Ask any business person what the best way to build a clientele is, and they’ll probably say ‘word of mouth.’
With the advent and explosion of the Internet in the late ‘90s, ‘word of mouth’ took on a new and fancier term – social networking. Now, social networking allows each person to connect or reconnect with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people.
Voices just got a lot louder, thanks to the Internet.
But those voices can help or hinder your business, depending on how you play it.
Earlier this week, I wrote a story about two local small-business owners who have a friendly little competition going. Shawn Smith, owner of The Jewelers, promised to wear a wedding dress and flip-flops to an upcoming Lebanon City Council meeting if The Jeweler’s Facebook page garnered 2,000 likes before the page for Gardens on Main, which is owned by Smith’s friend, Jason Moles.
Moles promised to shave his head when the Gardens on Main page received 2,000 likes, regardless of which page got there first.
The numbers for both pages skyrocketed. Quickly.
As I spoke with both Smith and Moles, it was obvious both men were having serious fun with it – Moles did not even try to contain his laughter as he imagined that future city council meeting; Smith pondered how he would rope his male co-workers into signing up as his bridesmaids.
Both businesses’ pages were filled with your typical “smack-talk” and tongue-in-cheek competition updates. I cracked up reading through them.
I couldn’t help but think about all those businesses that assign departments to carefully craft each Tweet and status update and then pay to promote them.
I mentally compared those other businesses’ carefully crafted messages littering my feeds with the (I assume) off-the-cuff repartee on The Jewelers and Gardens on Main pages.
What was the biggest difference, aside from the aforementioned, between those other businesses and these two?
I couldn’t begin to remember the names of those other businesses; these two, I wrote a story on them.
Advertising has its place in growing a business – I’ve spoken with too many newspaper advertisers who have attested to the number of clients they have drawn through those ads to think otherwise.
Social networking, however, is about engaging people. When businesses treat social networking like traditional advertising, they miss the true opportunity of the medium.
Smith and Moles showed that if you’re not afraid to show a bit of your personality and have fun with it, other people will have fun too.
And people having fun will keep coming back and maybe bring a few more along with them.