Never one to be considered tech savy or even remotely interested in computermaphones, iPads or much of e-anythings, I had comfortably accepted the role of luddite among friends.
That is, until I entered into the fast paced, high-stakes world of popcorn. If you’re contemplating a new business of any kind, you better make nice with social media now. There is no business so small that it won’t benefit tremendously from social media. In fact it’s practically a requirement. Don’t resist. I resisted for a long time, thinking that the aroma of fresh popcorn and my sparkling personality would draw people into my shop, Popped! Social media has become so hugely popular that in order to even draw in the walk up business I have to dive headfirst into all manner of online social outlets.
Here’s a list of just some the sites and services I’m planning on using to promote Popped!
- First of all you have to get a Facebook page. I started my personal Facebook page when I launched a kickstarter campaign to help fund the purchase of a popcorn popper. It was weird for me at first, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything to say, but then I realized that no one else is saying anything all that important either. I started a facebook page for the shop, but only after I erroneously sent all my friends to the wrong fan page for something totally unrelated to my shop, but also called “Popped” — oops. The other popped now has a couple hundred friends while my Popped! page has 28. I make updates on my personal page about the shop, and I also update the shop’s progress on the Popped! page. I'll link to this blog post on both Facebook pages, and I'll also "like" my Kickstarter update that links to this Kent Patch blog post.
- Speaking of Kent Patch, blogging about your business is a great idea. You can blog on Kent Patch or go to a site like WordPress and start your own blog to share your thoughts. Both sites make it really easy to get your blog up and running. The interface is a series of fields that you fill in, and there are a host of tools for adding photos, video and links. Kent Patch and Wordpress (there are others out there, but I’ve only used these two) allow you to tag your posts with words or phrases so that internet users can find your content through searches. Search engine rankings for web sites are based on complicated algorithms that favor links to other credible websites, key word tags and heavily weigh content by titles and subtitle key words — that’s why I shamelessly mention popcorn, craft soda, caramel popcorn, etc. in the titles and subtitles of my blog posts.
- Google recently launched google+, (google plus) as a competitor to Facebook, and it pretty much operates the same way. You have friends just like on Facebook, but you have the ability to put the friends in “circles” so that you can control who sees what content. So my 10-year-old son can see all my posts to his grandmother about Thanksgiving dinner but not the posts from my high school best friend about last Saturday night. Facebook has been trying to play catch-up by making changes to the way users can organize their friends and manage privacy. Both sites allow people to track you down and “friend” you, and you can go out and seek people to “friend.” I still consider asking people to be my friend to be about as much fun as a seventh grade popularity contest.
- FourSquare is new to me. It took me a while to figure out why anyone would care if I was at Off the Wagon, Bent Tree or Arctic Squirrel, but now it’s starting to make sense. FourSquare allows you to tag where you are by “checking in” to a place. In exchange for checking in, you can get coupons, FourSqaure points towards "badges," or just the satisfaction of telling the universe your whereabouts. Checking in at Water Street Tavern gets you half off a sandwich at Cajun Dave's. Like Facebook and google+, you make friends and they can see where you are, where you’ve checked in, and whether you’re the “mayor” of a place. Being mayor means you check in to a certain place more often than anyone else. If your phone has GPS capabilities you can see in real time where your friends are checked in, and I suppose go say hello or talk about that incredible Kent Patch blog post you saw on Facebook and Google+ which you plan on tweeting about.
- Twitter is another biggie on the social media scene. It’s like text messaging but you can send messages to an unlimited number of people who have chosen to follow you and receive your messages. In my case, (once I’m open) I’ll text about the specialty popcorn flavor of the day, or I’ll liven up a slow day with a tweet that offers a special promotion or deal. I’ve signed Popped! up for a twitter account, but I don’t have any followers yet because I haven’t thought of anything to say.
- Google Places is probably the best way to get the word out about your business now that more and more people rely on the internet rather than the phone book. Google Places puts your business on google maps so people can find you. They can also rate and review your business and share it with others. If you search for popcorn shops on google maps, a list of shops will appear in order of closest proximity, then you can get directions and walk right in. (This is where my sparkling personality will finally come in to play.)
- Yelp is another site where you can register your business so that customers can find you. Users can share their experience through ratings and reviews. Reading Yelp reviews can be fascinating, informative, hilarious and every once in a while, disturbing.
These are just some of the sites and services I have either already started to use or plan to use once I’m open. There are many more, and keeping up with them is no small task. The time consumed by social media surprised me, as does the strange low-level anxiety that comes from throwing yourself and your business out there for the world to see, rate, review and tweet about.
The rewards for the effort are tremendous, however. Never before has marketing your own small business been so affordable (all these sites are FREE!) and accessible to the small business person. While I’ll never be accused of being an early adopter or trendsetter, I have already benefitted from investing my time in social media.