Social Media 101: Businesses using Facebook, Twitter to build customer base

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There once was a time in the not too distant past where “liking” someone involved elementary school romance, love notes and heart-shaped boxes full of assorted chocolates.

During that same period in history, a “tweet” was nothing more than a mere whimper made by a cute, innocent yellow bird sitting idly in the neighborhood oak tree.

What a difference a few years can make!

Now, a “like” and a “tweet” take on completely different meanings – they are common forms of business promotion.

In today’s social media-driven world, businesses are turning to Facebook and Twitter to boost their customer base and to increase the personal interactions they have with clients.

Locals who have tapped into the technological revolution boast that the results speak for themselves – it’s a great way to grow a business.

“Facebook marketing has been pretty much about 90 percent of our sales,” said Nick Hebert with Down the Bayou Studio & Clothing Company. “There’s no better advertisement than having a happy customer post pictures of themselves enjoying your product. Facebook gives us that.”

“You are really seeing a lot of local businesses shifting their marketing onto social media,” Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Drake Pothier said. “We’ve done a lot of seminars on that change in the past year, because it’s really beginning to take hold.”

The truth is that Facebook, Twitter and all other social networks are complicated to certain segments of the population that are not technologically savvy.

No worries – the way this works is simple and very user friendly, even to a computer novice.

Most businesses start by making what is called a Facebook fan page.

A fan page is almost identical to that of a regular personal page, but instead of collecting friends, a fan page collects “likes.”

Once a customer likes a business’ page, they will able to view status updates sent out by that business.

To make a long story short, that means a liked business can then send product information directly onto potential customer’s newsfeeds free of charge.

Club manager Scotty Boura with L’Esprit Lounge in Galliano said L’Esprit joined the social media world “a year and a half ago.”

He said they did so because of how widely popular the networking website had become.

Boura said the club now has more than 400 likes on its fan page. He added that he primarily uses L’Esprit’s page to promote upcoming bands and also drink specials.

“Everyone is on Facebook,” Boura said. “Once word got around that we had a Facebook page, our customers found us and it is helpful because we can advertise what we have going on for the evening or future special events.”

A few miles down the road in Golden Meadow, Down the Bayou Design Studio co-owner Damien St. Pierre agreed with Boura and said his store uses the tool for promotional purposes.

The t-shirt shop just opened in recent weeks and does not yet have a storefront display.

But they have turned sales by creating an online library of their designs where customers can place orders by simply placing a comment containing the shirt and size they want onto the business page’s Facebook wall.

“Our storefront is still under construction, so our Facebook page serves as our store right now,” St. Pierre said. “We are building a website as well, but setting up a Facebook page is much easier than building a website.”

Boura and St. Pierre’s stories are just two of what have become both a local and national trend within the business world.

Lafourche Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lin Kiger said My Angel Baby, a gift shop in Cut Off, is also promoting heavily through social media.

Kiger also lauded the online efforts of Kief Hardware in Cut Off.

A quick look at the Facebook pages of both businesses show a slew of promotional pictures and sale notices listed up and down the site.

In Terrebonne, the same can be said of ServiceMaster and EyeCandy Cakes, who both use the medium to its promotional advantage, according to Pothier.

But in addition to product promotion, business owners say the personalized customer feedback that exists within the social media landscape is priceless.

For St. Pierre and Hebert, they can post a t-shirt design and receive instant critiques from their followers about whether the shirt is a winner.

Having that ability allows the store to save costs – if a shirt doesn’t see love in the digital library, then money doesn’t need to be spent to print it.

“I feel very connected with our customers,” Hebert said. “I get a ton of feedback on my designs. The comment section on each design is a treasure trove of ideas. People I don’t even know leave comments that trigger ideas, which lead to other designs.”

At L’Esprit, Boura said that his followers let him know when they enjoyed their night out at the club. That allows him to know which bands to book for repeat trips and also what promotions work best on given nights of the week.

“I notice customers come in and inform me that they liked my post for the day, which lets me know that they are keeping up with us,” he said.

Away from the sales aspect, social media is also proving to be a source of business information.

Pothier said that the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce uses both Facebook and Twitter to distribute information about upcoming events throughout the area.

The ability to reach such a widespread audience free of charge is a pleasant change, according to the president and CEO.

“We’re not relying heavily on that to get information out there, but we’re just using it as a supplement to what we were already doing,” he said. “And it’s been very, very useful to us so far.”

So whether it’s used to hammer down a sale, promote a local Happy Hour, or to just distribute news, Facebook and Twitter are firmly embedded into our lives.

Local businesses that stay ahead of the game say they are reaping the rewards of the massive free audience that is ripe for the picking.

A “like” and a “tweet” just aren’t what they used to be anymore.

A t-shirt from Down the Bayou Design Studio & Clothing Company’s Facebook page shows user feedback. Business owners tout social media as a useful tool in business promotion.