Social media and social networking give us unprecedented power. Power to create the word-of-mouth advocacy that leads to warmer leads, more loyalty customers, and brand leverage. But how can you overcome social media “noise”? How can you create your own community of “evangelists”—people willing and eager to spread the word?
The lesson I learned from several rising stars (whom I had the pleasure of moderating on a NYT Small Business Summit panel) is simple:
You attract them with your “why.”
So many companies use social media for PR blasting—“look at me! Look at me!”—without taking the time to cultivate a community. Or giving people a reason to want to be part of the community. They focus on the “what”: what am I offering? What do I do? What do I want to sell? Yet the key to success is tapping into the “why”: why does your company make a difference? Why are you unique? Why do your values resonate with your tribe?
Each of Otis Chandler, Ido Leffler, and Robbie Vitrano used social media and networking tools to catapult their business visibility to national recognition in less than 5 years. Not just entrepreneurs, they are social entrepreneurs who value people and the planet as well as profit.
1. GoodReads.com: From Personal Passion to Problem-Solving.
The “What”: GoodReads.com is a social network for book lovers.
The “Why”: A voracious reader, founder Otis Chandler started GoodReads.com as part of a personal goal to read more books. In short, to “share the love”—of reading and books with others who felt the same way. Otis relies extensively on community feedback to drive the development of GoodReads.com. GoodReads.com is also a problem-solver for the disparate members of the literary community seeking unbiased information about books, trends, and how-tos for authors promoting their books.
The Results: Launched in late 2006, the site has since grown to over 5 million members who have added over 150 million books, completely by word of mouth.
2. YesToCarrots.com: Beauty Is More than Skin-Deep
The “What”: Natural health and beauty products
The “Why”: Yes To has a commitment to healthful living, a theme that’s threaded through its blog posts, its forum for followers, and its educational programs. The brand established the Yes To™ Seed Fund, a not-for-profit organization to teach kids about nutrition and healthy living through the planting of organic school gardens. The founder, Ido Leffler, walks his talk in his own organic garden, where he is teaching his daughter exactly where food comes from.
The Results: In just 5 short years, Yes To has achieved distribution in over 28,000 stores in over 25 countries (including Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Wholefoods, and Sephora Europe). Yes To has garnered recognition as being among the top natural beauty brands in the world.
3. NakedPizza.biz: Conquering Obesity, One Pizza at a Time
The “What”: Pizza with healthful and organic ingredients.
The “Why”: Naked Pizza aims to demonstrate by example that fast food can be part of the solution for the global epidemic of obesity and chronic disease related to diet. There’s another aspect of Naked Pizza worthy of mention: its location. Its founder, Robbie Vitrano, chose to headquarter Naked Pizza in post-Katrina New Orleans as a way to propel growth and rebuilding in the community. To its founder, Robbie Vitrano, social media is an opportunity for meanginful, transparent conversation to add value and inspire better eating—often delivered, like its pizza, with a bit of spice.
The Results: Ranked in 2011 as the 4th most influential Quick Service Restaurant brand, Naked Pizza has achieved tremendous growth in the 18 months since its launch, with an array of healthful, wholesome food items. The company is recognized as one of the leading brands in its use of social media; at one point, over 69% of its sales came from Twitter alone.
>>Having a “why” behind your “what” is a surefire magnet for brand evalgelists in social media. Why does your business matter? Does it have a social purpose? And if not, why not?