RALEIGH — Smithfields Chicken N Bar-B-Q hasnt changed its menu for 40 years.
The company stands by the philosophy that clean stores, good food and good service not fancy commercials and advertising campaigns will bring customers in the door, said Richard Averitte, Smithfields operational and marketing director.
However, when it comes to Twitter and Facebook, Smithfields, known for its fried chicken and Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue, is a different kind of social animal.
On Twitter, Smithfields taunts its competition with keywords such as #mybirdcanbeatyourbird.
Smithfields Facebook page, which has more than 11,000 likes, was abuzz last week with a Mothers Day photo contest and responses to the companys blog post offering Stephen Colbert a pound of pork after the Comedy Central star described North Carolina barbecue as a sauceless, vinegar-based meat product.
Smithfields also uses sports podcasts and coordinated campaigns to promote tailgating and party packs.
(Social media is) a perfect marketing took, I think, because it is a way that you can have a conversation with your customers, said Averitte, who spends about 15 minutes an hour posting on social media for the brand with 34 stores in the state, 19 of which are owned by franchisees. Thats the way I see it because it is not just broadcast, it is a way of getting feedback.
According to an April poll by Manta, an online small business community, of the 1,235 small business owners polled, 73 percent said they or their team spent from one to 10 hours a week on social media, but only 39 percent reported a return on their investment in social media activities.
About 40 percent reported a return on investment from $100 to $1,000, and 30 percent reported more than $2,000.
Business owners need to invest in social media, and understand they are building a direct portal to thousands of customers and brand advocates, representatives of local marketing firms said.
Social media buzz, or lack thereof, also impacts a small business search engine optimization.
Owners who report that they dont see a return on investment from social media are only giving it half of the credit that it deserves, said Martin Smith, director of marketing for Atlantic BT, a web development and marketing firm in Raleigh.
Todays Web floats and sends signals, including social media buzz, that influences rank in a Google search.
The way Google uses that buzz is to confirm or deny the things that people assert about themselves, Smith said.
If someone claims to be the best carpet cleaner in Raleigh and doesnt have social backing for that claim, the business risks decreasing its search engine optimization, Smith said.
Those claims must be supported by social signals, Smith said.
Kim Adamof, a marketing consultant and owner of Raleigh Inbound Marketing, said small-business owners should look at social media as the interactive arm of a larger marketing strategy.
Taking that one message and then figuring out how you can present that message on a different platform will really help people pull back in, Adamof said. The social media content should also include some sort of call to action, such as click on this link, download a coupon, or like this comment, she said.
Common mistakes include owners only posting information about their store and sales, and not engaging fans.
Just talking at their fans, not with their fans, Adamof said.
At least 80 percent of posts should seek to entertain or engage the audience, Adamof said.
Small-business owners should also identify what social media platform their target market is using, understand the stated and unstated rules for that platform, and then customize the message.
Each social media ecosystem has its own subculture, language, rhythm and rules, Adamof said.
Promote the brand
Karen Albright, owner of BodyLase Skin Spa with locations in Raleigh and Cary, said social media magnify her marketing initiatives, such as specials, and helps to make the business to be a thought-leader in its field. Albright uses social media, she said, to educate customers about services and beauty tips with newsletters, videos, before-and-after photos and invitations to seminars.
I see it more of a branding tool, Albright said.
Smithfields uses social media to respond to complaints and compliments, promote contests and specials and have a little bit of fun.
Promote the brand first and foremost, Averitte said.
Averitte came up with the Make your Mom a Smithfields Mom Mothers Day campaign, which includes a Facebook photo contest, and a Twitter contest asking people to tweet #Smithfieldsmom and their moms name.
Last weeks posts directed at Colbert created a lot of social media traction, Averitte said. Web traffic, which averages about 900 unique visits a day, doubled, and phones at local stores were ringing off the hook for orders Friday, he said.
Is that a coincidence? I dont know, Averitte said. It just strengthens that brand, anything that will get folks eyeballs to my website.