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5 Surprising Social Media Business Success Stories
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Rick Burnes leads the content production team at HubSpot, a marketing software firm that produces the Inbound Marketing Blog and Inbound Marketing University.
Chances are, most of the businesses you interact with as a consumer are on social media. Your local restaurant is blogging, your grocery store is on Twitter — even your favorite candy is on Facebook. Companies in mainstream, consumer-facing industries are all over social media.
But how about other businesses? Manufacturers? B2B service providers? Equine dentists? Are they experimenting with social media?
You bet. Here are five examples, all at different stages of their experiments, and all indicating the breadth of business use of social media.
1. Equine Dentist Builds Relationships With Facebook
How do you turn a regional service business into an international destination for industry thought leadership?
At least that’s what worked for Geoff Tucker, an equine dentist based in Palm City, FL.
In a business driven by relationships, Geoff says that Facebook allows him to build new ones. “People do business with people who they’re friends with. Period,” he says. “And Facebook is a great way to get to know people. It allows people to see that I’m a person.”
As he builds these relationships using social media, Geoff is also expanding his company’s reach. He says it was his blog, his Twitter feed, and his Facebook account that helped him win appearances on Horse Talk Radio and HorseGirl.tv.
So what’s this done for his business? Geoff says that over the last year, Facebook alone has generated about 100 leads and 10-to-15 customers.
2. Steel Building Manufacturer Taps New Verticals
As a manufacturer of prefabricated steel buildings, SteelMaster was initially hesitant to get involved in social media.
“It’s steel buildings,” explains Michelle Wickum, director of marketing for the Norfolk, VA company. “How is that going to tie to Facebook? It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but when we looked at the growth in Facebook and social media, we felt we had to get our arms around it.”
About a year ago, SteelMaster put its first toe into the social media water. The company discovered two important applications for their business. First, they found that Facebook is an excellent way to post pictures of customers’ steel buildings. Not only do the pictures engage existing customers — they also demonstrate to prospective customers the range of uses for SteelMaster buildings. “Photography for us is the hook,” Michelle explains.
Perhaps more importantly, SteelMaster found that social networks like Twitter and Facebook gives it exposure to and create demand in specific verticals where it previously had little traction. Chicken farmers and woodworkers don’t typically think to use steel buildings, but when friends and colleagues share pictures of their SteelMaster buildings on Twitter and Facebook, the farmers and woodworkers become interested.
3. Full Social Media Integration for Marketing Paint
Idea Paint is a Boston-area startup that sells paint that turns surfaces into dry-erase boards. The company uses social media throughout its sales and marketing process.
The company blog, where employees publish videos, images and stories of product installations, is the hub of Idea Paint’s social media activity. The company uses Twitter and Facebook to share content published on the blog — then to listen to, respond to, and interact with the community that content engages.
Marcus Wilson, Idea Paint’s head of marketing, says this system gives the company a level of customer intimacy and global reach and that was unheard of 10 years ago.
What’s this mean in terms of business results? Social media is now one of Idea Paint’s largest sources of leads and traffic — and it is growing steadily. Meanwhile, the company’s Twitter and Facebook reach grew 70% in Q1 2010, and is expected to grow an order of magnitude in Q2.
Idea Paint produced this video on their social media strategy, exclusively for Mashable readers:
4. Integrating Twitter Into the Paper Selling Process
One year ago, the marketing team at Neenah Paper, a manufacturer of high-quality paper products, confronted a growing problem: It was becoming harder and harder to reach new potential customers. Their traditional channels — phone conversations and in-person meetings — were not working as well. Prospects were tuning them out.
Jamie Saunders, Neenah’s marketing communications manager, noted that most of the company’s potential customers — designers, graphic artists and printers — were spending their time in front of their computers, and that social media could be a way to better engage them.
So Neenah took a step into the social media world. While the experiment started with Neenah’s marketing team, its sales team was one of the biggest beneficiaries. They discovered they could do prospecting and nurturing via Twitter. Today the company has 10 sales representatives across the country using their personal Twitter accounts on behalf of Neenah to close new business.
Jamie says these sales reps are finding that social media is simply a more effective way of engaging with their prospects. “It’s an invitation to have a conversation. You’re getting permission to have a conversation — a conversation that used to happen in person.”
5. Leading the Online Aviation Maintenance Discussion
In November 2008, a handful of auto executives flew their private planes to Washington, DC to testify before Congress in support of federal aid for their industry. This perception of corporate excess created an outcry, and the private aviation industry’s image was damaged.
At that time, aircraft maintenance and support company Duncan Aviation had just started using social media. The company discovered that the new medium could be a way to positively shape the conversation — to add its perspective and improve the industry’s damaged reputation.
Beth Humble, now Duncan’s social media lead, explains that while social media is an important part of Duncan’s strategy, the company doesn’t aspire to create a Comcast- or Coke-like presence on the social web. Instead, the goal is simply to influence the right people.
“There are a lot of industry people that we network with that are on Twitter: Journalists, other aviation bloggers, and industry and media outlets,” Beth explains. “If you connect with the right few people, you can really get in there and connect with thousands of people.”
More business resources from Mashable:
– HOW TO: Market Your Small Business With No Budget
– 13 Essential Tips for Landing a Job on LinkedIn
– How Venture Capitalists are Using Social Media for Real Results
– Why Co-Working Makes Sense for Small Businesses
– What Facebook’s Open Graph Means for Your Business
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, FANDER09
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