The United Way of Greater Milwaukee recently finished its annual campaign, raising more than $45.5 million for the organizations it supports. A portion of that money was raised during the last 10 days of the campaign and was done mostly by the means of social media and the power of connection.
The “Give Ten Inspire 100” campaign was launched during the final stretch of the annual giving drive, said Betsy Rourke, spokeswoman for the United Way.
“The campaign focused on utilizing social media tools to reach out and begin developing relationships with younger donors,” Rourke said. “The basis of the campaign was to reach out to those donors using social media avenues like Twitter and Facebook, and encourage them to donate $10 to the United Way and then pass the information on to 10 other people however they wanted.”
Rourke says social media helped build relationships that the organization will be able to leverage in the future.
“We were able to connect with organizations and people we haven’t been able to connect with before,” she said.
The campaign was the first time The United Way of Greater Milwaukee relied solely on social media to accomplish a task.
“We raised $12,460 for the campaign, but the relationships we managed to build will be worth exponentially more in the future,” Rourke said. “It was a great way for us to rally the community and hopefully gain long lasting partnerships with people who are focused on helping the organization in the future. The younger donors we connected with are the donors of the future.”
Building and fostering relationships is a key component of social media that can be utilized by businesses of all types, including business-to-business (B2B) companies.
Many of those relationships can develop loyal customers, key contacts, brand agents or customer client referrals. The development of those relationships can result in real growth, real dollars and real success for companies. Here are some examples of how southeastern Wisconsin businesses are using social media to grow their companies.
Donato Diorio, president of Broadlook Technologies in Pewaukee, leverages LinkedIn and other social media platforms for his business. Broadlook Technologies specializes in the aggregation of business contact information, but has taken that historic type of information and revolutionized it with the use of social media.
“We use LinkedIn as one of the primary sources,” Diorio said. “My personal blog has also been a great way to reach out there and talk about your views. It is more than just a commercial, it is somehow presenting to your readers that you can add value, give them something they need to know.”
Through platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and his blog, he can invite people to relevant webinars, draw attention to his blog or provide something else of value for his customers.
“I firmly believe these platforms are ancillary offerings to something you already have that is of substance,” he said. “These platforms are most successful when they are used to bring additional value to an already good product or service.”
Diorio formed his Idonato.com blog nearly three years ago. He was one of the first business executives in southeastern Wisconsin to join LinkedIn, where he now has more than 10,000 connections and more than 25,000 people who subscribe to his blog.
“It’s really about the sum of all of its parts,” Diorio said. “It isn’t just one thing or the other. It’s a conversation that has to take place. Using it to just spit out your message, without conversing and building relationships with other people is like a tiny person trying to shout their message in a crowded room. It just isn’t going to work.”
Scott Baitinger and his partner, Steve Mai, opened their Streetza Pizza business in May of 2009 in hopes of creating and maintaining a business that cost them nothing.
“That included money on the website, and marketing. I’m a web developer by day, and even our Streetza Pizza website is just a word press blog,” Baitinger said.
Baitinger is vice president and creative director at Mequon-based Mader Communications by day. At night, he operates the Streetza Truck, most often on the corner of Water Street and Juneau Avenue in one of downtown Milwaukee’s primary bar districts.
Early on, Baitinger experimented with Twitter and Facebook avenues to market and get the word out about his business. The Streetza truck soon gained many followers and fans who played an integral role in the development of the company, Baitinger said.
Streetza Pizza has been named as one of the top 10 mobile food trucks in the nation by Jolapnik.com, an automotive news and gossip website, and has also made GQ magazine and Los Angeles Times top 10 lists. Streetza is also in talks with Paper New York Films in Vancouver, which produces television shows for The Food Network. According to Baitinger, the production company found out about Streetza via Twitter and wants to feature the company in an upcoming Food Network series.
“Without Twitter and Facebook, I can honestly say we wouldn’t have experienced the success we have so far,” Baitinger said. “Without those avenues or without people just seeing us parked on the street, it is probable that no one would know who we are. That following has helped our business grow tremendously.”
