01 May 1.5 Million Reasons Social Media Is Key For Your Business
Today, we announced the completion of a $1.5 million seed round in our software startup Likeable Local. For me, this is significant because it helps to validate what I’ve believed for years: Given the right tools, small businesses can absolutely use social media to manage their reputation and grow their business.
We’re still in the first inning of the game of social media for business, but today feels like a good moment to share my Cinderella story so far, as I’m ever grateful for my journey to the big leagues. Eight years ago, I was a math teacher in Queens, New York. Despite a sales and marketing background, I believed that education was the great equalizer and I wanted to serve as a teacher.
When my fiancee had a terrific idea for our wedding, we just had to make it happen. I married my wife Carrie on a minor-league baseball field in a sponsored wedding promotion that raised $100,000 to cover the costs of an amazing wedding and $20,000 for charity. It was an awesome day with many winners- in addition to having the wedding of my dreams, we generated about $20 million dollars worth of earned media for our sponsors across ABC World News Tonight, the CBS Early Show, CNBC’s On the Money, the NY Times, and hundreds of blogs.
After the wedding, our vendor-sponsors such as 1-800-Flowers.com and Entenmann’s were so thrilled with the results, they asked Carrie and me what we could do next. Since we couldn’t get married again, we started our first company instead. That company started off doing offline word-of-mouth marketing – more baseball stadium events, mall events, grand openings and house parties. I was an accidental entrepreneur, but I was determined to learn as much as I could from smarter, more experienced leaders than I was and to become better at building and leading a company.
When Facebook opened up beyond students in 2007, my wife and I realized that social media, or digital word-of-mouth marketing, was much more scalable and efficient for brands than baseball stadium promotions and guerrilla marketing. We pivoted to exclusively doing social media strategy and marketing for companies – and since then, Likeable Media has done work for Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, G.E., Sodastream, Medtronic, and dozens more large companies. Through Carrie’s leadership, the agency grew and to date has done over $20 million in revenue.
But I grew increasingly frustrated. On the one hand, I had come to believe that social media, like education, was a great equalizer. Anyone on the planet with a smartphone and an internet connection could now have their voice heard, thanks to social media. But on the other hand, big businesses were figuring it out, paying large sums of money to companies like Facebook and Twitter and even agencies such as Likeable Media and un-leveling the playing field. Social media, once a great promise for small businesses, was becoming a challenge for them. The internet was getting noisier than ever. Small businesses kept coming to Likeable Media to ask for our help but they simply couldn’t afford to hire an agency.
That’s why last year, we launched a new company, Likeable Local – with software dedicated to making social media easy, effective and even fun for small businesses. We included content creation and distribution, social advertising, landing pages and even offline marketing. Finally, we had found a solution for the many small businesses that had come to me – we just had to build it on our own!
With the help of many great leaders – Hugh Morgenbesser, our CTO and his development team, Will Morel, our CRO and his sales and marketing teams, and an incredible advisory board, we’ve helped over 1,000 small businesses in our first year and a half in business.
But, as I said, it’s really still just the top of the first inning. The $1.5 million we’ve raised from outside investors is great validation of what we’re beginning to do but it’s still the beginning. We just launched our Likeable Consultants program, to help marketing consultants and small agencies help their small business customers. There are over 20 million small businesses in the United States alone – and we won’t rest until there are likeable businesses on every Main Street in the world.
If you’re a small business owner and you’re still on the fence about social media, I understand. I know many who are. But since I don’t have room for 1.5 million reasons, please consider these 10 reasons for using social media for your small business:
1) Social media allows you to better listen to your customers, prospects and competitors.
2) Social media allows you to educate, entertain, and delight your customers on a daily basis.
3) Social media allows you to engage your customers in a 2-way dialogue – at scale!
4) Social media advertising allows you to precisely target and connect with customers better than any advertising platform in history.
5) Social media allows you to tap into your greatest marketing asset – your customers – and turn them into word-of-mouth ambassadors.
6) Social media allows you to publicly demonstrate that you’re a customer-service -focused company that cares about your customers – by responding to comments, questions and even complaints.
7) Social media allows you to surprise and delight your customers publicly – turning every generous act into a marketing opportunity.
8) Social media allows you to better connect with your industry peers and stay up-to-date on your industry.
9) Social media allows you to to tell stories to your customers and prospects without spending huge money on the traditional storytelling vehicle, TV ads.
10) Social media allows you to go where your customers and prospects are instead of waiting for them to come to you.
These are just 10 – I could keep going. If you’re still unconvinced, check our free ebook here, or post in the Comments section below. If you’re not a small business owner, but you have some in your network on LinkedIn, please consider sharing this article with your network.
Here’s to social media, the (new) great equalizer of our time, and to likeable businesses on every Main Street in the world!