In Melbourne’s South Yarra, a small business called Thinktank Media is helping other small businesses get social. They’re proving a couple of important things. One is that social media really does make good business sense, and the other is that employing an agency to ‘do’ your social media for you is within the reach of SMEs.
Thinktank’s Director of Social Media Sam Mutimer, says: “Social media is an absolute goldmine for small business right now. When you look at what tools were available 10 years ago there just wasn’t the opportunity we have today to connect and engage with your target market.”
She adds: “Social media allows you to compete with larger businesses more readily. You can show that you listen, that you care and that you deliver. You can show that you’re really interested in what your customers think and feel. By creating this relationship and building it up you create trust, and that’s the number one reason people buy.”
Considering plenty of Australian small businesses still don’t have a website, it’s no surprise a lot of them are still scared of social media. “Probably the biggest concern is time,” says Mutimer. “How are we spending this time? Where is it going and with what effect? If you’re passionate about what you do though, you’ll put in the hours. According to Optus’ recent small business social media index, 47 percent of social media users have sold products or services through social media sites in Australia.”
She adds: “My personal opinion is that many small business owners don’t understand social media because they are so busy actually running their business: being involved within it, doing their finances and promoting the business through traditional ways that they are comfortable with. Social media can seem overwhelming.
“Once they embrace the space and start playing within it, the opportunities to leverage the business, build awareness, utilise word of mouth and integrate it into other marketing methods become too good to pass up.”
There’s no one kind of small business that should be using social media. Mutimer believes every small business should have a social media strategy that integrates into their marketing strategy in some shape or form.
“Ask yourself where you are right now, where are you going to head and what will your success will look like? How are you going to define it? Of course that is about dollars but it’s also about other things: community, brand value and so on. When you know what your goals are you can start listening and finding out what people are saying about your business and start to engage them. You build from there.”
We spoke to two of ThinkTank’s small business clients and found out how they’ve used social media, the results they’ve seen and their advice for other SMEs thinking about jumping on board.
Case Study 1: Replicat
Replicat is an Australian company providing CD and DVD replication, disc packaging, printed blank media, worldwide distribution and general print. The company helps musicians get their product to market as quickly as possible with a market leading service.
Its Catapult social media song contest was created to generate interest in its services, provide a way for the winning musicians to get their music out there and find new ways to share and rate music online. We spoke to managing director Scott Wilson.
DB: How did Replicat recognise a need for social media and online marketing?
SW: Social media was something Replicat had wanted to use for a while, but really didn’t know how to go about it. We didn’t even know the range of resources that were available let alone how to use them.
DB: How did you decide to run a band contest?
SW: Our agency suggested it and it made sense to us. It hadn’t been done before and it was perfect for social media. We brainstormed for a while and the original concept was developed further. We loved the idea straight away, then it was just a case of how to get something that large and untried to launch!
DB: What was involved?
SW: Thinktank built the ICT side (websites, voting systems at the back end and Facebook Songs and voting display at the front end). Once it was running they handled all the social media interaction with entrants and fans, distributed the minor prizes and did a hundred other things I’ve forgotten. It was a huge project though. Replicat organised sponsors and prizes, created the Catapult brand and logo, coordinated the major prize and shot video footage of the winners in the studio among other things.
Both firms contributed to the competition structure, marketing and contest rules, development and legals. It was a combined effort simply because it became such a huge project. It took nine months from concept to completion. The heavy lifting was done by our agency though. They developed custom Facebook applications to display the songs and handle voting and used YouTube direct technology to interface the song videos. These techniques had never been attempted before.
I believe Facebook were actually watching to see whether it could be pulled off from a technical aspect. We did it of course!
DB: What was the outcome for your business?
We’ve created and launched a new brand (Catapult) and added a new dimension to our disc replication and packaging business through the campaign. It’s further underlined our commitment to our largest market: independent musicians making CD albums. But it’s also proved to be a selling point with larger corporate and government clients who require CDs, DVDs and packaging for PDSs, courseware, marketing promotions etc.
As a result of the campaign, we got to number one ranking on Google when people searched “cd replication” whereas before we were sitting at page two. Also, more people know about Replicat and what we do, and we are seen as an active, fun company to work with. Yes, we have increased our market share, but there are intangible long-term benefits to running a social media campaign like customer loyalty, corporate image and identity that are just as important to us.
DB: What are your recommendations to other business owners?
SW: Get professional assistance. The social media platforms are evolving and you need an expert to invent the campaign and run it. We used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace, but there are probably a dozen other platforms now (like Foursquare) that could be used depending on the campaign. Replicat is an SME and Catapult was an enormous project to undertake, but we are very proud of it and it will continue in 2011.
Case study 2: Fit ‘n’ Fast Gyms
Fit ‘n’ Fast Gyms operate at three NSW locations in Liverpool, Paddington and Penrith. The small gym chain has pioneered a new style of workout, cheekily called the quickie. The quickie was created to meet the needs of time-poor people looking to squeeze a quick workout into their day. Fit ‘n’ Fast used social media and a clever Facebook check-out application to make quickies easy for gym-goers. We spoke to Fit n Fast COO Nic Monteforte.
DB: How did you recognise a need for social media and online marketing?
NM: One of our key objectives as a new business in the fitness industry is to make everything about getting healthy as easy as possible. We knew we wanted an online sign-up and cancel option for people. So that is where it all began. We went in search of a company that could build our site but also fit our culture and we met with ThinkTank Media. As for social marketing, it was only when we met with our agency that we knew that we needed to be active in social media as it is a totally new space for this industry.
DB: How you decided to take the steps you did?
NM: We have a very clear vision and simply communicated that vision to our agency. They collaborated with us to come up with the best possible process that allowed us to test the waters, but also hit our key markers along the way.
We know how to run really successful health clubs in the traditional operational way and we trusted our agency as the digital and social marketing experts. We never preached to them or wanted to be experts in this. We used the experts’ knowledge and they used ours to form a really strong bond.
DB: What did you do as a business to get things moving?
NM: We are renowned for moving at pace. We like action to be quick. Once we know what we want we simply just do it. Once we selected our agency we set high expectations on when we wanted everything to be done as we had start dates of club openings which meant we needed a website and needed people to know that we were coming.
DB: How long has the project taken?
NM: The initial start-up project was about three months. We now are constantly tweaking things at both ends to get better at it and get better results so we would be in contact a few times a week. With new clubs opening every couple of months it really is never ending
DB: What were the outcomes for Fit ’n’ Fast?
NM: We have been able to become a big brand in the industry even though we are still only a few clubs and a medium-sized business. We have been involved in many firsts for the industry here also like online sign-ups and sign-ups though Facebook. We have really been able to start to lead the way for how the industry needs to be and change.
DB: What are your recommendations to other business owners considering adding social media to their marketing mix?
NM: It’s a must if businesses want to succeed in today’s tech-savvy consumer environment. People want ease and accessibility as well as to feel like they belong to something worthwhile that they feel heard and a part of the community. A balanced, all round approach to marketing is always the key as they both feed off each other brilliantly. Consult a good social media and digital agency that fits your culture and understands your business. If businesses don’t have a social and online strategy as part of their overall strategy they will simply be left behind.