Jumping on the bandwagon

social-media-bandwagon1-250Entrepreneur Franz Madlener was his usual forthright self when asked whether his Smart50 company Villa & Hut use social networking. “What the hell is social networking? Did I fall asleep on the couch while someone came up with a new word for something.”

He has a point. Entrepreneurs have always built communities and interacted with them through events, newsletters, networks and so on. But it was a hard slog and mass reach and influence remained the domain of large companies with dollars to throw at mainstream media.

Social networking has changed all that. About 60% of the Smart50 are using social networking – mainly a mix of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – to benefit the business in the following 10 ways:

1. Crowdsourcing new products

The best idea for new products usually comes from customers. Now companies are using social networking tools to get customer input into the design and functionality of the product or service as the products are developed.

Take Nintex, which creates software to take advantage of developments in Microsoft technologies. Founder Brian Cook says he uses Twitter feeds to connect their technology leaders with partners to let them know about innovations and products developments.

“This provides our partners with comfort of knowing what we are doing at that point in time,” he says. “It has been great for us to also manage the feedback and be flexible to change if someone in Europe is doing some great stuff that may help our development in Australia.”

2. Broadcast news and communicating with customers

Social networking is assisting companies to become mini publishers, broadcasting their latest news to a mass audience. For example IT company, Amblique uses Twitter to make announcements such as new pitches won or projects just completed and Sky Recruitment uses Facebook to broadcast company news and information. “We invite our clients and candidates to become ‘fans’ of us,” says founder Sophie Macdonald.

Matesrates Australia has just begun to utilise social media in their business, says founder Gerry Alieaume. “I have always had a Twitter account but we are now focusing on this to send out shortened versions of a traditional newsletter, with one-off specials offered to our followers. We are also in the process of creating a Facebook page, where we can really interact with our customer base and listen to what they want to receive in terms of products/services from us. We think this is the new newsletter… less talking at our customers and more communicating with them, sharing their experiences with our products and services.”

3. Post jobs and find new employees

A number of companies are using social networking sites to post jobs. Several companies say they are using Twitter to hunt for employees because it is free, attracts less candidates than big job boards and the applicants are more web savvy and understand social networking.

Recruitment companies are also using social networking to find employees for clients with no cost.

Sky Recruitment uses it to post positions that link directly back to customers. Recruiter Marble Group uses social networking to attract top quality candidates “Facebook and LinkedIn have are already starting to have noticeable benefits for the business,” says founder Gary Denton.

Recruiter 2it Consulting uses it to dig deeply into networks to find people for jobs whom are already employed. “As professional recruiters we are spending more and more of our days on social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Hi5 and Twitter as six degrees of separation gets dwindled down to three of possibly just two,” says founder Matthew Meszaros. “To us of course these sites are not a work distraction but more of an essential way of networking to find exceptional candidates who often won’t apply to job advertising.”

4. Promote marketing activities such as special offers

Promoting products and services for PR and marketing purposes is the most popular way the smart companies are using social networks.

Sumo Salad has a Facebook page where fans can receive discounts and be updated with any new offerings. “We are also looking to join Twitter soon,” says founder Luke Bayliss.

Pizza Capers uses Facebook and Twitter to post promotional activities and “develop a dialogue with customers,” says founder Anthony Russo.

Catch Of The Day uses its concept of selling one product a day to market to both Twitter and iPhone communities. Founder Gabby Leibovich says they started on Twitter three months ago and already have 5,000 followers.

“Everyday at midday we announce the daily deals. Our loyal Twitterers then on-forward the deal to their followers witnessing viral marketing at its best,” he says. “We regularly offer prizes to on-forward deals to followers, as well as exclusive Twitter deals or discounts using coupons.”

He also uses an iPhone application which he says was downloaded by 2,000 members in the first two days to further interact with members. “We are using Apple’s new “push notification” feature to push the daily deal everyday at midday, as well as “push” exclusive iPhone deals.”

Sumo Salad has a Facebook page where fans can receive discounts and be updated with any new offerings. “We are also looking to join Twitter soon,” says founder Luke Bayliss.

5. Encourage communication with staff and franchisees

Social networking is a quick and free way to communicate with staff. Revolution IT uses a number of Facebook pages – for the company, and some for the individual offices.

“These are used as a slightly less official way to share photos and arrange networking with staff,” says founder Hamish Leighton.

Entrepreneurs do watch out for the time wasters. “And we still keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t have anything that could be detrimental to our brand,” Leighton says.

IT company OBS has built social networking into its culture. “As we are Australia’s leading Microsoft SharePoint specialists we deploy SharePoint in our own work environment. SharePoint supports an array of information and work flows as well as wikis and blogs,” founder Brian Cook says. “These social media tools are embedded firmly in our business culture and are used by all employees for sharing information, discussing ideas and sharing policies.”

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