By Mwiza Kalisa
In an age where one poorly constructed salad can result in a terrible instant review, businesses have to be aware of their online presence and reputation. Many business owners rely on popular social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, to survive.
Pie (3515 Fremont Ave N), is among the local businesses that use social media to engage customers. The restaurant, which specializes in sweet and savory mini pies, maintains both a Twitter and Facebook page.
“It’s a good way to reach a lot of people in a very short amount of time,” said Jess Whitsitt, co-owner of Pie. Whitsitt created a Facebook page for the business, four months before it even opened. “I thought it would be good to start teaching people what we were about to come out with,” she said. The restaurant posts daily menus and sometimes they tweet three to four times a day.
Whitsitt believes that Pie wouldn’t be nearly as successful without social media. “I think it would have taken us a lot longer to build our client base,” she said. “We opened to many customers the very first day that we were in business.”
Pie customers interact and contribute their ideas, for flavors, through social media. The restaurant has 618 followers on Twitter and 1,192 “Likes” on Facebook. “It’s fun to get feedback from people and see smiles on their faces via the internet,” Whitsitt said. “I guess that’s the way they’re showing us that they appreciate what we do.”
Because of the high cost of print advertising, Whitsitt only uses social media to promote the restaurant. Dusty Strings Music School (3406 Fremont Ave N) also connects with customers through Facebook. Up until four years ago the music school communicated with students through The Quarter Note, a quarterly newsletter.
Adam Burdick, the music school director, created a Facebook page for the school a year and half ago. Events, special workshops and information about classes are all posted on the school’s Facebook page. “I know that [Facebook] is definitely creating more awareness that we’re here,” Burdick said.
While the music school uses Facebook to connect with students regularly, the music store Dusty Strings isn’t using social media yet. “It takes a certain amount of effort to be fresh, to post something everyday,” Burdick said. “There hasn’t been the focus of providing that. It just hasn’t happened, but as people see the value of Facebook for the school it will happen for the store as well.”
Dusty Strings co-manager Gary Davidson, likes the immediate response of connecting online. “While we have not been on the cutting edge of using social media, we do recognize there are a lot of people using it,” he said. Davidson added that it’s hard to measure the impact that social media has on the school, but it has contributed to the attendance for some musical events.
Lance Brough, owner of Kylie’s Chicago Pizza, admits that sometimes it’s hard to draw attention online. “Bigger pizza places struggle with how to connect and how to make it relevant,” he said. The pizza joint uses Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter to promote specials and charity events. “It’s a good way to have an information hub,” Brough said. “A lot of restaurants are able to connect with customers and people that don’t know about their business.”
Without interactive websites and during a time where most people tweet, businesses like Kylie’s Chicago Pizza know that they have to be pro-active about shaping their business online. Brough says that sites like Twitter help build relationships. “As an individual they take the time to send a tweet that says something about your business,” he said.
Brough says that they’re considering a Google+ page. They’re still thinking about whether they will use their current social media sites and Google+, or if they will concentrate on one site.
“The world is changing all the time, and I think to have a strong presence [online] is very important,” Brough said. “We have a presence, but we need to have a better presence.”