Using social networking sites for sales lead generation
When Jim Amos announced the opening of Tasti D-Lite's new store in Nashville last July, he got an unexpected publicity boost. Country music star and Nashville resident Taylor Swift took it upon herself to promote the opening, sending an enthusiastic Twitter message to her 800,000 followers on the social networking service. "We're getting a Tasti D-Lite in Nashville," Swift wrote. "YES!!"
Amos, who became CEO of Tasti D-Lite in 2007 after leading a buyout of the company, was certainly pleased, but high-profile endorsements of his product have become almost the norm. Since its founding in New York City in 1987, Tasti D-Lite, which sells frozen dairy desserts that taste like ice cream but are lower in fat and calories, had grown with the help of plenty of celebrity endorsements and prominent placements in television shows like Sex and the City.
But as Amos looked to expand beyond New York City, where most of Tasti D-Lite's 60 stores are located, he decided to focus on winning endorsements of a more pedestrian kind: those made by regular customers on social networks. "The celebrities helped us with word of mouth before the technology was there," says Amos. "But now with Twitter and Facebook, regular customers are having conversations that can be used to build our brand." Amos imagined thousands of happy customers raving about his company's low-calorie desserts to their online pals.
The strategy makes sense. Both Twitter, with some 60 million monthly users, and Facebook, with more than 350 million, encourage people to spread the word about rock bands, television shows, and companies they love. (Users do this by "following" a person or company on Twitter or becoming a "fan" on Facebook.) The services have helped turn C-list celebrities into hot commodities, insurgent political campaigns into well-funded machines, and struggling companies into hip brands.
But how do you get followers if you are not famous? And how can you persuade people to endorse a seemingly mundane company or product?
It's not easy. "Most people won't spontaneously want to follow your company on Twitter," says Wandia Chiuri, the Senior Director of Development of Twittrafficpro, a company that specializes in helping businesses attract targeted followers on Twitter. "You have to give customers a reason to engage with your brand." For anywhere from a few dollars to thousands of dollars, Chiuri's company will help you build a targetted campaign to reach the most relevant clients and attract new followers to your company's Twitter profile page. Twittrafficpro helps you automate campaigns, target the right clients, and get real-time insight into the most effective a message. You can also efficiently monitor what’s hot, what’s not and what strategies are working best for your goals. Twittrafficpro users can search for an audience by key words and geographic location, view a heat map of relevant topics and preschedule messages to post around the clock so they stay visible even when they are not actively tweeting.
Twittrafficpro's approach worked for the Central Coast Women's Network, an organization comprised of a diverse group of business and entrepreneurial women whose common goal is to share knowledge, expand their network of personal contacts and promote their businesses. In a ploy to increase outreach with social media, the organization decided to open a Twitter account and get 500 followers that month. Within four days, the Central Coast Women's Network had reached its goal. Several new followers went on to make a purchase. "The Twitter program exposed a lot of new members to the network," says Jacky Lopez, the organization's CEO and Founder. At $18.90 a month the basic promotional package is affordable even to small businesses and individuals.
Powell's Books, a bookstore in Portland, Oregon, placed small graphics at the bottom of every page on its website and e-mail newsletters. These little advertisements entreated customers to "Find us on Facebook" and "Follow us on Twitter." For a month, Powell's even used the marquee in front of its store to ask for Facebook fans, which was surprisingly effective, says Megan Zabel, who manages the company's social media efforts.
Zabel says the fans' and followers' online purchases have more than offset the cost of the campaign. In addition, having a large fan base creates the impression of a vibrant community that she thinks will help Powell's in the long run. "The more fans we have, the more people are proselytizing our brand," she says. "Word of mouth is one of the most powerful selling tools."
Tasti D-Lite's social networking strategy represents a new twist on the approach taken by Powell's. Rather than simply asking for followers, in January, the company began a Tasti D-Lite's loyalty program. Frequent shoppers get a point for every dollar they spend and an extra point if they post a message about their purchase on Twitter. Fifty points gets a customer a free medium cone or cup.
Creating the world's first tweeting cash register didn't come cheap -- Tasti D-Lite spent more than $10,000 to modify its point-of-sale system -- but Amos expects the program to pay for itself as more customers sign up for it. "It's going to be very profitable," he says. "Word-of-mouth marketing has always been extremely important to this company, but Twitter has the capacity to increase word-of-mouth discussions exponentially. It's like the difference between snail mail and e-mail."
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