For businesses, there is both an intense attraction and an intense fear of social media.
While it is a cheap and powerful way to connect with customers, both new and established, it’s also seen as a medium without control and with a level of immediacy that isn’t compatible with corporate hierarchy, even for a medium-sized businesses.
For businesses accustomed to press releases and ad campaigns, social media can be a frightening thing. However, with the risk comes the potential for great rewards and many businesses that have seized upon it have done very well.
On that note, here are just ten examples of businesses that bet on social media and had it pay off in a big way.
Naked Pizza is a small pizza takeout and delivery shop in New Orleans that features healthier pizza alternatives. In 2009, the company made the leap into Twitter and started aggressively promoting via it.
After its first Twitter-only promotion, Naked Pizza increased its sales by 15% and set a new store record the next month. Best of all, the increase in sales was from 90% new customers. Twitter became such a powerful driving force that Naked Pizza changed much of their signage from boards touting their phone number to ones highlighting their Twitter account.
Naked Pizza is currently preparing for a massive expansion throughout the Gulf Coast region.
One of the amazing things about social media is that, if you strike the right spark, you don’t have to do much to get the fire going. Netflix, in a constant struggle to improve its recommendation system, offered a contest with a $1 million prize to the team that could improve their system the most.
Despite little traditional promotion, the contest spread like wildfire on social media and social news sites, eventually drawing in teams from all over the world.
Furniture chain Ikea, in a bid to promote a new store opening in Sweden, launched a Facebook campaign that encouraged people to follow an account created for the store’s manager. Then, as photos were published to that account, the first follower to tag themselves on an item would get it for free.
The result was a powerful campaign that spread quickly over Facebook and spawned a viral video/commercial that was viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
Best of all, the store’s opening was a resounding success.
Moonfruit, a British Web service that lets users design professional-looking sites easily, held a contest in 2009 where it gave away 10 Macbook Pros, one for each day of the contest, to anyone who tweeted using the #moonfruit hashtag.
The results were staggering. Moonfruit gained nearly 44,000 new followers on Twitter, saw a 600% increase in site traffic, a 100% increase in signups and the tag became a trending term on Twitter, placing the name in front of millions of visitors. All for a campaign that cost about $13,500.
Moonfruit’s founder, Wendy White, said that the Twitter campaign was “Far more effective than other marketing channels.”
The truth is that the social media conversation is going to take place whether you are involved in it or not. As such, it makes sense to use social media not just as promotion, but as a means to reach out to existing customers.
As of 2009, Comcast, through its “ComcastCares” Twitter account, had handled some 22,000 complaints and gripes from customers, defusing many potential social media disasters before they could begin.
This level of personal, yet public, attention has helped keep thousands of Comcast customers happy during difficult times, possibly keeping them from switching to a new carrier.
In late 2008, Ford found itself in the middle of a PR firestorm. Having filed a cease and desist letter with the owners of a Ford Ranger forum, one which Ford alleges was not only using the Ranger trademark but also selling counterfeit goods, the notice was posted on the site and went viral, portraying Ford as a bully.
Ford quickly took to social media, including forums, Twitter and Facebook. Not only were they able to respond directly to the accusations and get their side of the story out to the public, but they were able to resolve the dispute to everyone’s satisfaction.
As a result of Ford’s social media efforts, the story was effectively “squashed” within 20 hours. Sparing the company a very public embarrassment.
Google, despite being the largest search engine and a multi-billion dollar company, has largely abandoned the traditional press release. Instead, most of Google’s announcements and releases come from their official blog or from the official blog for their relevant service.
Blog posts, generally, work the same way as press releases but can also reach out directly to customers, instead of press middlemen, and ensures anyone with interest can access them.
Smart use of its blog is a big part of why Google has received so much favorable press coverage and been able to cultivate a general feeling of good will, even as it grows larger.
A highly entertaining video is almost irresistable online and, as such, an entertaining ad can actually make people want to watch and share your video, all without paying to reach them.
AllState realized that it had a hit with its recent “Mayhem” commercial line and put them onto YouTube. Many of the commercials currently have over 750,000 views. All totalled, their uploads have been viewed nearly 13 million times, putting it well above many of the most popular shows on television.
Best of all, these are people actively viewing the message, not people going to the bathroom during commercials.
In 2009, LIVESTRONG became one of the few charity organizations to appoint a full-time person in charge of social media. Today, the company now gets some 60% of its traffic from social media, mostly Twitter.
Much of the growth of their Twitter accounts came from a series of challenges where donations were offered for new followers, causing a storm of attention to form on Twitter.
As a result of its social media efforts, LIVESTRONG has been able to exceed all of its fundraising goals in recent years, despite the down economy.
Social media isn’t just about Facbeook and Twitter. For example, Kohl’s, when they wanted to reach out to mothers, used the niche site Cafemom and gave key users of the site $250 gift cards with a request that each of them “explore her personal color” and blog about their experience.
The results were significant as moms who were exposed to the campaign, even if they didn’t participate, showed much greater awareness of Kohl’s offerings and a greater likelihood to buy.
All in all, social media is nothing more than a tool that your company can use. However, while it can be dangerous, it is also versatile and very powerful. Social media is used for everything from customer retention, public relations, advertising, recruiting and even product research/improvement.
In short, social media is whatever you make out of it but, no matter what, the potential is simply too great to ignore. This is why it’s important for those who know to get their clients and their companies on board with social media as soon as possible.
Otherwise, they risk being left behind.