biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies: big brand strategy, small brand savvy

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Justine Smith, a creative entrepreneur from Toronto, Canada. Justine started Create Hype, a small-business marketing consulting company, in November 2010, and today she offers some tips on how to use big-brand marketing strategies for small companies. From using social media to extend your brand to taking advantage of video and other technological tools, Justine will walk us through how indie businesses can learn from bigger companies while still keeping things small and personal. Thanks, Justine, for this incredibly helpful post! — Stephanie

CLICK HERE for the full post after the jump!

As a social-media consultant for several Canadian companies and the founder of Create Hype, the marketing email for women entrepreneurs, I spend a lot of time analyzing the social scene and figuring out great ways to increase traffic, sales and readership.

Recently, I’ve realized just how well some of the big brands are using social media to improve their customers’ experience.

And if you’ve been at this for any length of time, you probably already know that improving a customer’s experience is just darn good biz.

Now, while I’m all about small creative businesses and entrepreneurs, I see nothing wrong with taking a page from the book of these brand giants to improve your own customer’s experience.

Implement some of their ideas in your service strategy, and scale their tactics into your own business, and it’s (almost) a sure bet that they will be equally effective for you in growing your brand and increasing your success.

Your business depends on making your customers happy, and it’s easier than you might think to make that happen.

4 Big-Brand Strategies that Little Brands Can Rock!

1. Responding to Fans on Facebook

Who Does It? Bing, The Home Depot & Huggies

You’d be amazed to see just how far big brands are going to engage with their fans on Facebook. The Home Depot in particular is taking things to a whole new level by not only having a dedicated customer service rep monitoring the page, but also allowing her to be herself, offer up her name and invite people to email her when they have an issue.

Many other brands, including Huggies and Bing, have several different employees monitoring their fan pages daily in order to respond quickly to any customer-service questions or concerns that people post.

How It All Goes Wrong
Often small-business owners start a fan page in the hopes of encouraging fans to become buyers. They spend time marketing the fan page to increase their number of “likes” and then devote more time for posting interesting company tidbits, new product photos and discount codes.

The problem is that once the fan page starts evolving and receiving activity, like user comments and questions, the seller goes fairly silent, either responding only rarely or never at all. They go on posting updates and increasing fans but fail to nurture the people already there.

Big brands know that by speaking to every single person who has a question, concern or interesting comment, they’re opening the doors of communication, and that drives sales more than anything else.

How You Can Do It, Too
Not many of us can hire employees to network for us, but we can scale this idea by setting aside 15 to 20 minutes a day just for social marketing. Give your fans a reason to become buyers by nurturing their interest in your work and showing them that you’re a down-to-earth business owner at heart and that you actually care about what they have to say.

Indie Example: Tim Adam uses his Handmadeology fan page to share news but is also really great about responding to his fan’s questions and comments. No matter how busy he is, he always takes time to nurture his existing and new fans on Facebook.

2. Getting More Eyeballs with YouTube

Who Does It? Old Spice & Blend Tec

The teams at Old Spice and Blend Tec have realized the potential of video sharing sites like YouTube. Instead of creating TV ads, which would cost them a fortune and could be risky if the ads don’t pan out like they hope, they’ve created top-quality but low-cost videos and put them out on YouTube.

In Blend Tec’s case, they created a series of videos called “Will It Blend?” that shows their blenders shredding up everything from iPhones to a golf club.

Showing people how well their blenders crushed uncrushable items helped their videos go viral and reportedly earned them five times more sales.

Another company kicking butt on YouTube is Old Spice, who leveraged their popular “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercial and turned it into an opportunity for a viral-marketing campaign. To date, they’ve created over 100 short videos with actor Isaiah Mustafa responding to questions posted by fans on Facebook, Twitter and many other social sites.

How It All Goes Wrong
The idea of creating videos for the world to see can be scary for some. They let their fears and insecurities get in the way of forward progress and doing something outside their comfort zone that could turn out to be very effective.

I mean, think about it — even if your video only gets 50 views, that’s 50 people who could potentially visit your website and make a purchase, all from a simple YouTube video.

How You Can Do It, Too
I get it.

The idea of producing videos for business purposes is uncomfortable, maybe even scary. Heck, it could even rank with things that make you feel like puking.

Besides thinking that you won’t be able to produce quality results (you will), you may feel that most people shy away from video for their businesses simply because they can’t produce something high quality without top dollar to spend.

Yet with products like the Flip camera, the Sony Bloggie and screencasting software like Camtasia, it’s easier than ever to create winning videos that allow you to convert more people into fans. So forget being scared; take a play from Nike, and just do it!

Indie Example: I love how BabbaCo. created an interesting video for YouTube to show just how simple it is to take their self-inflating kids’ mat from travel to play in a flash. 

3. Following Tweeps that Mention You on Twitter

Who Does It? Coke

Recently, a friend was waiting at the airport and tweeted “drinking a coke zero, waiting for my plane.” A little while later, Coke was following her. It’s interesting to see the many big brands that monitor their mentions closely, actively building their community by nurturing the people who are talking about them.

While Coke already had a customer in my friend, they went ahead and followed her anyway, which made her laugh and become even more loyal to the brand than she already was.

How It All Goes Wrong
The problem lies in many folks dismissing Twitter as an insignificant business tool. That would be a mistake. Twitter has grown by leaps and bounds and like Facebook, has a rabid following of people who use it daily.

And there is nothing quite like Twitter’s platform, which allows you to connect and foster relationships with strangers in 140 characters or less.

How You Can Do It, Too
It’s pretty simple really.

