Yesterday (February 14th) marked the nine-month anniversary of my leaving Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. In this time I have slowly transformed from an employee of a large, multi-national corporation to a self-employed entrepreneur. In so doing I have changed my mindset from that of a community member and manager, responsible for greasing the skids of social interaction amongst workers with similar goals, to that of a marketer, responsible for understanding how social creates a different kind of community amongst people with a symbiotic, but not so insular connection.
I can’t remember where I read it, but I try to always keep in mind what someone said about marketing, which I can directly apply to my work – You can learn marketing, but you can’t be taught what is learned in over forty years of experience. So I’m busily studying marketing and, especially, how to utilize social media to provide a new level of engagement never before possible between a business and its customers.
In making this change I have joined the local Chamber of Commerce and a business network. I have also, since I am old and experienced enough, volunteered my services to my local SCORE chapter. My knowledge of social media was in great demand and I ended up helping a few people out even before I was officially a member.
As a result of my Chamber membership, I decided to do a little study of the restaurants in the Chamber and their use of four avenues often used for marketing and public relations, e.g. Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook, and Twitter. I looked at each channel a bit differently. For instance, for both Yelp and Foursquare I was most interested not in whether or not the business was listed or had either tips or reviews of it, but whether or not the businesses in question had claimed their venue so they would have some level of engagement available to them. What I discovered was surprising.
Despite the fact these services are all free to use (I’m not factoring in the expense in time necessary to wring the most out of using them), usage of all is abysmally low. The numbers are as follows:
- Foursquare – 11% have claimed their venue (most all have been entered into the db)
- Yelp – 26% have claimed their venue (most all exist in the db)
- Facebook – 26% have business pages (many venues had close to 100 check-ins via Places)
- Twitter – 26% have Twitter accounts (very few know how to use it, IMO)
I haven’t looked at all the other restaurants in the area. Nor have I considered bars, pubs, retail establishments that could benefit from the use of these four services (as well as other methods of marketing considered social, e.g. blogs), or professional services that could do the same. This does indicate to me a huge market for my services, although my experience tells me it will be a bit tough to crack, as these kinds of business owners are notoriously frugal and suspicious.
Nevertheless, I think the clear direction is for greater and greater use of social media to market small business and, especially, to engage with customers in a transformation of how business relates to, and learns from, them. I think there’s a place for me and others like me to provide them with a bit of knowledge, some organizational help, and strategic direction.
One thing’s for certain. I am really enjoying connecting with my business roots, as I was in small business for over two decades before joining Rocketdyne prior to my 40th birthday – much of it actually in the food business. As I gain experience and knowledge in my new field, I hope to share it here on my blog. Stay tuned!
March 18th, 2013 at 5:36 pm
We are a bunch of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme
in our community. Your web site provided us with helpful
info to work on. You have performed a formidable activity and our whole group will likely
be thankful to you.
March 18th, 2013 at 6:28 pm
Thank you. Frankly, I clicked on your profile link and got to an incomplete page that I believe is an ad for a hosting service. I’m not sure your comment is genuine, but it doesn’t contain any other links, so I’m going to assume someone genuine is behind it and you’re not just link fishing. If I help even one business or organization to improve how they operate, I am happy. Assuming you are a real person (and you’re being sincere), I appreciate you taking the time to let me know and wish you the best of luck.
October 5th, 2011 at 1:09 pm
[…] has been a number of fairly well-directed posts on various issues involving small business and social media marketing. However, I am only beginning to become accomplished at marketing, in general, and frequently feel […]
February 28th, 2011 at 12:28 pm
I really appreciate the fact in your article that you are honest about needing to change your mindset about how you need to approach social marketing. There is so much truth in the fact that with the changing times, we must also change our mindset about how we do business. With over 500 million active users, Facebook can be a very resourceful interactive marketing tool companies who are trying to generate and maintain their relationships with customers. Other sites, as you mentioned, such as Twitter, Yelp, and FourSquare are also great resources.
Frugal or not, these businesses in your area could greatly benefit from some type of marketing service that can help engage them with their untapped marketing. I believe that this would bring them very surprising results that they would have not seen with traditional forms of marketing and advertising.
Thanks for the great post and good luck with your future business endeavors.
February 28th, 2011 at 3:32 pm
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I just read an interesting blog where the question was asked whether or not Facebook could become the primary website for a restaurant. Most commenters thought it was a crazy idea. I’m not sure I do; mixed feelings and thoughts.
Nevertheless, I’m of the opinion a small business with very limited budget should make sure they take advantage of everything given them for free, as long as it isn’t too time-consuming. I don’t think Facebook, Yelp, and Foursquare at all that time-consuming – considering the value to be had through their use.
I think we’re on the same page, eh? Thank you for your kind words and wishes.
PS – Are you in Dallas, Austin, or Oklahoma City? I’m thinking Austin.
February 16th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
I totally agree that there’s a huge untapped market in the SMB space – and at GoodEatsFor.Me we’re focused on helping out the hospitality industry.
You’re also on point as to the ‘mental models’ of restaurant owners and especially their perceptions about Yelp – however it used to be that Yelp was the only game in town and in my experience there is a little more openness developing around other platforms, communities and channels. It is SLOWLY happening, but it is happening nonetheless.
There are some early success stories though. Press surrounding hospitality establishments like AJ Bombers and NakedPizza act as proof points for restaurant owners – but they still need help and have limited budgets. So the big question that we’re always asking ourselves is – “how do we scale our efforts to adjust for low compensation.” The need for advice and service across social is there for SMBs. We’re still working through it all, but believe that if you can help these SMBs generate revenue and connect online activity to offline movement, then you can make it a little more worth your while.
Best of luck in the adventure. Looking forward to your journey.
February 16th, 2011 at 3:50 pm
Thanks so much for the feedback, Ajit. I went to your site and signed up for the beta, but realized afterward you probably don’t want me in it as I don’t have a location to speak of, nor am I actually in the hospitality business. However, I am very interested in what you’re doing and how it’s working for you and your users/customers.
I am hopeful I can find a way to provide value to many of the businesses in my area (SoCal) and make it profitable enough to keep me going. I’m always asking myself the same “big question” you’re asking. When (if?) I find an answer, I will gladly share it.
February 15th, 2011 at 1:10 pm
I had one restaurant offer me gift certificates if I would help them. You could advertise as “will work for food”. 😉
February 15th, 2011 at 1:51 pm
I would consider doing that very thing, Mark, but only up to a point, eh? I am probably going to offer to help everyone in the Chamber – who wants to – create a Facebook page, free of charge. I had lunch yesterday with the President and a couple members of our local SCORE chapter (which I am now a member of) and he suggested he would introduce me to the leader of one of the local cities’ downtown merchant’s association. He said they’re hurting and thought they could use my help.
I’m convinced there’s a living to be made in offering social media services to small businesses, and I’m giving myself at least until the end of this year to see if I can start bringing in some income from it. I will continue to report on my progress. I will say one thing I’m remembering about restaurant owners. They tend to take their businesses a bit more personally than others I’ve encountered. I’ve had a couple of them tell me they don’t read Yelp anymore because it upsets their stomach! I’ve tried to point out that ignoring what people are saying about your business is not exactly the best strategy, but they don’t seem too interested in seeing it that way. Thanks for the comment. It’s always nice to know someone’s reading my posts.