Can you tell which of the following tweets is from a small but rapidly growing company?
"One more glass of wine and I will b buying pop tarts from that damn vending machine for dinner, again"
"by the way, ignoring pre existing medical conditions=boon for cancer drug companies. Things r not always wut they appear 2 b"
"2 for 1 tuesday. buy any lrg specialty get medium 1 topping free. $12 value"
The answer: All of the above. The Twitter posts are from Naked Pizza in New Orleans, which serves pizza with 100 percent natural ingredients. As you can tell from the tweets, Naked Pizza uses Twitter to send followers special offers. The company also tweets to converse with customers in a way that mixes humor with social and health consciousness--qualities that reflect Naked Pizza's brand identity.
So far, Naked Pizza's social media efforts are paying off, big time. At this moment, just one Naked Pizza exists. By summer 2010, as many as 50 franchises should be open throughout North America, according to cofounder Jeff Leach. He credits Twitter with playing a significant role in the company's growth.
"If your business doesn't have anything to tweet about, you'd better shift into a business that does have something to tweet about," Leach says.
The mandate for small businesses is clear--set up a Twitter account, establish a Facebook page, and start talking. What isn't always obvious, however, is what you should expect from your social media efforts. Do you need a formal social media strategy? And perhaps the murkiest question of all: How do you measure success?
Social Media: Low Cost, Potentially High Impact
As social networks--especially Twitter and Facebook--grow rapidly, so does the business interest in figuring out how to exploit them.
Twitter had 54.7 million unique visitors worldwide in August 2009, up from 4.3 million in August 2008, according to ComScore. (However, some research suggests that Twitter's popularity surge has weakened.)
Currently, Facebook has more than 300 million active users. Some 50 million people joined Facebook between July and September 2009 alone.
According to Nielsen Online, the average Facebook user spent 5 hours, 46 minutes on the site in August 2009, far exceeding the average for the number-two online time-drain, Yahoo, at 3 hours, 14 minutes.
Marketers are turning to social media as a low-cost, potentially high-impact way to promote products and services. So far in 2009, 66 percent of marketers used social media in some form, according to the Association of National Advertisers. That's up from just 20 percent in 2007.
Judging from that data, you'd think small businesses everywhere were fired up about social media. At the moment, that's apparently not the case, according to a recent Citibank survey of 500 U.S. small businesses (consisting of 100 employees or less). The survey shows that 75 percent of small-business executives aren't using social media for business. They're hyperfocused on generating sales and managing cash flow to survive the recession, so things like social media outreach have fallen down the to-do list.
Nevertheless, small businesses that engage with customers on social networks can reap some rewards. First, however, you must set your expectations properly.