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Grow Your Business Social Media

Social Media Helping Small Businesses Find Customers

Finding your customers and making sure they find you just got a little easier. Facebook yesterday introduced a service that allows users to communicate their locations with each other and allows businesses to market to them based on their location.

The feature, called Places, is aimed at helping users of the social network find friends and disclose their own location.

The debut of Facebook’s Places is just another step toward small businesses being able to better harness the power of social media marketing . Small business use of social media has been steadily on the rise, with nearly one-third of small businesses reporting they now use social media to promote themselves, according to a survey released this week by CareerBuilder.  Leisure and hospitality industries are leading charge in the use of social media, with IT and retail companies also using it regularly.

But how, exactly, do small businesses with anemic marketing budgets put social media to work? BusinessNewsDaily reached out to a few savvy social media marketers and asked them share their success stories.

Plus size benefits: Plus size retailer IGIGI by Yuliya Raquel, is using Facebook to streamline its customer service. By responding to customer service inquiries publicly on Facebook, the company, which has dedicated one full time customer service representative to its social media outreach, is able to share information more efficiently. Instead of answering the same question over and over again, IGIGI can answer the question once and all Facebook users will get the information.

Bringing customers home: McMillin Homes, a San Diego, Calif.-based home builder discovered many first time home buyers are also Facebook users. The company posts updates there, advertises new communities and runs polls which encourages interaction between users and the company. McMillin says social media generates interest in its developments. It also uses Linkedin to attract investors.

But be prepared to really work at social media, warned McMillin Homes’ web manager Char-Lou Benedict.

“Marketing by social media can be intense. You can not afford a long decision process nor can you have stale content,” Benedict said.

Trade show promotion: Nielsen-Kellerman, which manufactures water-proof pocket weather meters and navigational instruments, uses social media to build interest in the company before trade shows. At one trade show, the company was able to draw attendees and press to the booth by actively Tweeting throughout the show.

“We got to speak with key press people and develop contacts which will result in product coverage,” said Monica Devlin, marketing coordinator for the Boothwyn, Pa.-based company.

Cooking up conversations: ROASTe, a Boston-based micro-roasted coffee retailer, uses Facebook to create a community of coffee lovers. They use it for news, promotions, contests, and to facilitate ongoing conversations with customers.

“Our Facebook and Twitter fans are also some of our most active customers,” said Scott Lush, co-owner of ROASTe.  “Social Media has given customers another way to communicate with us, and a way for us to interact constantly with them. They are attracted to us because they see that we're obsessed with gourmet coffee.  They see how lively we and our coffee community are,” Lush said.

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.