How social media can help local business

Every second, over 4,600 messages are sent over Twitter for a total of about four million per day.

Every second, another online user joins the professional networking website LinkedIn.

Users spend about 10.5 billion minutes per day on Facebook — and the average person spends about 12 minutes on the site each day. There are about 1,560 Facebook users in Norwood Young America, and nearly 10,000 Facebook users within a 10-mile radius of town.

New mobile applications allow people traveling along the Highway 212 corridor to see what goods and services are available if they stop by Norwood Young America.

Steve Gasser of Vivid Images, a certified social media consultant, shared more mind-boggling numbers and relevant application of that data to local businesses during his presentation to the NYA Area Chamber of Commerce during its quarterly meeting at Pizza Ranch on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

In short, Gasser informed chamber members that maintaining an active online presence and engaging customers through social media is vitally important in today’s modern world.

“I find that social media brings new life to a lot of business owners,” Gasser said, adding that tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter allow quality opportunities for businesses to market themselves. “You have happy, loyal customers. You have things to say and unique experiences to offer.”

Part of marketing, Gasser said, was being where the customers are. As the statistics show, many customers these days are spending significant time using social media outlets, so marketing a business through Facebook, for example, gives businesses an opportunity to communicate directly with customers and showcase items, services or products that are remarkable.

Another vitally important reason to use social media, Gasser said, was to know what was being said about local businesses and to promote a positive image. He broke customers down into five groups: raving fans, customers, prospects, suspects and those who are disinterested. One key to growing a business, he said, was to provide an outlet for the “raving fans” and satisfied customers to talk about it.

If a small business can attract about 100-150 fans on a Facebook page it would be doing well, he added, but even a small, enthusiastic group of just 20 fans or so could prove influential.

“People really trust recommendations from other people,” Gasser said, noting that online features like Google reviews can go a long way toward getting prospective clients to step through the door. Marketing, he added, is all about building relationships.

While stepping into the social media world for the first time might seem overwhelming, Gasser encouraged the business owners on hand to take small steps, not try to do everything at once, and discipline themselves to pursue it.

“Do it daily, but don’t overdo it,” he said, explaining that 15 minutes a day is all it takes to get started and maintain a presence.

In other chamber business:
• Three NYA City Council candidates briefly addressed the gathering. Incumbent JR Hoernemann drew laughs with a daring campaign commitment: “I promise everything they do on TV,” he said, referring to higher profile races on a national and state level.

Fellow incumbent Dick Stolz summarized his extensive experience in government and budgeting and said that while there was never a good time to raise taxes, there was getting to be little money left for infrastructure improvements such as street repairs.

Challenger Mike McPadden, a former Norwood council member for six years and NYA mayor for eight years, agreed that the city’s streets needed a lot of work and said he was rejuvenated and ready to rejoin city government and help address the city’s needs going forward.

• Chamber President Chris Lund provided a brief update on chamber activities to date this year. A few of the big events undertaken so far have included the Business Expo, manning a rest location for the Tour De Tonka and holding the third annual Taste of NYA.

The chamber has also installed a business map out at Baylor Regional Park so that park users can see what goods and services are available just a short distance down the road.

Lund also said that the chamber has grown since expanding to the NYA area, and now consists of 69 members.

Looking ahead, the chamber will be holding a Small Business Saturday holiday promotion with chamber bucks, and is also, in conjunction with the city, seeking a variance from MnDOT to install business district signs on Highways 212 and 5.

The chamber is also seeking a few new board members to step in for 2013.