All you have to do is give Twitter a try. Follow and network with anyone talking about you or your company. You can also keep track of mentions of competitors, industry news and much more, so take a few minutes each day to listen closely and use the information to your benefit.

You can monitor all that noise by using tools that allow you to set keyword parameters so that every time someone tweets the name of your business or brand, you know about it.

Here are a few great tools for that:

Indie Example: Furniture Designer Adam King uses a custom splash page for his Twitter link to welcome followers to his website. It’s a great example of how you can increase visitor interest by specifically speaking to them when they arrive on your website or blog.

4. Creating Custom Content for Visitors

Who Does It? Whole Foods and AT&T

If you are a smart and savvy brand like Whole Foods or AT&T, you’re funneling the visitors to your Twitter page to a custom landing page that provides additional information on ways to connect with you.

That might look like multiple Twitter accounts for different areas, like Whole Foods, or it might look like AT&T’s page, which funnels their Twitter traffic to other social networks they are active on, like Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.

By doing this, they are able to offer more ways for their customers to connect with them and nurture those all-important relationships.

How It All Goes Wrong
There’s no wrong way to do this really, other than NOT doing it. It really doesn’t take too much effort to create a custom landing page just for your social visitors.

Not only will you offer visitors more ways to connect and interact with you, you’ll increase their overall customer experience, as well, which is the ultimate goal.

How You Can Do It, Too
Get a little creative. It doesn’t have to be a page on how they can further connect with you. You could also include entertaining or interesting factoids about your brand, links to things you want to highlight to your customers and even a discount offer that can only be found on that page.

Think outside the box and ask yourself what information your social customer base would appreciate most, and then give it to them.

Indie Example: Tara Gentile of Scoutie Girl is an awesome Twitter user. She uses Hootsuite to search for relevant terms, keep track of mentions and follows back everyone who @ replies to her.

Now see . . . you thought this was going to be hard!

If you liked this post, I invite you to join Create Hype for more actionable ways to market your creative business.

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  • Co-signing on these suggestions. I just now started using Twitter regularly and I’m really pleased with the results. Not only was I able to gather new followers, but it’s an awesome resource that’s turned me on to so much useful information. I highly recommend it to anyone.

  • I love, love, love this column. I look forward to it eagerly and always learn something new and useful. Thank you so much for all you do! I set up my twitter account awhile back, but always leaned more toward Facebook. I’m learning now to use both. I will look at some of these other suggestions as a way to get the message out! Thank you.

  • Love this article, about to forward it to some clients. There are an abundance of “how to do social media” articles out there, but this one hits the nail on the head with great examples and simple actions.


  • Thank you so much ladies! So glad you liked the article.

    @Jaimee – totally agree, what i like most about twitter is actually not tweeting/finding followers (which I actually need to do more) but the resources that go along with it (like search, monitoring tools, networking and lists)

  • Advertising via social media can be sooo overwhelming! I love that this sums it all up in a short, yet detailed and easy to understand format. I think the “How it all goes wrong” tips are so important… what NOT to do is just as, if not more important than what TO do. Love it.

  • I just looove this column each week! All of the social media outlets available can be a little overwhelming at first, but I like how you broke it down in easy to follow instructions, and the example of how the big boys integrate it into their business is a great resource.

    This is really helpful for the marketing side of my day job, as well as moonlighting as a new blogger. Win/win! Thank you!

  • Great information for a small business owner like myself! I have already tried implementing some of these strategies, but have a long way to go. Thanks so much for the great tools.

    Janet Hild

  • Hi Justine – thanks for this.. I’ve been thinking about slowly stepping into a little social media (I’m a ludite). Great to see a fellow Torontonian on D*S too!

  • Justine, this was exactly the article I needed to read this morning…thanks for making Social Media seem so easy…guess what I’m doing today?

  • Great article! Even though I have a Facebook and Twitter account, I never could seem to find the time to get it to the next step. Thank you for making it so easy for me…next project: YouTube!

  • Justine- I’m your newest member of Create Hype. I have been using a blog, FB & Twitter, but obviously not as effectively as I need to. Your tips were great & seem simple & easy to follow. I plan on using them to help grow my businesses. Thanks!

  • good writing, good content, good tips, good food for thought and action, good, good, good.

  • Thanks for the info! I’ve been looking for a better way to track what social media is doing for me, and Hootsuite looks like it may be the perfect solution!

  • Love this info! Thanks for taking the time to write it, as everyone above stated, social media can be overwhelming at first so it’s good to have a breakdown like this.

  • New to social media marketing. Love the “Who’s Does IT.” An eye opener. How It Goes Wrong was really helpful to avoid getting caught in a sand trap and the How You Can Do It Too gave me great ideas and a path to follow!

  • Please don’t rely solely on Facebook to reach your customers. I know a number of people, who just aren’t interested in dealing with Facebook communications. For me, it’s just trying to find ways not to worry about the leakages in privacy (that I may not be aware because FB changes their software) and also the reality that there are people who are trying to control the flood of digital communication in their daily lives. So I’m not on FB. I have a full-time job plus I write for 4 blogs and look after 3 blogs, of which 2 support businesses.

    I do continue to join and participate in 2 key different Internet forums that cover off my niche markets. It’s more purely personal passion which can be helpful to support business objectives by understanding trends in cycling. Particularily cycling among women. One can write more fulsome commentary and SEARCH for commentary on certain topics in Internet public forums….vs. twitter or facebook.

  • A totally great article, I follow you already and I am subscribed to your newsletter. Thanks for the tips, I already have my social media spaces all I need now is more time to be more engaging and break my boredom with Twitter. I think having a blog is still the most effective marketing tool so far for my business.