Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/7/2009 (2954 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
IF you happen to mention Inn at The Forks or "vacationing in Winnipeg" in a Twitter message, don't be surprised to get a tweet back from Ben Sparrow himself.
Sparrow, whose family owns the hotel, uses Twitter to send out all sorts of Inn at The Forks marketing information.
"It is fantastic," he said. "It's like a market segment in itself that does not bleed into other markets."
Twitter and other social networking websites like Facebook have become must-use marketing tools for just about every business.
And just like other technologies, Twitter and Facebook can act like industry-levellers.
"You really don't have to pay professionals to help you leverage this technology," Sparrow says.
Kyle Romaniuk probably can appreciate a comment like that. But as creative director and principal at Cocoon Branding, he is keen to encourage his clients to experiment with social networking and he believes Cocoon's expertise can assist in figuring out what works best.
"Just like when you're using any other media, you need to know what you are trying to achieve -- what's the big message," he said.
Cocoon now integrates Twitter and Facebook messaging into virtually every marketing campaign for its clients.
Cocoon's campaign for Grant's blended scotch whiskey features postings on its Facebook page updating past and future tasting events.
The Exchange District branding firm is launching its own furniture product, called Oi Furniture, and is posting videos and updating the whole manufacturing experience.
"The idea is to build awareness and connections," Romaniuk said. "We want to figure out what it takes to become an advocate."
As a prototype of the new professional branding/marketing firm, Romaniuk's Cocoon is well-versed in all the tools out there that can measure the kind of exposure the different online presence generates.
"Facebook has great tools that rate updates to your site," said Romaniuk. "Google analytics can track visitors to your website and it is a free tool."
Sparrow raves about the Twitter alert feature called TweetBeep, which will let you know any time designated words or phrases are used.
For only $20 a month, Sparrow can track 50 to 100 words or phrases that appear in tweets from across the Twitter universe.
He gets the notification and tweets back with a special offer to the person who has said something about his hotel or about vacationing in Winnipeg, and he invites that tweeter to follow the Inn at The Forks Twitter messages.
"We started by letting people know about the lounge entertainment on Thursday, Friday and Saturday," he said. "Now we use it and automatically update the website."
Sparrow is handling the hotel's Twitter traffic during the early stages of its usage (it's only been four weeks) but he can easily imagine that one of the members of his marketing team will soon have the title "social media director."
Neil Patel of Winnipeg's Webidiotz knows that there are lots of small business people in Winnipeg who don't have enough employees for one of them to be dedicated to social media marketing.
"But at least 25 per cent of total spending is generated online, so even the smallest companies need to have some sort of presence," he said. "Ignore it and you're just turning over a slice of business to someone else."
"Social media is an essential marketing tool," he said. "There are no organizations it is not appropriate for."
Do you tweet?
FOR those who aren't up on Twitter, it is a service that lets users send short text messages of up to 140 characters in length, known as tweets, to a select group of people. Use of the social networking message service for business is still new enough that there is a lot of experimenting going on. Here are a few tips and techniques from various sources:
"ö Track your most important keywords and react to those tweets that matter most.
"ö Submit your most valuable posts from your blog or elsewhere (not each and every post).
"ö Track people re-tweeting or mentioning you and either follow or reward them otherwise (the easiest way is saying "thanks") or both.
"ö Engagement: Twitter is about conversation, and it's ongoing. Once you're in it, you need to figure out how to stay engaged and how you'll follow up once a campaign is over.
"ö Personality: The unique personality of your brand should be reflected and enhanced by your tweets. That personality must resonate with the target audience the brand wishes to reach.