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How small business is using social media

The Web is brimming with social media case studies on Zappos, Dell and Coca-Cola.  While the viral appeal of social networking and power of word-of-mouth is alluring to the small business entrepreneur, they often struggle with capitalizing on those lessons in the real world for one specific reason:  achieving similar results is not always achievable.

Larger companies can gamble on a few big swings in the search for that home run hit.  But hitting home runs sometimes means striking out too.  Just ask Babe Ruth.  Small businesses on the other hand, are often short on staff, shorter on resources and have a smaller risk tolerance for gambling.  As such, aiming for a steady string of base hits is arguably a better approach.   To that end, here are a handful of case studies on real small biz owners that are engaging social media for real world results:

Insider Perks, an Avon, Ohio-based video travel review site founded by Brian Searl, a former CBS affiliate broadcast editor.  Brian’s three-person shop develops video reviews of travel destinations in a journalistic fashion and sells Web ads against that content for revenue.  He uses press releases distributed online to fuel search and social media campaigns.

“PRWeb has great distribution, provides a lot of flexibility for optimizing our content for search, and has a strong tie-in with social media,” said Brian Searl.  “But the online news release is just the start – and we tap our social networks to take it one step further.”

Many steps further might be a more accurate description – customers can engage Insider Perks travel reviews in virtually any platform or format they wish – from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to podcasts, iTunes and mobile phones.  In addition, Brian has developed a social media platform called “You Report. You Decide” – an obvious play on words – where he provides an editorial summary of the top travel stories and the rest is “reported” by social media users on Twitter.

The Perfect Date, a Los Angeles-based events firm owned by event specialist Cheryl Lawson.  Lawson recently grew Facebook fans for a charity she represented by 177% by linking an event announcement to the fan page, drawing on her extensive social network to help promote her announcement and tapping celebrity videos on YouTube. In fact, Cheryl’s social network was partly responsible for one of her announcements hitting the top spot in a contest that earned her an extra $1,000 and free press releases for a year.  Moreover, her social network is still helping her since the page reads for her announcement recently crossed the 5,000 mark as Cheryl noted on Twitter.

Vedante, a Boulder, Colo.-based, e-commerce site has put Facebook front and center to invite customer interaction.  For example, Barbara Kantor’s customers often purchase a product and are so impressed that they’ll snap a photo and post it as a customer review on Amazon.com or upload it to the Vedante Facebook fan page.  When Barbara spots a good photo, she’ll often contact the customer for permission to use it in conjunction with future promotions, including her press releases.

In this WomenEntreprenuer.com post, Barbara offers the following advice to small business owners looking to tap social media:

When it comes to social networking, make your postings helpful, rather than self-promotional. Kantor says it’s not a strategy in her case: It’s her nature. After all, Kantor was inspired to start Vedante during an evening walk, when she witnessed a pedestrian being struck by a car while in a crosswalk. That’s why her press releases typically are informative. “I’m happy if we’re saving lives,” she says. Past press releases include 8 Halloween Tips for Fido from Vedante and 10 Tips on Nighttime Safety for Pedestrians, Cyclists and Motorists.

Got an interesting social media cases study for small business you’d like to share?  Please feel free to tell us about it in the comments section.

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