Can you win business using social media?

When people talk about social media, sites like Facebook and Twitter they often talk about return on investment and monetizing it. If I told you I invested 3 hours a week and got a significant return would you believe me? Would you believe me if I told you I was a brick and mortar business and not a social media business?

As a small regional courier company, based in the UK I work in a county that is smaller in size than Brooklyn, New York. In fact someone told me once the whole UK could fit into New York state a few times. Not only do I live in another country, I have less people to do business with 😉

I discovered blogging in 2007 through a site called BT Tradespace, and to this day I still send my blog posts there. I had to write 50 words 3 times a week on my BT Tradespace blog. My first one went “White van in Sheffield on Friday, looking for a load back to London” 13 words. Hmmm, only another 37 to find. I scraped up another 37 words and hit publish. And I did this 3 times a week and after 3 weeks the phone started ringing with bookings. Every time we blogged the phone rang, some days it rang off the hook!

I had these blogs to promote and I had no idea what to with them so in August 2007 I set up a Facebook page and added the feed to the Facebook page so people could see the blogs.

In 2008 I discovered Twitter via a lady called Suzy Miller, and I thought hey – I can promote my blog posts there too. So for 15 minutes every day I would chat to people on Twitter, help those with delivery problems out, ReTweet useful posts and promote my own blog posts. Soon lots of people started to recommend me. I met with local business people for coffee and spoke about Twitter and what it can do for business. I helped other small businesses get started on Twitter and I wrote an ebook that sold 450 copies – “Twitter for Couriers” to help others in my niche industry get started.

2009 was interesting, were noticed by a very large company who needed time sensitive deliveries. We whizzed through the vetting procedures, it was so fast it was like a blur. I was curious, these things take months so I asked why it was so fast and the reply? “We can find all the information we need about you online, through your blogs, your tweets, through Facebook. We have even watched your You Tube video, we just need to meet you to see if you are like that in real life”. And we were, like that in real life that is. Being human and helpful gained us a big contract. Using social media enabled us to be found, followed and then trusted. Trusted enough to deliver time critical items.

2010 was the year of more blogging, guest blogging and gaining more business through social media. People who didn’t know us laughed – “How can a small business win contracts on Twitter? They are not social media experts, they are not even marketing experts, they have poor grammar too…” As if poor grammar ever stopped people from having a conversation! That’s what social media is about, the conversation.

If you are a chatty helpful person then you can do well with social media too.

  • Set up your searches for your keywords, and talk back to people that need help.
  • Direct them to pages on your blog that can help and ask them to ReTweet if they found it useful.
  • If people are in other countries direct them to a Twitter user or blog in their own country for help. You make two new friends that way.
  • Help Journalists in your industry – this has led to press and radio interviews for us
  • Be human, don’t be a business tweet robot, show some of your personality
  • Show other sides to your business – there’s more to us that white vans!

Nearly 20 billion searches a month are performed on Twitter so once a day Tweet out what you do and a link to your website so you are found in the searches. Mine goes out at around 4am in the morning so it can be found but not annoy my regular followers.

Still think you won’t get business from Twitter? If a small regional courier from a country that’s one fifth of the size of New York State can, so can you. You just have to do it.

Sarah Arrow

Sarah Arrow Works for Same Day Courier company, Arrow Light Haulage. You can join her on Twitter @Sarah Arrow. She is also managing editor of business woman's blog - Birds on the blog. If you found this blog post useful, please ReTweet it - thank you

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  1. Very nice article, thank you.

  2. It is a problem I need to find more information about, appreciation for the article.

  3. I absolutely think this is a fantastic experience Sarah. More so because it demonstrates the use of social media for offline businesses. I think many are intrigued by it but just aren’t sure if it can be truly translated to tangible sales.

    • I was sceptical at first Lynette, but the results speak for themselves. I think the offline businesses have an advantage by being in the “real” world so people can drop by and say hello.

      I think all small businesses should have a social media presence, but then I am biased 🙂

  4. Great story and tips! I particularly like the story about tweeting out around 4 am so that the searches pick you up. Thanks!

  5. webmaster says:

    I’ve tried this method earlier, and it worked when I started it, but slowly I saw that may customers were referred by other and not because of social media.
    So, I can say it works !

  6. Sarah has an exceptional talent for friendship, writing, service, and efficiency.

    I think these qualities have boosted the effectiveness of her social media presence.

    We all can do well by folowing her example.


  7. interesting article, thanks

  8. Social media is a great help for my online business. I think most of us who are into this kind of business, using social media to help grow our business and become more profitable..Anyway, nice post..Keep writing!!!

  9. Gabster's a Social Media Agency says:

    This is the best case scenario for a small business. Good for you for having the vision and perseverance to stick with it.

    We help a lot of small businesses get started with social media and the biggest proof it works is social proof like this – thanks for writing your experience down for all of us to share. 😀

  10. A great little narrative about the power of social media!

    I think it should also be noted that social media is powerful in more than just the ways mentioned in your post. Yes, it connects you to your consumers and is a great way to interact and be found, but companies like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! actually weight shared links on Twitter and Facebook much higher than normal backlinks. A recent study discussed on SEOmoz actually compared two sites, one promoted by traditional backlinks and one promoted entirely through twitter, and the twitter page blew the traditionally backlinked page out of the water.

    Powerful stuff! Definitely a lesson to folks out there who think that Social Media is just a fad…

  11. I have to say, I really like the idea of dropping a twitter post at 4am. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make generally annoying posts like that work without getting in the face of my followers.

  12. I believe that using social media site will help our business growing, but of course we need a strategy for it. use social media poorly will not be useful, even just going to disturb our business.

  13. Hi Sarah,

    Great blog! I am very interested in learning about how to monetise facebook and social media generally. There is such debate and a lot of skeptics about it’s value but I think that is simly because you can’t really measure the success in monetary terms only. As your story shows, your activity in social media may not be easy to measure in dollars and cents but think of the reputation, the brand building, word of mouth, and media coverage etc. This sort of stuff is priceless.

    In my very early social media journey I know two solid things and you have exemplified both. You have to maintain activity and frequency of contact with and through social media, nad importantly, you have to be yourself and show that personality – you have to be transparent or you will surely fail. I know it’s hard to monetise but I am certain that Social meida has limitless potential for businesses both big and small.

    Good luck with the business!

  14. Hi there,

    Nice! In fact I received my last customer through Twitter just last week. I’m not entirely certain how I did it (I’ve just been talking to people) but I’m sure to continue now. : D


    Pete @ Pure FX

  15. Nolan Davion says:

    I’d come to give green light with you on this subject. Which is not something I typically do! I enjoy reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

  16. Demarcus Wheeldon says:

    I wish more people would write blogs like this that are really fun to read. With all the fluff floating around on the net, it is rare to read a blog like this instead.