In a slumping economy, Arizona small businesses have a modern trick up their sleeves: social media.
Online web sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Yelp help small businesses in Arizona to market themselves.
Mary Lewis, social media director for Netwirks, an internet marketing company based in Phoenix, said that building an online social media presence consists of two things: building a community and increasing sales.
According to Lewis, many small business owners simply focus on increasing sales, not realizing that building a community on sites like Facebook or Twitter will increase sales much more.
“It’s frustrating,” Lewis said. “People focus on fast results and it can be hard to build community quickly.”
Beyond creating an online community, using social media sites creates loyalty and it “humanizes the brand, which is the real power behind social media,” Lewis said.
Facebook is useful for small, local businesses because it reaches the most age groups and because it is more personal, she said, while Twitter is good for creating traffic to the business’ main website and “creating a buzz.”
Academic research indicates that social media are helpful to small businesses.
An article from the journal Business Horizons says that social media sites allow businesses to have improved communication with their customers.
According to the article, “social media allow firms to engage in timely and direct end-consumer contact at relatively low cost and higher levels of efficiency than can be achieved with more traditional communication tools.”
A Touch of Camo, an online store that offers wedding and prom dresses made with camouflage fabric, has found its place on Facebook.
JoAnne Schnepp, the owner, runs the business from her home in Pinetop-Lakeside, she said.
Schnepp started the camouflage dress business in 2005 and it was an “overnight success,” she said.
Schnepp has sold dresses in every state except Hawaii and internationally as far as Finland, and she attributes much of her success to Facebook, she said.
“I get a lot of business from Facebook,” she said. “It’s the young person’s medium. I’m 67 years old, but it’s quick and easy.”
Schnepp created the Facebook page two years ago, and the page today has more than 2,000 likes, she said.
“It’s been a great niche market,” she said. “I post pictures when we put a new style out and it’s been really popular.”
Besides Facebook, one small business in Arizona utilizes Twitter and Yelp to boost business.
The small business is a re-sale establishment in Tempe called Ivy Boutique, and its two owners, Gemma Wilson and Chris Rockwell, celebrated the boutique’s two-year anniversary on Feb. 17.
The boutique sells high-quality pre-owned items including anything from shoes to jeans to purses, as well as new jewelry pieces from local designers, Wilson said.
Facebook was the boutique’s first step and Wilson and Rockwell started that as soon as they opened up shop, Wilson said.
“We knew that was going to be the way to go,” Wilson said. “Facebook has been really incredible for us and I don’t know if we’d be where we are today without it.”
The boutique posts pictures of items as they receive them, and customers like to call in right away and reserve the item or they stop by the store looking for a particular item from a past Facebook post, Rockwell said.
“We’ve noticed that when we don’t post (on Facebook), it gets slower in the store,” Rockwell said. “It keeps people aware and keeps our store live.”
The store also has a YouTube video on its website, and Rockwell runs the store’s Twitter feed, Wilson said.
The Twitter account is linked to Facebook, so the tweets appear on the store’s Facebook page, and Rockwell tweets about trends and fashion to keep customers informed, Wilson said.
Rockwell and Wilson also use Yelp.com to promote the boutique. Their Yelp page offers customers a $30 credit for $15, and it has brought the boutique new customers and good reviews, Wilson said.
“(Yelp) has been good,” Wilson said. “It works well, so we’re going to continue to do that.”
In Tucson, one small business has pulled out all the stops when it comes to social media.
The business, BEssential, LLC, does web design and brand marketing and uses Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube to market itself.
Heather Brempell, president and marketing director, created the business’ Facebook page in January 2010, she said.
Brempell predicted that Facebook would be a good medium for promoting the company.
“It started out as ‘Oh, this is nice. I can connect with friends and family. Maybe there’s a way I can use this for our business,’” she said. “But now, we’ve seen the results and it’s been great.”
On Facebook, the company posts photos, videos and links to other businesses in order to network, Brempell said.
The business also runs promotions through Facebook to get people more involved, and they have been very successful, Brempell said.
BEssential,LLC also has a Twitter account, a Google+ business page, a YouTube channel and LinkedIn business and personal pages, all of which contribute to its overall networking strategy.
Moving forward, Brempell hopes to expand the YouTube channel with more videos and create a Facebook page where Tucson small business owners can network and interact, she said.
“It’s all about engagement and building new relationships,” she said.