social based initiative to truly enhance their reputation here in Utah. Paying medical bills seems a whole lot easier when you feel like your health care provider …ya know … CARES!

Granite School District

@GraniteSchools: 557 followers

Facebook: 739 “likes”

Youtube: www.youtube.com/graniteschools

Maybe it’s because almost every teacher I’ve ever had nearly went into convulsions if they saw me text messaging underneath my desk, but Granite School District was on the bottom of my list of likely Social Media users. Oh how wrong I was.

With regular updates often needing to be made public right away, Facebook and Twitter actually seem like no brainers. And though they make an effort to post interesting articles on education and spark online discussions, for the most part, these two accounts act mostly as “informers” for schedule changes, late busses, and (cross your fingers kids) SNOW DAYS! Where Granite School District develops a personality is on their Youtube page. Videos about student activities, programs, PTA meetings, assemblies, and pretty much every other school activity find their way onto this page, some of them even reaching over 5,000 views. Now, they may not be much compared to the water skiing squirrel or the World of Warcraft kid, but for a small school district in Salt Lake City, that’s not bad. It builds the school districts’ reputation within the community, which for a state that practices open enrollment could possibly make a big difference as far as future enrollment is concerned. As is the case with all social initiatives, only time will tell, but for now, Granite School District is betting it will.

So, who cares about Miley Cyrus’s Starbarks woes? SOMEBODY! And that really is the point of social media. As the co-founder for a young business looking to grow, I learned a valuable lesson: You cannot use social to force people to like you. Trust is the key to a strong social network. The more your followers trust you, the more likely they are to take the leap of faith toward becoming your consumer. Participate and offer quality insight and you might just gain that trust. The sooner businesses, both small and large, understand the driving power behind effective social networking initiatives the easier it will be for them in the longer run to create long term, sustainable relationships with their consumers (wow, look at all those buzz words). These businesses prove that when it comes to social, its not about who you are but about how you use it!

Disclosure: Logan’s mom works for New Life Office

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