Whether it’s a discount for a product on Twitter or an event announcement on Facebook, social media sites are playing a pivotal role in helping small businesses weather out this tough economy. Local companies are using Twitter, Facebook and to some extent Myspace, YouTube and Flickr as low-cost options to communicate with customers who, in turn, have spread the word.
Facebook and Twitter are proving to be the most popular choice for businesses and entrepreneurs to connect with fans and build clientele. Being free and interactive, social media is an ideal alternative for those unable to spend on large advertising campaigns. “I used Twitter quite often and I get several new customers a week because of it,” said Christine Silver, co-owner of Tapas Downtown. “I truly enjoy letting fans know of new dishes and events through tweeting.” Interacting with fans is also an aspect that business owners Charmaine Yu and Jennifer Ketels take pleasure in engaging. Yu is the owner of the Sweetspot in Redding, a sweet dessert shop of such delicacies as gelato and cupcakes, which opened two years ago.
Yu feels her sweet boutique has benefited greatly from social media. “Whenever we do events, we post them on Facebook and we get a pretty good turnout,” Yu said. “We recently did one event that brought us in 300 people to our shop.” However, Yu cautions that it takes time to establish a following and she is an avid user of Twitter, Facebook and Myspace.
“When we first started on Twitter, we got an increase but then it slowed down. Now that we are posting events, we get about 15 to 20 new customers per week,” Yu said. “We also get quite a few new visitors who have never heard of us before.” While social media provides an endless variety of ways to communicate with customers, those efforts wouldn’t resonate if there wasn’t a company excited about their products, according to Jennifer Ketels, owner of two U-Top-It frozen yogurt shops on Churn Creek Road and Placer Street, both in Redding.
Ketels started her business about a year ago to cut down on constant traveling from a demanding career and to care for her new baby. “This business has allowed me to be in a small town, raise a family and it’s a good opportunity for me personally and professionally,” said Ketels. She feels that both Twitter and Facebook help business, but not necessarily in building a customer base.
One of the most beneficial advantages these sites can provide is a positive interaction between her and regular patrons. “Our product is primarily for families and I’ve been able to establish a relationship with customers through these social networks,” Ketels said. “A lot of parents are on Facebook and I’ve connected with many of them and made personal relationships.”