Making Social Media Pay Off: Driving Awareness and Growing Your Small Business Through Tweets and Friends
By Suzanne Cordeiro
Jumping into the local organic pizza market feet first, PROMISE PIZZA learned early on the impact – and potential payback — of social media.
I started using Social Media in October 2009 and was clueless about the whole thing, simply dabbling in Twitter and using Facebook to keep up with family and friends. I considered social media more of a tool to stay connected, not a tool to drive our new pizza business.
My husband and I, along with three other partners/friends, founded and opened PROMISEPIZZA (www.promisepizza.com) in Round Rock, Texas, a city of 70,000 in August of last year. With no experience at owning a restaurant or retail business, our business came to life with a shared vision of a new concept in pizza. With a dream of a new kind of eco-friendly, socially-conscious, organic/all-natural pizzeria and a pizza oven purchased on Ebay, our store was launched.
With great sales the first month, soon the hype fizzled and we worked to fine-tune our marketing strategy and turn up the heat on advertising. While we tried all the traditional marketing stuff (newspaper ads, flyers, windshield coupons, etc…) we even appeared on television. We hosted every food reviewer in the city and had many amazing articles and blog reviews written about our restaurant.
While those advertising and marketing efforts brought incremental growth, nothing delivered better impact for us than the use of social media, particularly Twitter. For the most part, we use it for the majority of our advertisement with astounding success.
For getting the word out about promotions, specials or events quickly, there is no better way than to advertise via social media. For example, PROMISE PIZZA hosted a “social media” night where all the Austin-area food bloggers were invited to come and try all our pizzas. The advertising impact that ensued afterwards was priceless.
Further, social media introduced us to events and people we would otherwise never meet. This has given us the opportunity to sponsor various events and the buzz around PROMISE PIZZA became so great that we’ve been asked to open stores in multiple locations. Social Media also assisted in creating out current partnerships with Texas Jumping Beans and Austin Sports Arena, two Round Rock children’s and athletic events centers. These partnerships also give us the opportunity to do some cross-marketing with other local businesses.
Tips for Getting Value From Social Media
I have to point out that there are several unwritten rules to follow in order to gain valuable followers and get news about your business shared to customers in your local area.
First, it’s easy to gain thousands of followers but if you don’t target your local audience, it’s pretty pointless. Aim to attract local followers and not only advertise but occasionally put out interesting “tweets” about random news your customers might find interesting or useful. (ie. that free grand-slam breakfast at Denny’s or personal pictures of our historic Texan snowmen).
Secondly, get personal. On Twitter and Facebook, I represent PROMISEPIZZA but my tweets are personal. I try to post things that are locally relevant and entertaining to followers. More importantly, return the favor and share your follower’s information with your customers when possible.
Thirdly, support other local businesses and charities in your community. PROMISE PIZZA is strongly committed to giving back and social media has helped us identify local needs. For example, via one simple posting, I was able obtain a contact of a local shelter and delivered 20+ pizzas to them on Super Bowl Sunday.
Some Examples of our social media successes (and there are many more) are:
- Retro Day was our first HUGE hit where we quite honestly could not keep up with business. On Retro Day, we rolled back prices to $7.99. It was our very first eye opener regarding the impact of social media.
- On September 11, Promise Pizza advertised and donated 10% of our proceeds to the families of 9/11.
- Autism Awareness Day where a % of our proceeds went to Autism Speaks
- Super Bowl weekend specials of course.
- Chocolate-dipped strawberry giveaway with every order on Valentine’s Day weekend.
- Social media recently helped us win a very competitive and coveted honor, “Best Pizza in Austin” in a poll created by Austin360.com, the site sponsored by our major daily newspaper. Out of 26 well-respected and established pizzerias, many of which have been in business 20 years or more, Promise Pizza came in 1st place after only being in operation for 7 months!
Finally, remember that social media is not only advertising but about building relationships. It has been influential in so many aspects of our business. Comments made via Twitter and Facebook have resulted in
- changes in pricing;
- modifications in recipes;
- adding/removing items from our menu;
- adjusting our delivery radius; and many more factors.
We listen and respond to all comments and aim to make everyone happy. Word-of-mouth and superior customer service is still key.
Don’t forget that social media is fun! Getting to know your customers is amazing and nothing makes my day more than when I meet a fellow tweep that I’ve been getting to know via Twitter for weeks or months. If I know that someone is heading to PROMISE PIZZA that I’ve been chatting with via Twitter or Facebook, I will definitely make every effort to meet them. Via social media, I was recently introduced to great local professionals who regularly attend “Round Rock Jelly”. In brief, Round Rock Jelly, founded by social media goddess and now friend Sheila Scarborough, is a weekly casual co-working session held on Fridays between 11-2pm. This wonderful gathering allowed me to meet many people I had formed relationships with on-line. I look forward to attending as many as possible and meeting other great local entrepreneurs.
I can’t forget the fact that if I ever need a lightening-speed answer to pretty much any question, Twitter is faster than any search engine. I even ask my followers how they think we should advertise and if direct mail is effective for our target audience. Using customer response, we were able to make marketing decisions based on their input.
Bottom line, how can you go wrong asking Twitterverse?
I look forward to what is to come in social media. It has proven to be productive, convenient, personal, cost-effective, and enjoyable as well. Join the fun and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. For franchising opportunities, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.