According to Baitinger, 2010 will be a big year for the company. They plan to finally hire additional staff and keep the business open during regular business hours in addition to the late-night hours they are open now.
“We are already in negotiations to get a second truck up and running in the Milwaukee area, and possibly one in Madison,” Baitinger said. “One of the most exciting things that has happened for us is that we made a connection through Twitter with an individual who owns a very successful fast casual dining restaurant in Cleveland. Within the next year, we will probably have Streetza Trucks throughout the Midwest. I had no idea the power of Twitter until this all came to fruition. It’s the interaction and the relationship building that is key.”
Sam Bowers, a human resources consultant in Milwaukee, believes that businesses in any realm can utilize social media for their benefit.
“These avenues are a great addition to or sometimes even an alternative to traditional business marketing strategies,” Bowers said. “There are so many different platforms that can be developed and geared toward your business and any type of multilevel marketing strategy.”
Bowers is involved in Twitter, LinkedIn and also has an HR blog. He says about 90 percent of his clients have come from some form of social media.
In 2009, Mequon-based First Priority Printing was able to secure close to $15,000 in revenue just from its use of Twitter, said company president Robert Strzelczyk.
“If you asked me how much business I’ve earned from Twitter, it would be a lot, but I’ve earned an equal amount of contacts that have provided services that make my business life a lot easier as well,” he said.
Strzelczyk said he has earned multiple contact referrals that have led to additional business for his printing company, but has also earned a lot of clients’ trust and respect through the social media outlet.
“Printing is a trust-based industry,” he said. “If you can garner the trust of a client so that they know you are going to get the job done right and get the job done on time, they will work with you (as long as) the pricing is in the right ball park.”
Twitter has given Strzelczyk an advantage over his competitors because he has been able to use it to develop and engage in relationships with past clients and potential new clients.
“I’m a little more visible than a lot of my competition, at least in those avenues,” Strzelczyk said. “It is certainly advantageous for me to be involved in those arenas. It gives me an opportunity to engage with clients and it gives them an easy way to get to know me on a personal level that allows them to develop that trust in me.”
Midwest Airlines, an Oak Creek-based subsidiary of Indianapolis-based Republic Airways, got a late start in social media in 2009, but it is catching up quickly.
“We really wanted to create an online community in support of the Midwest brand,” said Midwest Airlines spokesman Matthew Stehling. “It has allowed us to use the feedback as research to get a sense of the overall sentiment surrounding the brand, and has also given us the opportunity to engage with our customers in a way unlike anything we’ve been able to do before.”
Midwest wants to learn from what people are saying about its service and uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs to take part in the social media conversations that were previously taking place without the company’s participation.
“It has allowed us to use that feedback to build a better business, a better product and provide a better service to our client base,” Stehling said.
Midwest has run sales and promotion deals for its followers and fan base through Facebook and Twitter.
“The tools have been great in driving traffic to our website, which is a wonderful distribution channel for ticket sales and information for our customers,” Stehling said.
Grand Geneva Resort and Spa
The Grand Geneva Resort and Spa in Lake Geneva has been experimenting with social media for the past few months. The resort ran a large social media campaign centered around its ski hill’s opening weekend and managed to bring hundreds of new and first-time skiers to the resort.
“We launched a social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook in November,” said Courtney Nobilio, marketing manager for the resort. “The promotional campaign increased our fan base by more than 3,000 people and has just garnered an incredible response.”
The promotion enabled people who became fans of the resort’s Facebook page the opportunity to print free lift tickets for opening day weekend.
“Essentially the promotion allowed anyone who had their own equipment to come to the resort and ski for free on opening weekend,” Nobilio said.
More than 1,800 free lift ticket vouchers were redeemed over opening day weekend at the resort, and plans are already in the works to create more ways to attract more visitors to the resort through social media.
“We had so much positive feedback from the weekend,” Nobilio said. “The biggest success we had was how many new skiers we got to come to the resort and who will come back throughout the rest of the season.”
Equipment rental, food and beverage sales and the resort’s bar and grill all benefitted from the skiers that came to the resort, Nobilio said.
