Case study: Social Media Makes Big Splash for Small Entrepreneur

Here is the most colorful social media success story you’ll ever read!

The story starts with paint. Colorful … get it? I crack myself up.

My friend Julie Boney became tired of painting splotches all over her walls every time she wanted to re-decorate. So she invented a product called “Small Wall” that allows decorators to paint a small board and then post it on a wall like a post-it note. It’s easy and won’t harm the walls.

To market her clever invention, Julie sensed social media might help but needed direction.  She decided her primary objective was brand awareness so I walked her through some fundamental strategies.

The first step was finding meaningful, targeted followers on the social web — people and publications who would be interested in her idea.  That way, she would be delivering content and building relationships with people who mattered, people who would love her story. We also talked about strategies for engaging with these audiences in a helpful and authentic way.

One targeted publication was Woman’s Day magazine, which features lots of home-oriented tips. After Woman’s Day published an article about “try before you buy,” Julie commented on their Facebook page, suggesting that her Small Wall invention was an excellent solution to the problem of selecting paint colors.  Within an hour, she had a response from the magazine’s editor-in-chief Elizabeth Mayhew, asking for samples!

In October, the Nashville-based Small Wall was featured prominently in a Woman’s Day Online decorating feature (see graphic above) and in the January 2011 print edition, Small Wall is once again the star of an article on decorating tips for the new year.

“This is exposure we never could have afforded through traditional advertising methods,” Julie said. “It made me a believer in the power of the social web for small businesses.”

And Julie’s success is just beginning.  A Facebook connection also resulted in the product being discussed on a Martha Stewart broadcast and now Martha is following her on Twitter (Martha follows less than 1%of her followers)

Publicity like this has been helpful introducing Small Wall with zero expenditures and pulling through sales at Sherwin-Williams, Ace Hardware and Amazon.com.

A key lesson is that both print and online publications have an insatiable hunger for content and are scouring the social web for ideas, connections, experts, angles and quotes. But you can’t take advantage of this opportunity if you’re invisible or not actively connecting and engaging.

The social web can be a great equalizer for small businesses if you apply a little know-how, creativity and content!

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  • OneJillian

    That is an excellent story for breaking the concept that “those things only happen to lucky connected people…”

  • markwschaefer

    @OneJillian If you surround yourself with targeted connections, engage with meaningful content and are authentically helpful, good things will happen! Thanks Jillian!

  • For me the key point here is that she followed publishers and potentially interested parties. I see too many people following likeminded tweeps. It’s important to actually target groups who could be potentially interested in your services.

    The only problem in a B2B context that i can see is that too many use Twitter as a broadcast platform and don’t engage with followers or potential followers.

    And what happens if your market isn’t on Twitter ? (i.e. schools, smaller businesses, etc)

    But a great case-study Mark. Ideal inspiration for others.

  • markwschaefer

    @jonbuscall All good points Jon. i do think Twitter is still obscure for many B2Bs. However I am working with one client who resisted Twitter for this reason but when I interviewwed the customers, “social media” was their number one issue for the coming year, indicating they better get in the mix — and LEAD!

    Thanks for taking time away from the puppieds to comment Jon!

  • HowieSPM

    Mark this is awesome. I might be a contrarian against most of the over hype for marketing via Social Media, and I still can’t see the light for big brand sales needle moves, but for small and medium businesses it can be such a boon. I have a client I have had similar experiences with (not the same scale but important none the less). Instead of looking at Social Media as a mass marketing tool which is what sadly the Networks and VCs want us to believe, the real strategic value is finding the key people and engaging with them. Not everyone is on Twitter or Facebook, but enough people are that we can find people who can help. And in fact I have many many many years of Business Development and cold calling and teleprospecting experience under my belt. It sucks. But its easy to find people and say hello and instead of them seeing a phone number and a voice..they can scope us out a bit reducing their barriers to engagement. Kind of like how I broke through yours! 8)

    And then long term this will lead to bigger and better things. Thank you for this post. I am saving it because for all the chatter and the hype, so few real successful case studies ever are published.

  • markwschaefer

    @HowieSPM i think the business case for scoial media is probably different if you are a small business, a global brand, a B2B or a celebrity. There is a role in all of these cases but the integration with traditional media and expected outcomes may differ widely. Thanks Howie. Glad you can get some use out of this post!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Mark for this “case study” that answers most of the “what If” questions in the realm of confidence and uncertainty in our personal and professional life 🙂 -Dr. Rae for The Baum Group

  • Another case point for blogging and getting it out there to the masses- it really does open doors.

    About a year ago, I was “found” by a local woman who had started a kids magazine – she ran into something that mentioned I’ve been published before in a local family magazine & that I taught journal writing classes. And that I blog…She invited me to be on the board, and once her grant comes in, we (me) will probably be starting a blog.

    I am also waiting to hear about another new magazine starting up in the area…

    I love that my offline & online stuff sort of all meshes together.

    I do think “the powers that be” are lurking around, quietly watching from the shadows….

    …seeing who is talking about what.

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  • Great case study. It sounds like Julie had a great attitude about embracing social media – she was going to work at it, have some fun with it and see where it took her business. She was trying to drive connections, not sales. Of course, the sales resulted from the connections. Good for her?

  • Exactly. And like most she was a little hesitant about things at first! Thanks for adding your thoughts!

  • Real Estate Web Design Delhi

    Well written blog ! congratulations! real estate web design Delhi

  • THanks for this Mark. My clients always ask me, why I do social media and yes it works for me but not for their business. These case studies help.

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  • Wait; is this you? Doing PR? Way to gooooo! LOVE IT!! You crack me, up, too!

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