When Keeli and David Crewe wanted to get out the word on the opening of Area 61, a shop in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that showcases talented craftsman from around the area, they and their partners created a fan group on Facebook. Between their personal Facebook “friends” and those of the artists they represent, they were able to immediately reach out to more than 1,000 people.
From there, the news about the little shop at 61 East Main Street spread. When their Facebook friends joined the Area 61 fan group, a notice was posted on the page of each of those people’s friends. Of course, not all of those are going to join, but many might click through to find out what the shop is all about.
The exponential nature of the world of friends on Facebook is invaluable, and many savvy shop and restaurant owners, musicians, and artists are taking advantage. Facebook fan groups aren’t good marketing venues for all businesses. Accounting or law firms are a bit of a Facebook buzz killer. But if you have a unique business ripe for community building, it’s a great place to start and it does not cost a dime. Here are some examples of how it has been used.
The Corner Cupboard in historic Union City, Indiana, population 3,600, has 180 or so regular customers as members of its Facebook group. The shop, which sells Hallmark products, reaches out to its members to let them know about sidewalk sales at the store, special promotions for Mother’s Day or graduating seniors, or new merchandise on sale. The store has been able to build a community online, with notes to customers and photos from events.
One World Café located on West Main Street in Peoria, Illinois, has more than 500 Facebook fans whose mouths no doubt water when the restaurant posts its holiday specials such as Easter brunch of Eggs Oscar (English muffin topped with crab, poached egg, asparagus, and hollandaise sauce). But it also uses Facebook to announce events such as concerts and fundraisers. Last winter it held a fundraiser to help build a library in Sudan. One recent practical post to its fans: The cafe is now part of a credit card “rewards network,” where people can earn points when using their credit cards.
Ozzie’s Coffee & Tea in Brooklyn, New York, promotes game night and other events through its Facebook fan group full of loyal patrons. Having the site allows the owner to upload pictures from events: family and friends playing games, local kids coming by on Halloween night. Owner Melissa Azulai Rappoport uses it to send out tips to customers, such as how to store coffee beans (not in the refrigerator) or clean a coffeemaker (hint: water and vinegar).
Most people don’t think of wine when they think of Colorado, but Facebook friends of the Colorado Wine Country Inn would argue otherwise. The inn, located in Palisade, Colorado, keeps in touch with guests through its fan group, alerting them of special offers and events at the hotel. Announcements include a course hosted by a world-class sommelier. The hotel offers prizes for members who refer the most new friends and recently announced its 250th member.
These small businesses have found ways to keep loyal customers up to date on offerings and services, while reaching out to potential customers with what amounts to a personal recommendation. And all of these efforts cost nothing more than a little time and creating something to promote.