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Social media can help certain small businesses grow

Local consultant says it can help promote deals to customers.

James Nott opened Springfield Ink Tattoo a year ago, and with the help of Facebook to promote specials and events, he now averages 15 to 32 visits a day and makes enough money to give free tattoos and donate to area charities.

“This business has been very blessed,” Nott said, noting that one has “to give some away in order to keep it.”

Facebook is a way for certain small businesses to market themselves without the money of larger companies.

“Social media can be an excellent tool to use for marketing, but it works much better for some kinds than it does for others,” said Sue Hebner, marketing consultant for the Small Business Development Center. She has also run her own business, called Hebner Design Solutions, for more than 25 years.

“It seems to work very well for businesses that kind of use word-of-mouth advertising,” she said.

The types of businesses that often benefit from the use of Facebook are smaller businesses that are very focused on the consumer — hair dressers, restaurants and businesses that provide services, she said.

Hebner said she does not use social media or a website for her business but has researched it to help those she advises at SBDC.

“What you’re doing with social media is establishing yourself as a knowledgeable resource,” Hebner said. “People will re-tweet you, tell their friends about you. And they’re just going to exponentially expand the number of people you can contact using social media.”

Take Springfield Ink for example. Recently the business told users that if the Facebook page receives 2,000 likes, they’ll host a free service day at the business. In just three days, the business gained nearly 150 likes.

Springfield Ink has a separate web site but uses Facebook to drive traffic to the site and inform people about the charity events sponsored.

Facebook “allows customers to feel like they’re a part of the business,” Nott said. He interacts with people to determine when to host free piercing days, and what charities the business should donate proceeds to.

The community “shares with the growth of the business. We make sure they reap the benefits of our success,” Nott said.

When the business does well, they host free piercing days like they did in early July, which can draw more than 200 people, Nott said. People buy the jewelry and get the piercing free. The proceeds from selling jewelry go to a charity of their choice. Nott said the business has supported cancer research.

Other businesses, such as Running with Scissors Creative Collective on Fountain Avenue, use Facebook to advertise new products and sales and to drive traffic to the company blog.

Ellen Alleman is the co-owner of Running with Scissors, which sells handmade goods from regional artists. The business started as a booth at the fair and now occupies a space in the Heritage Center full-time. Alleman said business is so good she is looking to find a new, larger space in downtown.

Social media “is a huge advantage (for small businesses), especially if you’re a business with discounts and offers,” Alleman said. “All the content is really fresh.”

Alleman said that she does buy some ads on Facebook, but for the most part everything is free.

Running with Scissors also has a website, which is affected by Facebook.

“Every time we post on Facebook there is a really obvious spike in the website traffic,” Alleman said.

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