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Small business discovers social media

When we think about social media, we think about big companies doing big things–Dell seems to be everyone’s poster child for social media success these days. But a lot of the real action is taking place in small businesses. While it is true that it is the rare small business that is succeeding with social media, the stories have been around for a while, with more emerging every day. If you are missing the range of social media employed by small business, open your eyes. You might see a Kogi Korean taco truck.

KOGI TRUCK

Image by davecobb via Flickr

If you’re not in Los Angeles, you probably haven’t heard of Kogi Korean BBQ, but it’s developed a cult following there. LA is known for its taco trucks, but Kogi (pronounced with a hard “g”) has a few twists. First, its food is a combination of Korean and Mexican flavors, and it uses social media to alert fans as to where the trucks will be. Blog posts and tweets alert fans where the trucks are going, and even solicit help with finding the best parking spots in the neighborhood. A tweet might also let waiting customers know when a truck is running late. From humble beginnings, Kogi has expanded to four trucks, each of which serves hundreds of patiently waiting customers at each stop. Newsweek has called Kogi “America’s first viral restaurant.” (Social media suggestions from customers even named the trucks.)

But what do you do if you don’t have a truck? I mean, if there’s no interesting news bulletins about where you’re going to be, what do you say all day? Just ask Ramon de Leon, a Domino’s owner-operator from the Chicago area. I shared a panel with Ramon at a recent event in Amsterdam and he explained how he interacts with his community on social media. He responds to every mention of his restaurants online, once personally making an apology video for an unhappy customer he posted on YouTube that has received almost 100,000 views. He works with charities to promote days where the charity sends someone to work in a Domino’s store for the day and the store donates part of the receipts. You can bet Ramon promotes the day before the fact on social media and posts a video afterwards.

And it’s not just restaurants. Bag manufacturer Tom Bihn also uses forums and Facebook to communicate with fans, as well as Flickr and YouTube to show off its unique styles. OPEN Forum summed up the secret to Tom Bihn’s social media success: “Each social media platform has unique Tom Bihn content that doesn’t overlap with the other platforms the company is on, yet at the same time, they’re integrated and linked to each other.”

As difficult as it can be for a small business to break through the clutter to find its market, I don’t understand why more don’t try free social media techniques. It take some technical savvy, and certainly takes focus and time, but the payoff can be enormous for businesses that can’t afford traditional advertising. Perhaps these stories will give you the inspiration you need.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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