Follow a leader – Black Pearl

Feb 22, 2010, 2:15 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

Northwest companies of all sizes use Twitter, Facebook and other social networks to promote their businesses. Can’t blame them, right? It’s free advertising.

The best and brightest execs and employees have discovered that pitching products only goes so far. At some point, if you want to have any impact with social media, you need to interact with people and build relationships. That kind of connection lasts a lot longer than an advertised special.

The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business came out with a report last week that found the rate of small businesses using social media doubled last year from 12 percent to 24 percent.

Why the jump? Think about the economy last year.

“The time I started our Twitter page was around the height of the recession, or the lowest point for businesses,” says Annie Hong, who joined the social network in June of 2009. She now has about 360 followers and counting.

base mediaHong posts Twitter messages for two Black Pearl restaurants she manages – one in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborood, the other in Shoreline. She wanted to reach younger customers, people in their mid 20s, who were still eating out when many older adults were cutting back due to job losses or other financial pressures.

“My goal really is just to interact with people,” Hong says. Ultimately she wants to bring in customers, but she sees that social media is more than just free advertising. “I try and tweet about relevant news, support the surrounding communities, and to be able to create something solid for Black Pearl to stand on to help us stand out from all the phenomenal restaurants there are.”

A few customers mention they heard of the restaurant through Twitter, but she says it’s more likely that she’ll come across someone on Twitter who just happens to be a loyal customer.

As a restaurant manager, I’d assume Hong is a busy young lady. And she admits, Twitter is time consuming.

“I personally work lunch shifts so when I get a lull during lunch, and when the dinner shift comes in I usually sit in the back room for an hour or so to try and catch up,” she says.

Even though she could be doing something else with her lunch time, Hong says it’s not a waste of time. She finds a huge payoff in being connected with people through social media.

“It’s truly the best thing that the Internet has to offer from a business’ standpoint; to give your company a voice and to watch the impact it has on your community, no matter how small your voice may be. To find a way to bridge the gap between the owners and upper management to the customer who stops by once a week for a quick bite is something that would not be as easily accessible without social media,” says Hong.

Well said.

Each Monday on my blog, I’ll highlight a company in the Pacific Northwest that’s involved with social media – from small businesses like Black Pearl, to the biggies including Alaska Airlines, Amazon, and Microsoft. This series is called “Follow a leader.”

Others leaders featured:

Seattle Social Media Stars

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Follow a leader – Black Pearl