Small businesses in the US are struggling right now. Any edge or any hope that can be found is a welcome change from the continued onslaught of economic news around rising prices and shrinking wallets. I found one such story this morning over my cup of coffee. Oh and it was kinda cool that it was about coffee. I need that kind of early morning validation that my coffee drinking is still “in vogue”.
Anyway, in the Wall Street Journal this morning (I know, where else does Frank get his news from?) there was a real life example of social networking helping small businesses. Not just hype round social networking being good for small business but an actual story of success. How about that?
The article discusses the success of Matt Miletto who is the director of training for the American Barista and Coffee School in Portland, OR. Now after I got over the head scratching phase of “There is a school for this stuff and it’s not Starbucks U?” Actually since he deals mostly with independents Mr. Miletto was looking for a way to create an online buzz for his industry of buzz creators (hat tip to caffeine). By using Ning.com he started a group called the Barista Exchange that is a place for independent coffee types to build profiles, post discussion topics, blog posts etc. etc.
While the concept isn’t earth shattering the results were pretty good. Since December there are over 3,000 members and about 15,000 unique visitors a month. The article talks about how many small biz types are realizing that the networking with customers is one thing but networking with likeminded business owners reaps benefits. The resulting network and networking has created a community that has ideas and opportunities roasting all the time. An instance of this occurred in Easton, PA that stalwart of independent coffee shop owners (look out Seattle). Two shop owners found each other, realized they are about 20 minutes from each other so they started referring customers back and forth. Once again, not earth shattering just effective.
According to the article Miletto’s success was not quick. He started in December of last year. I would have to say that he did a pretty good job for just six months. His recipe for success included:
- A passionate group that was open to this type of activity
- Development of content that was designed to compel reaction from the group
- Repeated recruitment of members via e-mail and advertising (no indication about $ amounts)
- New features being added consistently
- A will to get the group to the point of viral self promotion
Well, folks we have reached a new point in the world of internet marketing. It’s not about the latest, greatest and coolest applications all the time. It’s really about some good old fashioned business principles. Give your audience what they want and keep feeding them. No bells and whistles just consistent delivery and a lot of hard work. Creating social networks may really be the new world construction industry. No one knows who built the roads we drive on and the buildings we work in but we couldn’t do anything without their effort. Hats off to more internet construction workers building great places to get life done.