Social Media: Not Just A Bunch of #HocusPocus

By Theresa Braun Social media can seem like hyped, hocus pocus to those frustrated over lack of results. There are certainly plenty of haters, and it’s often difficult to defend social media when the complaints aren’t all unwarranted. ROI from social media can be hard to measure, traction can be slow-moving, and benefits are murky. But with over 1 billion users of social media and 33% of users following brands, social media isn’t another marketing tool to take advantage of, it’s a new wave of communication that must be embraced and factored into today’s marketing and the brand-consumer relationship. Brands that jump into social media with the intention of “giving it a shot” rather than making an investment are most likely doomed to fail. There are certainly big brands with big marketing dollars making a splash, but to prove that social media success isn’t mythical, here are some small business stories with real results to share.

Palmetto Cheese

Brian and Sassy Henry started selling pimento cheese products in 2006. In 2009, they began integrating social media into their marketing, including a Facebook and Twitter presence where they post customer recipes and host trivia contests. The more they interacted with their customers, the greater their sales rose, with a 283% increase over the following two years.

Emerson Salon

In 2008, Matt Buchan and Alex Garcia bought and revamped a hair salon in Seattle which they named Emerson Salon after Ralph Waldo Emerson. Today, 75% of their business is generated from their social media efforts; in fact, it’s actually rare for a client to walk in without having read their tweets or blog. On the salon’s website, Matt and Alex link to all of the company’s and stylists’ social profiles and allow clients to book an appointment online, then prompting them to share it on Twitter or Facebook. Since bringing social media into the marketing mix, traffic to the website has more than tripled.

West Cafe

In 2008, the recession hit the small upscale neighborhood restaurant in Portland West Cafe pretty hard. Owners Doug Smith and Sean Concannon knew the restaurant wouldn’t survive if they didn’t do something major to drive business. They’d had varied, mostly poor results with traditional advertising in the past and their website wasn’t doing much for them. So the West Cafe created a blog to support the website and draw customers, quickly boosting site traffic. The Twitter account @WestCafePDX offered the city’s first Twitter restaurant coupon and interacted with locals. Website traffic increased by 500% and sales increased 125% over the following six months.

Frustration with, and denouncement of, social media often comes from a faulty understanding of how to integrate social media into their broader communication strategies or how to properly engage with customers to drive not just sales but valuable long-term relationships. Brands must set themselves up for social media success.

What results have you seen from social media?