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More Lessons From The Pizza Parlor: The Power of Social Media

Integrating social media into your e marketing strategy is imperative

The following article appeared in the May 2009 issue of St. Louis Small Business Monthly

By Tom Ruwitch

Last month, I wrote about Domino’s and how it cornered the pizza delivery business with its outstanding unique selling proposition (if you missed it, you can find the column by searching for “pizza” on www.sbmon.com.) Here are more lessons from the pizza parlor, but in this case we’re learning from the Domino’s mistakes.

Domino’s was in the news a few weeks ago. If you believe the PR mantra “all news is good news,” you didn’t see the YouTube video in which a Domino’s employee stuck cheese up his nose, and then put the cheese on sandwiches that he was preparing for delivery.

The video found its way to YouTube (exactly how is unclear) and more than 1 million people viewed it. Discussions about it filled the blogosphere, Twitter, and other social media. If you searched on google for “Domino’s” a day or two after the video appeared, you wouldn’t have missed it. Five of the top 12 search results had references and links to the video.

According to various media reports, Domino’s executives learned about the video on Monday, April 13. On Tuesday, Dominos chose not to respond aggressively, hoping the frenzy would end quietly.

Domino’s first mistake: Hiring morons who do such things. (the employees later claimed it was a hoax, which isn’t the point, of course). But this isn’t an HR column, so I’ll let that issue rest.

Domino’s second (and BIG) mistake: underestimating the frenzy and assuming it would end quietly.

“What we missed was the perpetual mushroom effect of viral sensations,” Domino’s spokesman Tim McIntyre told the New York Times.

Whether we call it “viral sensations,” Web 2.0, social media, or something else, it’s real.

Of course, the frenzy didn’t end quietly. Domino’s acted on Wednesday, April 15, posting its own video on YouTube and creating a Twitter account. After waiting for two days while the others controlled the conversation, Domino’s joined the crowd. Time will tell how much damage Domino’s suffered.

The lesson: Never underestimate the power of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other social media sites where your customers can create content, and it can spread like a wildfire.

Sure, you’re a small business, not a global pizza delivery chain. But the principle still applies. Ignore social media at your own peril.

Some Praise for the Pizza Place

In Domino’s defense, the company has used Twitter effectively since hopping aboard last month. For those new to social media, Twitter is a free micro-blogging service whose users post and read short messages (up to 140 characters) known as tweets.

Twitter automatically creates a profile page for each user that displays all of that user’s tweets. Domino’s profile page is twitter.com/dpzinfo. If you visit that page, you’ll see hundreds of tweets, displayed in reverse chronological order.

Most of Domino’s tweets begin with the “@” symbol. In Twitter-ease that means Domino’s has replied to another Twitter user.

Here’s an example, on my Twitter page (twitter.com/marketvolt), I could post a message that says, “I think Domino’s has great pizza.” Domino’s might read that post and tweet the following: “@marketvolt, I’m glad you like our pizza; which toppings do you like best?” That tweet would appear on Domino’s profile page, and I would get a copy.

You might wonder how Domino’s corporate tweeter would stumble upon my little post about pizza. It’s simple: Twitter has a search engine that allows you to search the entire collection of tweets (all posts ever) for any keyword. It’s clear that Domino’s searches consistently (in fact, there are tools that automate this) for any tweets that contain “Domino’s”, and that it replies directly to the user.

After losing control of the conversation about the YouTube video, the company now actively participates in Twitter conversations. Domino’s learned its lesson.

Social Media and Your Business

So what does this mean for you? Should you use Twitter and other social media, and if so, how? Remember, I said you ignore social media at your own peril. You don’t have to employ a full-fledged social media strategy immediately, but you should learn how it works, how your competitors are using it, and how you might use it.

For this column, I’ll focus on Twitter. I’ll discuss Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media in a future column. Here are some suggestions:

Set up a Twitter account and explore. Go to www.twitter.com and set up an account. It’s easy and it’s free.

Find people to follow. When you follow another user, that user’s posts will automatically appear on your Twitter homepage when you log in. Your home page will have all the posts from everyone you follow, listed in reverse chronological order. There are several ways to find people to follow.

Click the “find people” link at the top of the page and follow instructions to find suggested users or people you know. Another option: Go to search.twitter.com and enter a term related to your business (or perhaps a hobby). Read the posts that appear. When you find one that’s interesting or pertinent, click on the name of the user who posted it. That will take you to that user’s profile page. Read more of the user’s posts. If you like them, you can follow that user by clicking a button on that user’s page.

As you find people to follow, go to their profile pages and click (on the right side of the page) to see the lists of people they follow and others who follow them. You may find others in those list worth following.

Observe how businesses use Twitter. Follow various businesses. Especially ones in your field. Watch how they’re using Twitter. Are they entertaining? Do they have calls to action that seem to serve clear business goals (such as list building, public relations, or selling products online)? Don’t assume that you should emulate them all, but make note of those who entertain you, leave you wanting more, and seem to tie their tweets to real business goals.

Give tweeting a try. Post a few tweets. It’s easier than you think. If you find an article that you like, tweet about it (with a link to the article). If you have a suggestion or a tip about your hobby or industry, post it. Favorite quotes? Bring ‘em on. Get in the habit of tweeting regularly without worrying much about why. Then…

Think about how your tweets might serve your business goals. On my Twitter account (twitter.com/marketvolt), I offer interactive marketing tips, observations about industry events and trends, and links to other posts and articles that my followers might find helpful. My goal is to strengthen my company’s reputation as a leading resource for interactive marketing solutions and tools. Occasionally, I’ll link to pages on my web site, where visitors download tips. This serves the same goal, plus people who visit that page can sign up for my email list. That helps me achieve my goal to identify, acquire and convert new leads.

The bottom line: Begin by familiarizing yourself with Twitter and having some fun. As you continue with Twitter, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” If your answer is not in line with specific business goals, you probably can find better ways to kill time.

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