Building the buzz: launching a business using social media

Originally posted February, 2013.

We enjoyed the topic (and each other) so much that we stayed nearly an hour later than scheduled. I'm still buzzing with ideas. Big Catalina-size thanks to Kade Mislinski from HUB, Mia Schnaible from The Screening Room, Patricia Katchur from Yikes! Toys, and Shanali Davila from Cup Quequitos for their candor and generosity with their time and knowledge.

Here are highlights (at least what I remember).

Kade Mislinski (HUB) told us that the launch campaign for his HUB Restaurant was a necessity, especially early on, because his funding hadn't fully come through. Facebook gave him a way to share their progress that only cost him his time. Once the building renovation began, the Facebook page turned into a chronicle of the building itself and the history they were uncovering. He shared what fascinated him about the process -- and his readership grew. (Today he still relies on Facebook to keep his businesses fresh in the minds of his readers. It allows him to be more selective about here his advertising dollars go.)

This was one of the themes of the discussion, that the best engagement comes from a playful, personal, real-time approach to social media.

Another theme was that what works for one page, or one social media guru, may not work for you. Find your "online voice" through trying different things and watching for what works. Social media is too new and changing too quickly for there to be bullet-proof formulas for what to do.

Shanali uses Facebook to create a sense of place, something necessary because she doesn't have her own storefront. People may not be able to visit her store, but they can visit her Facebook page to see what's up. She loves to post things that will make her readers laugh. She called it "being goofy," but it's more that she shares herself. The element of fun is inseparable from her "voice" online.

Patricia used Facebook to redefine the business after she bought it. She needed a flexible way to send the message that the store merchandise was broadening into pop culture toys for all ages, not just kids. Photography of the shoppers and merchandise in her shop wasn't used merely to sell, it became a creative outlet and showcase for her considerable artistic skills.

Mia uses Facebook and Twitter to play games with her readers. In a twist on geo-caching, she hides objects and rewards the finder. She appreciates that Twitter allows her to interact with filmmakers and actors, something very useful for a theater that shows independently-made films. She demonstrated QR codes and how they fit in with her publicity.

More audience-building ideas

  • Ask for advice and input, especially while your business is in its formative stage
  • Free offer drawings (but as posts, not ads for legal reasons)
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Photos and images so good people share them
  • Post a minimum of 3 times a day, especially while you're building your following.

Other tips:

  • Look around your business or organization for tiny stories, juicy tidbits, and imagery that is appealing.
  • Buy a smartphone and keep it handy for those spontaneous, ephemeral moments.
  • Experiment. Post on a hunch every now and then just to see what happens.
  • The more entertainment-focused your business is, the more playful you can be. Try one-word posts, relevant, pithy questions, play word games.
  • Stick to the core of your business and don't go wildly off topic.
  • Social media isn't the place for negativity, whining or complaints.
  • Be human: Shanali shared about the day her cupcakes exploded in the oven!
  • Be generous with your fellow area businesses, even your competitors; what goes around comes around.
  • If you are on topic, don't worry about the "unlikes" because they're just not your audience, your core.
  • Respond to reader complaints promptly. Some of us deleted these once they were resolved and some of is didn't.
  • Think of social media as a chance to deepen the relationships you have with your clientele by sharing "you are here with me" moments.
  • If you are booking performers, look to see what their own social media presence is like.

Written by Lisa Bunker.