Bloggers call 2009 the year of social media. Facebook has more than 200 million users. Fast-growing Twitter reported more than six million unique monthly visitors earlier this year.
Sites such as Myspace, Youtube and Friendster similarly have devout following from users who want to exchange ideas and photos and keep in touch with friends.
Many users bemoan the corporatization of these social-media vehicles, but the truth is that companies can boost sales by using social media such as Twitter.
Vancouver Opera put social marketing to the test earlier this year when it was performing Rigoletto. Opera employee Ling Chan would tweet (send short 140-character Twitter messages) to the 1,200 people who indicated that they wanted to be alerted to the opera’s specials.
These tweets would contain special promotion codes. More than 100 people entered the codes and received specials that ranged from 15% off ticket prices to a two-for-one concession.
Chan sent different promotion codes via Facebook.
“We found Twitter was a better sales generator than Facebook.” Vancouver Opera managing director Christopher Libby told Business in Vancouver.
“Twitter allows us to stay top of mind or at least to be in the mindset of our target audience even though we don’t have any productions between the end of May and late November.”
Avid Twitter users who own small businesses generate sales leads with the activity.
“We found Twitter was a better sales generator than Facebook”
-Christopher Libby, managing director.
Provident Security owner Mike Jagger has become a popular guy to ask security-related questions on Twitter. About 10 times this year, inquisitive tweeters who asked for security advice eventually decided to hire Jagger’s company to protect their premises.
Jagger, who is President of Vancouver’s Entrepreneur’s Organization, has also landed professional speaking gigs as a result of his avid tweeting.
Members of New York’s EO chapter hired Jagger to speak to their group earlier this year. He has also spoken to various Lower Mainland professional groups who have linked together through the social media website Meetup.com.
“Twittter in and of itself is like any one of the other social media tools. It can either be a tremendous time-suck or it can be great value,” Jagger said.
“I’m not sure that a traditional business like ours could hope to have its whole marketing or business strategy built around Twitter but it allows us to communicate with more people who are right in our market.”
Consultants say business leaders are wise to at least understand how social media can impact their business.
It’s hard to comprehend social media academically by passively listening to experts. I think you have to take part to understand it,” said retail analyst and Dig360 owner David Ian Gray.
“To ignore it or to say. “That’s not really for me but my company should be all over it is a hypocritical statement to make if you’re a leader.”
That makes sense in theory. But many time-challenged leaders fear that taking time to send tweets could be counter-productive.
London Drugs’ marketing team is quick to respond to any positive or negative tweets about the company. But, ask the 69-store retail chains president, Wynne Powell, why he doesn’t personally tweet and he’ll give you an answer many business owners can relate to.
“I work 12 to 14 hours a day now and I would not do a good job of sitting down and tweeting. Yesterday, I had 238 e-mails. You can only do so much,” said Powell, who has visited Twitter to see what the site is all about.
“You have to be respectful of the people who use Twitter as a communication tool. I was just travelling for a week and, where I was, I was challenged for connectivity. It was tough. People wouldn’t understand that and they would just think that this guy doesn’t care. That wouldn’t be true.”
Over at the Fraser Institute, communications director Dean Pelkey acknowledges that it is tough to put the think tank’s maxim, “If it matters, measure it” to the with social media and get an exact determination of return on investment.
He spends a tiny fraction of his time sending a few tweets daily with most messages linking t articles on the think tank’s website.
“We try to engage our followers with ideas,” he said. “There’s only so much you can say in140 characters, but if we can encourage them to engage with the institute elsewhere, either through the website, events or through videos, then it’s valuable.”
“Twitter in and on itself is like any one of the other social media tools. It can either be a tremendous time-suck or it can be great value”
-Mike Jagger, owner, Provident Security
B.C Medical Association (BCMA) director of communications and public affairs Geraldine Vance has used social media to solicit feedback about public health issues.
One recent BCMA Facebook discussion focused on whether addiction is a disease or a human failure.
“We’re not doing social marketing using social networks to market on an ongoing basis – but rather to look at a specific issue,” she said. “Our objective is to engage people the debate around what is an important issue in health care.Published September 24, 2009 · Business In Vancouver · Written by Glen Korstrom