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Businesses use social sites on Web for marketing

By Staff | Apr 24, 2009

The Thomas Shepherd Inn uses the social networking site facebook as a marketing tool.

Local businesses are adding social networking and Web 2.0 tools like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and personal blogs to their marketing and public relations options. It’s a marketing strategy that is just starting to take hold in Shepherdstown, with the vast majority of businesses in town still relying on their home pages as their primary digital billboard. Those businesses who do use social networking in their marketing mix say that it gives them access to a digital public forum unrivaled in its potential public relations possibilities.

Jeannie Muir, part owner of the Thomas Shepherd Inn at German and Duke streets, runs the digital marketing efforts for the renowned bed and breakfast. In addition to a business homepage she also maintains a Facebook business page, a Twitter feed, and a blog. She likes these tools because they allow her to highlight the local attractions outside the walls of the inn. She also says it provides her with a mailing list of sorts, allowing her to get the word out in such a manner as to not be construed as spam. “Using digital media like Facebook and blogs is a natural extension of word of mouth marketing,” says Muir. “You can reach a lot of people.”

A cruise through the Thomas Shepherd Inn’s digital marketing machine provides the viewer with photographs of the interior of the Inn. She recently wrote blog entries covering, among other subjects, rainy day activities in Shepherdstown, the opening of the Farmers Market, and local theater options, and the upcoming Shenandoah-Potomac House and Garden tour. On Twitter, a microblogging site which allows users to post messages up to 144 characters in length, the Thomas Shepherd Inn posted that they have installed carafe’s in the rooms. “It’s not just about the business,” says Muir, “but about creating a personality for your business.”

Carrie Corwine, owner of Tony’s Pizza & Stonewalls Pub, also recently got involved in social marketing. Her clientele consists largely of college students and young adults already familiar with social networking. The decision to get involved in social networking was done at the urging of her customers. The Facebook business page for Tony’s has 127 friends. From the perspective of a business owner, that friend list is a handy mailing list. Every time Corwine updates Tony’s business Facebook page, it shows up on the news feeds of those who have elected to digitally associate with her restaurant.

Mellow Moods, Lullaby Lu, 3 Onions, and The Blue Moon Cafe also maintain a presence on social networking sites. Lullaby Lu, a children’s clothing store located near German and Church streets, posts about inventory just received at the store. “The rest of our Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bags are in!” reads the most recent wall post, which was sent out to at least 60 friends of the store on Facebook, and available to anyone searching for the store on Facebook.

3 Onions is hosting a “Photographic evidence” contest, encouraging patrons to post photographs from their times at the swanky disco and restaurant. The reward: A free martini.

The Blue Moon maintains a MySpace page where visitors can check out the concert schedule and hear selected tracks from incoming musicians. Mellow Moods recently used Facebook to post a help wanted ad. Within two hours of the post, three potential employees had indicated their intentions to apply.

There are some considerations to take in, report businesses involved in digital networking. For one, maintaining accounts on multiple platforms can be a “time hole,” in the words of Muir. She used to post the daily breakfast menu at her inn, but has since stopped doing that, saying that it was a bit overboard. “You just try to be calm about it,” says Muir. “Your audience doesn’t need to know everything that your business is doing.”