Firms use Twitter and LinkedIn to drum up business without traditional marketing
REUTERS reported recently on two social networking sites that are helping firms to drum up new business.
The first is microblogging site Twitter, which has helped create a loyal following for cake company Foiled Cupcakes without a storefront or traditional marketing.
Instead, owner Mari Luangrath built her growing customer base almost entirely with social media, engaging 18- to 40-year-old women on some of their favourite topics: designer accessories and chocolate.
"What do we have in common? We all like shoes and handbags," said Ms Luangrath (32) who founded the Chicago-based cupcake delivery business in 2009. Last year, Foiled Cupcakes reached $350,000 in sales.
"We started a Twitter search for people who were tweeting about shoes in Chicago," she said. "And we starting replying to them."
Before long, the fledgling company established one-on-one dialogues with a host of potential customers.
Some of the adherents followed up with inquiries wondering about Foiled Cupcakes, whose treats are available in 18 varieties, including Citrus Charm, Pumpkin Patch, Minted and Southern Belle. They cost $38 per dozen.
"Yes, it's labour intensive, but that way we were able to create a very loyal following," Ms Luangrath said. "We have a strategy to try not to collect mass followers just for the sake of it."
She complemented virtual introductions with opportunities for face-to-face interaction, running casual events based on followers' common interests, including meet-ups at sushi bars. The cupcakes were on hand to sample but were never the centre of attention.
"I don't like to be sold to," said Ms Luangrath, whose sweet spot is the corporate gift market. "People would show up and take them back to their office."
The cupcakes, available in Chicago and some surrounding suburbs at www.foiledcupcakes.com, will be offered nationwide by the end of next year, she said.
Reuters also looked at how LinkedIn could help. Last year, the online networking site began letting companies create their own profiles.
This has now been expanded to include features within Company Pages that allow businesses to build and sustain their own followings in the professional community.
"It's some pretty good intelligence," Ryan Roslansky, who heads LinkedIn's Content Products, said.
"It really helps members to have deeper insight and richer business intelligence on these companies." Not unlike Twitter, LinkedIn's Company Pages update individuals about specific businesses of interest.
But the depth of content is richer, said Mr Roslansky, noting that posts include company news, employee moves, videos and white papers, among other information. These status updates appear in a follower's news feed.
"When people are on LinkedIn they're really in the mode of ... how do they become more professional, productive and successful in what they're doing?" he said. "And in that context we want to give the companies the ability to disseminate information to members."
Individuals can also get alerts when a company posts job listings -- an enhancement that aids in individuals' career advancement, Mr Roslansky said, noting there were nearly five million LinkedIn members employed by small firms.
Businesses pay for that feature but other features in Company Pages are free.