How Some Small Business Used Social Media: It's Not to Sell


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According to Nielsen (2008), at least 90 percent of consumers don’t trust advetsing.  Instead they believe and trust their friends.  They ask their personal and social media friends for advice when they want to buy something.

Then there’s the 70 percent that turns to social media for information on brands, companies and products. DEI Worldwide (2008) plotted the consumer buying process. Assume that a consumer wants to buy a computer:

  1. Consumer will post a message on your facebook wall or a personal message to all friends in the network asking what brand they are using, how much they paid and how happy they are.
  2. The consumer will then go to a site that figures prices of items from different sources. 
  3. Consumer then searches the prices in different European countries and when the next upgrade is going to be (Filoux 2010).
  4. Once all pieces of information are in, they decide whether they want to buy online or go to the physical store.

Social media turns friends to endorsers. Recommendation from friends becomes the most trusted and most credible piece of advertising.

It also goes a step further. Social media offers a venue where consumers can act on the endorsement through sites that pulls in sites that sell the product being researched with all pertinent information. Today consumers know more about profit margins and service quality than advertisers know about the consumers. 


Free Advertising and Marketing

Burger King’s “Whopper Sacrifice Your Friends” is a facebook application that gives away one free whopper to anyone who will delete 10 of their facebook friends. The campaign was launched in the US but the case is a relevant study. BK said that they wanted to prove that a whopper is more important to their customers than their friends are.  Participants are asked to sacrifice 10 friends. These friends will get the notification on their wall which means it will be visible to their friends.

The campaign purely leveraged on social media. They didn’t release any TV, print or radio commercial. They relied purely on their current customers telling their friends about the campaign. The campaign ran for only 10 days and a total of 232,566 friends were sacrificed. Burger King spent $50,000 for the Facebook Whopper Sacrifice application (Arrington, 2009).

To quantify the success, take the cost of each Whopper which is $2.95. About 82,000 claimed their coupons. Each ordered a drink to go with the whopper and fries – so each customer spent about $7 after getting their free whopper. Those sales returned BK’s investment on the campaign.

However, the real value was in the branding exposure. The app got 32 million clicks.  If this was a Facebook Ad, it would have cost anywhere between $.020 to $.75 per click. Take the average, $0.47.  To have your brand seen 32 million times just like BK did, would cost over $15 million.

Then there is all the branding value received from the myriad of media exposure from the likes of – FOX, CNN, Time, Newsweek, Businessweek, and other TV channels and print media that featured the campaign.  This value is in the tens of millions, and BK got all absolutely Free.

This BK campaign has even been dubbed the future of social media advertising. All it took was creative thinking. It was fun and engaging and that’s all it took to motivate others to engage with the brand.

Relationship Not Advertising

Brands like Zappos started the way all other companies started, small. However, they have made it a point to  use every advertising and marketing channel available. Early on, they decided not to put money on advertising. They decided that they would rather pour in their resources in making their customers happy through their products and service rather than spend money on marketing.

In fact, they have a 365 day warranty. That left them with no other choice but use social media to connect with their consumers. They encourage all their employees to use facebook, twitter and others while at work. They were asked to tweet, even if it doesn't relate to their product, for as long as they tweet.

As a result, consumers are conversing with them as if they are "friends" rathern than a store. They have become the top of mind when it comes to retail shopping. They have become the friend that their consumers trust when it comes to shopping.


There is no lack of case study that proves how SMEs can use social media to establish and grow their business but none of these cases implies it is an easy thing to do. Like any marketing venue, it takes enough knowledge about the market, proper strategy, time to let the strategy roll and, more importantly, a product or service that is relevant and has an edge over its competition.

It is important to note that even with the proven cases, only 48 perc ent of UK SMEs use Social Media to growth their business according to the research conducted by HP early this year with 1000 participants. Another research by IFF Research through the SME Omnibus (2011) revealed that only five per cent fully exploits the potential of social networking sites.  These two surveys prove that the awareness on how Social Media can help SMEs is help but the ability to utilize it is low.

The Managing Director of IFF, Mark Speed, theorize that the clog is a result of SMEs’ lack of time and resources to run an efficient social media campaign. Naturally, these businesses are so focused on their core competencies and day to day operations. In fact, 62 percent of the respondents stated that although they are doing the right thing, they are not doing enough.

It is, however, clear that there is a divide between the businesses that are on social media and those that are not. Social media costs no more than what one pays for in internet connection. On the other hand, it require one thing that not even big companies always have, creativity.


Click here for "How Some Small Business Used Social Media: It's Not to Sell"

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