Whyte Hirschbeck Dudek
Daniel Galligan, shareholder in the corporate department of the Milwaukee law firm of Whyte Hirschbeck Dudek, utilizes social media avenues as networking and relationship building devices.
“As an attorney, it means that my business is derived from relationships,” Galligan said. “What I try do through my LinkedIn, Twitter and the web page is to leverage those to develop a network. I want to easily stay connected to people I know, and find people I don’t know but want to know for the benefit of my business.”
Galligan stressed the importance of blending his online world connections to his real world business life, but noted the ease of connecting people in an online forum.
“Social media has allowed me to blend my networks, and has allowed me to meet people and make and gain referrals from across the country that has led to real world clients and business,” he said.
Galligan has introduced investment bankers on the East Coast with developers in other areas that he has met through LinkedIn. He has also gained clientele for himself through LinkedIn.
Kenosha-based Jockey International Inc. in Kenosha utilizes social media to communicate with the public and harness a positive experience around the Jockey brand, said Mo Moorman, director of public relations for the company.
“These outlets are versatile, fast and inexpensive,” he said. “And they give us frequent opportunities to interact with our individual customer base in a way unlike traditional marketing techniques have allowed us.”
Jockey launched an interactive supplemental social media campaign on YouTube about the 75th anniversary of Jockey.
Moorman said social media has given the company a way to interact with its customer base on a level that was unachievable before.
Cedar Valley Publishing
Stacey Kannenberg was a stay-at-home mom for many years, but her entrepreneurial spirit wouldn’t let her do just that. From her home in Fredonia, Kannenburg formed Cedar Valley Publishing and wrote and published a children’s book titled, “Let’s Get Ready for Kindergarten.”
With the help of social media, Kannenberg has managed to sell more than 65,000 copies of her book online and has positioned herself as a prominent “mommy blogger,” public speaker and networking expert on a national and even international basis.
“It is kind of amazing to sit back and look at the magic that happens,” Kannenberg said. “I’ve helped over 1,000 authors get published, and am in the process of developing my own media business, HerInsight, with a host of contacts I’ve garnered through social media.”
Kannenberg utilizes around 40 different social media outlets for her businesses.
“It has really been an incredible journey,” she said. “You can really leverage these free sites and get great leads without having to spend any money. You just need to develop your footprint tracks online so people looking can find you. Social media has made the world a lot smaller place for a company like mine to do business.”
Restaurateur Joe Sorge
Joe Sorge, owner of local Milwaukee restaurants Swig, Water Buffalo and AJ Bombers, has found that social media outlets complement his company’s overall marketing strategy of permission style marketing.
According to Sorge, his company’s soirée into social media came after he had just begun experimenting with Twitter.
“I was randomly doing a search for our restaurants and had stumbled across a person who had tweeted about how she had enjoyed herself the night before at Swig,” he said. “I replied to her with not much more than a thank you for her business and within minutes she had rebroadcast my thank you to her personal Twitter world of over several hundred followers, who then in turn decided to follow Swig on Twitter.”
Rockwell Automation Inc.
Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation Inc. has been using social media avenues to create communities for about two years. According to Ninveh Nueman, marketing manager for Rockwell’s North American region, the company has a company blog and uses YouTube Channel, Slideshare, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
“We are experimenting in a couple of different places.” Nueman said. “We are reaching out to college campuses and potential hires through our human resource and acquisition department, and our customers have been responding very well to our blogs and trouble-shooting advice we offer through those avenues as well.”
Rockwell Automation tries to participate with customers in a space that is comfortable for them, Nueman said.
“Safety is a big area of concern in the automation business in general. We launched some initiatives to get people talking about issues surrounding safety,” she said. “I would say our benefit (of using social media) is a lot more qualitative than quantitative, but it is a way to bring our customer facing resources a lot closer to the customers and it’s a way for them to reach us quickly and easily.”
One of Rockwell Automation’s goals is to use social media as a way to stay connected with the company’s customers.
“If our customers are communicating in that space, we need to be there to be a resource for them, to answer their questions and concerns,” Nueman said.