Starting a new business has become much easier and more affordable now that advances in technology give even the smallest operations the power to reach millions of potential customers. Cloud services, for instance, provide inexpensive storage and business software solutions, while smart phone applications enable entrepreneurs to serve their customers from anywhere in the world. These and many other digital products have encouraged more people than ever before to pursue the dream of business ownership.
Unfortunately, lowering the bar for start-ups means an increased number of competitors, which is why many small businesses struggle with the challenge of getting noticed. This is especially true for an ecommerce operation that lives and dies by its web presence. Fortunately, building a powerful marketing campaign no longer costs a fortune now that social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare provide free marketing avenues for small businesses. Moreover, some companies have gone further by building their own social media campaigns, some of which have become extremely effective in attracting new customers.
Here are a few success stories:
1. The Blair Witch Project
In the early days of online marketing, many companies were content to advertise their website URL. However, the marketing team behind the horror film, The Blair Witch Project, knew that the Internet contained vast potential for spreading awareness at little to no cost, which is why they built a series of websites and message boards suggesting that the events in the film were real. News about the film quickly became viral, prompting many people to fervently discuss the film through forum posts. Despite having a miniscule budget, the film generated more than $200 million worldwide due to its initial online buzz.
2. Burger King
Big companies have also been taking advantage of social media, which is why U.S. fast food chain Burger King developed two successful social media campaigns. The first, used to promote its TenderCrisp chicken sandwich, was the “Subservient Chicken,” an amusing take on the interactive webcam services offered by adult entertainment companies. Visitors to the site could watch a man dressed in a chicken suit follow commands that they typed. The other was the “Whopper Sacrifice,” a Facebook campaign that promised a free Whopper to those who were brave enough to remove ten friends from their lists.
Social media success stories are not just limited to big companies. Smashburger, a Denver-based hamburger chain, has grown considerably due to its effective use of Facebook and Twitter. Not only does the company offer coupons and contests through these services, but it also uses social media to find out what customers really like. For instance, the company learned that customers in Salt Lake City love mint ice cream, which is why it decided to add this to its Utah menu. This immediate attention to what the customer wants has enabled Smashburger to grow from three to more than 150 establishments.
Ecommerce merchants are especially interested in the power of social media. Ecommerce giant ShoeDazzle.com, for instance, uses Facebook to survey its customers’ tastes in footwear and then offers suggestions from its catalogue based on the answers. Social media has become so important for ecommerce, in fact, that small business shopping cart software providers now offer support for sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to help users get connected more easily.
5. Greg Burney
Even the smallest operations can benefit from social media. Artist Greg Burney, for instance, tweeted that he would sketch the next 3,000 followers and managed to keep this promise. Now he has more than 5,000 Twitter followers interested in his work. Social media, then, can be a huge boost to any new artist in search of clients who might be interested in buying their creations.
Clearly from these examples, social media plays a strong role in promoting the visibility of any business, whether it operates within a home or has locations established throughout the world. Social media, however, requires time and effort for it to work as an effective marketing tool, which is why small business owners should consider hiring someone to handle these platforms if they lack the time to keep them updated. After all, what makes social media special is that it gives a human face to the company, which means that a real person needs to remain behind the Facebook page.