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Social media marketing has become a critical element of any modern business plan. But while there’s much discussion of social media and its effectiveness for outreach and connecting with potential clients, most of those conversations relate to big business and how major corporations have utilized social to best effect. SMEs are given less focus – which is kind of backwards, really, as SMEs form the majority of the business world and are the ones who are most likely to benefit from having social platforms available to build their brand and connect with audiences.
So which SMEs are killing it in social media marketing? And more importantly, how are they doing it.
Here are a few examples:
Kelly Lester was looking for a way to make interesting, healthy lunches for her three daughters. In her efforts, she came across Japanese bento style boxes – bento is a single-portion packed meal that’s arranged into compartments in a little box. Lester used this system as the inspiration for her business, Easy Lunchboxes, which makes compartmentalised plastic containers that gave parents more options with the food they can give their kids for school.
Lester’s lunchboxes have become a big business – her container sets are the best-selling lunchboxes on Amazon.com – and yet, most of her success came without spending any money on advertising.
To get the word out, Lester sent samples of her lunchboxes to influential bloggers for reviews and giveaways, generating a heap of posts and links to her site, with dozens of photographs on social media networks. This lead to Lester spending more time utilizing social channels – especially Pinterest – and seeking out influential communities and users to help expand her brand message.
Conducting most of the social media work herself, Lester now has a Pinterest following of more than 77k users, as well as close to 200k Page likes on Facebook. Using her own initiative, and researching where her audience was interacting, and how to reach them, Lester’s been able to use social media to maximum effect.
Founded in 2012, Serengetee’s aim is to “create a new kind of clothing brand with a simple mission: to connect people to the globe through fabric while giving back to the communities that inspire our products”. The company was formed as the result of three college friends taking part in a ‘Semester at Sea’ study program in which they visited 15 countries. Along the way, the trio formulated a plan to help bring awareness to causes and benefits for local artisans within these regions, by using fabrics sourced from the local areas to create colourful pockets on t-shirts. Through this, a portion of all of Serengetee’s profits would then be donated back to local causes.
Given their mission would connect them with various regions across the world, social media was a logical connective tool, and this then formed the basis for their marketing and outreach efforts. Through the use of a makeshift ambassador program (they recruited all the other students who joined them on their ‘Semester at Sea’ voyage) and by tuning into the social conversation and using their own branded hashtag (#WearTheWorld), Serengetee went from one Facebook fan to 20,000 in their first year. They now have more than 385k Facebook Page likes, 47k followers on Instagram and more than 27k on Twitter. And it’s not just followers they’ve gained – since its launch, Serengetee has donated over $60,000 to 32 causes in 28 countries, and massive result.
Let’s face it – the internet loves cats. Exemplifying this, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, ‘London’s first cat cafe’ gives city-dwellers an opportunity to spend some time with feline acquaintances in a quiet, peaceful environment, in 90 minute paid sessions. And it’s regularly booked out – a quick look at their booking calendar highlights the crazy popularity of the Emporium.
Social media has played a key role in Lady Dinah’s success. For example, there are currently 10 cats in residence at the Emporium – each cat has its own Twitter handle. The ‘cats’ mainly tweet images of themselves, but the content here is not as important as the concept – the idea of giving each of the purrers their own Twitter account has generated a heap of attention for the business. The Emporium currently has close to 11k followers on Instagram, more than 55k Pages likes on Facebook, and 19k on Twitter. Oh, and also more than 207k followers on Pinterest – a huge amount.
Through clever use of social platforms, and working with the cat trends of the web, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is one of the best examples you’ll see of a business with a great understanding of its audience – and of how and where to connect with them in the social media space.
While it’s less and less of a small business these days, Blendtec has only been able to progress towards the next level of growth because of social. Have you ever seen one of those ‘Will it Blend?’ videos?
Blendtec founder Tom Dickson started doing ‘Will it Blend?’ posts almost a decade ago, and they quickly became a YouTube sensation. Dickson’s blended everything from iPads to pool cues, garnering millions upon millions of views in the process.
Blendtec‘s pioneering content highlights how brands can come up with creative, inventive campaigns that are outside the square, but can be highly appealing, whilst also helping build brand recognition and audience. And Blendtec’s results speak for themselves – along with their 839k followers on YouTube, Blendtec also has 35k followers on Twitter, 26k on Pinterest and 185k Page likes on Facebook. That’s a huge cumulative audience, all built on the back of one crazy, yet catchy idea.
Sevenly’s business plan is simple: every seven days, the company features a new cause, focussing on a range of societal issues including clean water access, medical aid and hunger assistance, among others. To support each cause, Sevenly hand-designs and sells t-shirts with inspirational messages, donating $7 from the sale of each to the cause of the week.
Sevenly was founded in 2011 by Aaron Chavez and Dale Partridge. Chavez had formed his own social media consulting company in his teens, so social naturally played a big part in Sevenly’s marketing.
Chavez and Partidge used Facebook groups to promote their cause – this was pre-organic reach declines, so getting through to a massive audience via groups was somewhat easier than it is today. By spreading their message through influential groups – mostly Christian community discussions – Chavez and Partridge were able to expand their brand message far and wide. By coupling those efforts with partnerships formed with YouTube influencers, Sevenly was able to generate huge buzz for their project.
Chavez discussed his influencer outreach strategy with Mashable back in 2014:
“I would reach out to YouTubers who had a million subscribers, and I’d explain our story to them and pull at their heartstrings, and they’d do videos for us and mention Sevenly because they thought it was cool,” Chavez says. “It was a huge help in the beginning –- some of those videos had 300,000 views and drove 50,000 people to our website.”
Sevenly continued to leverage social platforms and users of influence to help spread the message, and is now considered one of the biggest social media success stories of the decade. As of last year, the company had raised more than $3.3 million while partnering with more than 89 different charity groups.
Sevenly’s success highlights the importance of a brand mission and highlighting that mission in order to generate social buzz and discussion. While not everyone can have a charitable cause at the core of their business model, Sevenly’s story underlines the need to have a purpose, a cause that your brand embodies which translates beyond sales alone.
These are just five examples of the many small businesses that are seeing success in social media. By taking the time to understand how social platforms work, and meeting audiences where they’re interacting – and through the means in which they want to consume content – these brands have worked with social trends to achieve great results. They all serve as great reminders, great lessons to be learned which can help you formulate your own audience research and outreach strategies.