Social tools like Twitter and Facebook help get the word out

Here’s a news article by Paul Beebe from the Salt Lake Tribune (US) featuring a case study on how social media has helped out one small restaurant business. It illustrates just how helpful and accessible these services can be.  Read the article in context on the Salt Lake Tribune website by clicking here, or just scroll down.

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There’s only one reason why Kalani Mack and brother Kimo were able to open a second restaurant a year ahead of schedule despite Utah’s worst recession since the 1930s.

“I attribute the second location totally to Facebook because of what it’s done,” Kalani Mack said.

“It clearly increased our business. We were not planning on expanding to Salt Lake City until 2010, but things went so well that we were able to open our second location” in June.

With 150 million users, the 5-year-old networking site is one of a profusion of Internet and mobile-based media services that businesses are using to fuel sales and profits through social interaction with customers and clients.

Companies as big as Delta Air Lines and small as the Mack brothers’ Mo’ Bettah Steaks are developing content on blogs, social networks such as Facebook and, lately, Twitter, which combines blogging and networking in little bursts of messages called tweets.

Social media has become ubiquitous. Traffic to Facebook is up almost 200 percent over the past year, and Twitter has seen an increase of almost 1,500 percent, according to Nielsen Online, which measures online audiences and consumer-generated media.

“We are evaluating additional opportunities within the networks we are actively using, such as Facebook and YouTube, as well as other networks, such as Twitter, and are developing a comprehensive strategy to enhance our existing efforts,” Delta spokeswoman Susan West said in an e-mail.Technology research company Forrester Research said almost two-thirds of retailers have invested in the social-media frenzy in some way and another 22 percent plan to get involved in the next year.

Five years ago, just three Global 500 companies were using social media, said Shel Israel, a Silicon Valley-based social media writer.

Today, the number is close to 200. The companies use networks and blogs to stay closer to customers, for sales, marketing, customer support, recruiting, investor relations and product research.

“It is absolutely not a fad,” Israel said.

Hawaii transplants Kalani and Kimo Mack opened their first Mo’ Bettah in Bountiful in July 2008. The restaurant served a streamlined menu Hawaiians call “steak plates,” a fast-food alternative to expensive steak houses.

At the same time, Kalani Mack’s daughter was pressuring her dad for permission to create a Facebook account. Mack consented on one condition. He would set up his own account that would allow him to monitor her postings.

Within a few weeks, Mack was chatting with Mo’ Bettah’s customers on his personal page, and he realized he could market the Bountiful restaurant through its own page.

“It was like a brick hitting me. I just realized it could be a powerful tool for the business, and the business could be a profile itself,” Mack said.

Today, Mo’ Bettah’s page has 1,759 fans. The Macks use it to promote new menu items and events at the restaurant, and gather customer feedback.

“Just being in contact with customers directly that way was huge. I’m not sure what kind of value it brought them, but I noticed that they enjoyed being in contact with their favorite restaurant,” he said.

Melissa Coates, an account executive at Insight Exhibits, set up a Twitter account for the Salt Lake City-based designer of mall kiosks and trade show exhibits six months ago. She uses the service to develop relationships with businesses and find clients.

Last month, Coates attended a trade show staged by Shop.org, the digital division of the National Retail Federation. Before going, she investigated the companies that planned to attend the trade show in Las Vegas. Of 150 companies, 107 were on Twitter.

“I started following those companies, hoping they would follow me. I don’t know how many followed me back, but a lot did,” she said. “I went to the show wanting to target 10 companies. I got seven companies that wanted to do business.

“I was kind of shocked.”

Today, Twitter tops the list of social media used by Fortune 100 companies, according to public relations giant Burson-Marsteller and its Proof Digital Media subsidiary. Their study found that 54 percent of the companies use Twitter. Corporate blogs come in second, at 32 percent, while 29 percent have Facebook fan pages.

“Everything personal goes through Facebook and almost everything business goes through Twitter,” said Grant Gordon, a co-founder and director of products at EnticeLabs, a Provo company whose software helps employers recruit workers.

Gordon’s first exposure to Twitter wasn’t promising. He thought 140-character messages could never be interesting. Until he set up EnticeLabs two years ago, it never occurred to him that the service could be used to drive awareness of the company or keep up with trends.

“All these experts, executives and prominent recruiters are on Twitter all the time. They will post articles they’ve read, things that are happening, questions. If you are not listening to that conversation, you are completely out of the loop. If you are not participating in that conversation, you really are not heard,” Gordon said.

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What do you think? Would you be interested in getting involved in Facebook and Twitter? What’s stopping you? Share your thoughts with us here!

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