Should you pay for traditional advertisements? Maybe you want to stick solely to social media? How do you get people to pay attention to your business? All small businesses have growing pains and an endless desire for advice. In an effort to help you out, we’re launching a series of interviews with small businesses that have experienced success using social media. These will all be great examples of strategies, tactics, and ideas for ways to grow your business and attract an online following.
Today I had the pleasure of chatting with Maria Baugh, one of the co-founders of Butter Lane Cupcakes (which has a healthy cult following in these parts).
When did your business open and how soon after did you start using social media?
We opened in the end of November in 2008. The first thing I did was get us up on Google Places, which isn’t technically social media. Yelp was an organic process as people found us. The next thing was to get our Facebook Page and to get up and running on Foursquare, both which were in December and January respectively.
Were there any growing pains with social media? Anything you wish someone would have told you about before you got started?
I think we’re still learning and it feels early for us. I still have questions! Things like, we’re following more people on Twitter than are following us back. Or should we follow back everyone who follows us? I guess the one thing I wish we didn’t do early on was that we spent a little money very early on advertising on Facebook. It was really just a few dollars, but I might have taken that money back. I didn’t realize how well just having a Facebook Page would do, especially at the beginning when every dollar meant so much to us.
How long do you spend on social media in a given week?
Depending on the week and what’s going on, it’s anywhere from 10-20 hours per week. We do set things to publish in the future, either on Postling or Tumblr, to take some of the weight off.
How do you keep track of how your customers respond to your business on different social media channels?
Thanks to the Postling Daily Digest email I get a snapshot view every single day of people who are talking about our business. Every Monday I get a roundup from Facebook for our page and it’s interesting to try and figure out what’s going on. We do have a lot of activity there, which partly may be because the volume is larger there.
What do you generally post on Facebook versus Twitter. What are the responses on both?
At first, before there was a way to organize everything, we were obviously putting different content on Twitter and Facebook. We’d drive Twitter followers to Facebook and have a link, also hoping that if they weren’t fans on Facebook then this would get them to do that. Now because it’s easier to post the same message across both platforms it’s made that sort of obsolete.
We definitely push Facebook the most. We put the Facebook icon on every page of our website, we often drive people to the Facebook Page with a tweet, and we put up a small netbook in the shop (which is now an iPad) to give away a free shot of icing to anyone who likes us on Facebook. We’ve seen traffic jump like crazy from that.
How do you guys deal with Yelp?
We’ve made product changes based on comments from Yelp, staffing changes (which was only a singular and extremely rare case). We point out the good and bad reviews on Yelp. We post the A++ reviews on the board in the shop, and we in particular love the ones that mention the staff as well as the cupcakes. Typically we don’t respond unless it’s a 1-star rating. As of right now we respond privately. This may change in the future though, because there is definitely value in people seeing that we respond. But the times we have replied privately it’s been very well received.
Tell us a little bit about Foursquare and how it’s affected your business.
We started off with mayors (the individual who checks-in the most) getting a free cupcake. Then we wanted to broaden it and include more people, so we expanded it so the first 20 people who check-in every day get a free cupcake. For us it’s easy because we’re not giving away anything expensive. Our cost-product is pretty low and we have some flexibility with what we do with it. This is us spending on social media, on “advertising”.
Our Foursquare special is so worth it because it’s such a different kind of medium, because people are so engaged, and it’s something that is automatic rather than a passive advertisement. It’s an active back-and-forth that is so worth our dollars and our cupcakes to participate in. Chances are Foursquare users also on Twitter, Facebook, and so on. Those are the people we want to reach, we want to reach the type of person who is really engaged and going to tell their friends about it.
Do you have any advice for the small business community, specifically, for businesses that are just getting started with social media?
I think, first of all, take advantage of every single thing you can. It can all be free unless you’re giving away stuff through Foursquare, which again is minimal costs and is so valuable and cost effective to you than buying traditional advertising. It seems like a given for the small business. Don’t be afraid to be real with it, let stuff out there because people respond to your business. They don’t want to be constantly marketed to, they want to be engaged with and want it to be genuine. We’re both real people, and this is what’s actually going on. There’s a lot of value to that and you’ll get people to stay connected to your brand.
Do you have a business you’d love to see featured here? Topics you want to see us write about? Send us a note, we’d love to hear from you!