It's hard not to be skeptical about the social media craze, especially if you're a small business that's struggling to find a way to bring business context to platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
But small businesses with dime store budgets are taking bold leaps into the social media realm and finding that it's not such a scary place to be after all.
is just your everyday sushi restaurant. They have a single chic location in the heart of Hillcrest, where they're competing against the best food establishments San Diego has to offer. Since they're small they have very little money to allocate to local advertising initiatives, but they're still just as hungry as their competition to bring in new business and grow their customer base. Little did they know that social media would become a key part of their marketing efforts.
Here's their story, along with a few ways you can learn from their efforts.
Ono Sushi's General Manager, mark Vale, was approached by two San Diego entrepreneurs, Gabriel Lawrence and Kevin Workman, to combine their in-store and outline promotional initiatives using Twitter. Ono Sushi had just started using social media in lieu of more traditional marketing and advertising techniques, so the idea was to incorporate an always-on live interactive Tweetwall for displaying Ono Sushi related tweets to customers while drinking and dining in the restaurant.
The idea became a reality and Ono Sushi was the first San Diego restaurant to deploy Tweetwall, a custom application created and maintained by Lawrence and Workman, skinned for Ono Sushi and built to automatically display tweets and photos in real-time from Twitter users who tweet @OnoSushi.
Compare Tweetwall to a bold work of art that commands your attention, but throw in the dynamic auto-refresh element and the cool factor of seeing your tweet on the screen, and you've got an instant talking piece at the center of your restaurant.
Vale configured two restaurant televisions to display the tweets and he couldn't be happier with the immediate returns. He says that the in-store real-time tweet stream is helping in two very important ways: creating an alternative email list with the potential to reach customers wherever they are, and bringing in new business.
According to Vale, customers that come into the restaurant, "ask what it is, sign up [on Twitter], follow us...it's like a huge email list, but it offers us a way to run instant specials and get instant interaction."
Vale also says that given Twitter's ability to touch people instantly on their mobile devices, that they're able to do impromptu promotions and see immediate returns.
"Around rush hour traffic we'll put out a tweet that says, anyone on their way home from work...we're gonna buy the first 4 people that come in a round [of drinks]." He says the results compared to print advertising are "instant gratification."
Tweetwall steals for your SMB
Depending on your business or industry, it may not be practical for you to deploy your own in-store Tweetwall, but that are a few key elements of the initiative that you can steal for your own small business.
1. Your customers want to be reached (on their terms)
Ono Sushi found a remarkable way to tap their existing customer base and reach a new audience online. Their impromptu promotions inspire a more captive audience, and because they're using Twitter they're not overwhelming their loyal patrons with email updates. It's subtle, opt-in, and instant.
Their efforts prove that customers want to be reached; they're open to your message, but it needs to fit into their lifestyle. You can create your own Facebook and Twitter updates that will encourage people to sit up and listen to what you have to say (instead of deleting your upteenth email newsletter).
2. Put the customer's name in lights
the beauty of the Tweetwall idea is the instant recognition customers get for tweeting a reply to Ono Sushi. It's a new form of community engagement that puts the customer's name in lights, and the Hollywood factor works to ensure that their customers are spreading the Ono Sushi message for them
Find a way to organically create ongoing buzz about your business. Maybe it's a Twitter-specific promotion or discount code, or maybe it's highlighting tweets and Facebook comments from followers and fans on your website. Whatever you do, make your customer the star of your social media initiatives, and they'll reward you with online word-of-mouth love.
3. You can be small and still win big
Ono Sushi is by no means a social media powerhouse. Their follower count and fan size is respectable but they're not breaking records or even trying to compete on the follower/fan front. They are, however, catering to a sushi loving audience, who are then happy to share the Ono Sushi love with their own followers.
Learn from Ono Sushi's example. Don't make your social media strategy about follower counts or fans, but instead find a way to really serve the people that are invested in your business.