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What’s a business to do, when social media calls?

Jennifer Collins Jul 22, 2011
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Kai Ryssdal: Comscore — the website-traffic-measuring people — said today Google+ has had 20 million people — 20 million people — visit the site in just the past couple of weeks. Late yesterday, Google itself said tens of thousands of businesses have applied to start their own profiles. Google’s has told all but a select few of ’em to wait.

Eventually, though, companies are going to have to figure out how to be on G+ and Facebook and Twitter and all the rest. So what could one more social network cost ’em anyway?

Marketplace’s Jennifer Collins went to find out.


Jennifer Collins: Daddies Board Shop in Portland, Ore., is a hands-on kind of place. The company assembles almost all of the skateboards and snowboards it sells. Sarah Loveland is in charge of marketing.

Sarah Loveland: Over here at the assembly bench, we have a custom longboard.

A longboard is kind of like a skateboard but longer.

Loveland: We’re the earth’s largest longboard store.

Daddies is the size of a small supermarket. Most of Daddies’ hundreds of orders a day are online. A lot of its customers come through Facebook. Loveland spends about $6,000 a year on Facebook ads. But the real investment is her time, because customers are always watching the social network.

Loveland: I won’t check it for the day or I won’t check it all weekend, and then I’ll come in on Monday and respond to everyone. And they’re already like “Daddies isn’t answering questions?” And it’s like, “No no, I just have other things I need to do.”

Like filling orders or keeping up with other social media. Ten years ago, Daddies connected with customers through a blog. It’s had a MySpace page. It offered a deal on Groupon. Now it has a Twitter feed. Daddies tries everything. So when Google+ started, Loveland wanted to join that too.

Loveland: I’ve never kind of felt the urgency like this before.

And if Daddies Board Shop is feeling the urgency when a giant like Google draws a reported 20 million people, just imagine what Visa, Apple and Pepsi are feeling. Jonathan Haber is chief innovation officer with OMD, which handles advertising strategy for those companies. In social media, strategy involves applications, games, sweepstakes, newsfeeds and tweets. And all that strategizing requires a lot of people like Sarah Loveland.

Jonathan Haber: You can spend anywhere from $100,000 a year to many millions of dollars a year.

When a new social media player shows up, Haber says the big companies have to figure out how to use it. For instance Google+ lets lots of people video chat at the same time. Google calls it a Hangout — companies want to use it for customer service. Ford has already set up a profile on Google+. MTV is there. Steve Jobs is there — or actually three or four people claiming to be him.

Ian Schafer‘s there too. He’s the CEO of interactive marketing agency Deep Focus.

Ian Schafer: Brands are very quick to rush into something that is the flavor of the month.

Collins: So I have to think that that there had to be some people sitting inside boardrooms who were like “Oh no, not another one.”

Schafer: I guarantee that’s what was happening and I guarantee it’s also they’re fearing the social media ninja that’s going to be knocking on their door saying, ‘I’ve got a Google+ strategy for you.’

A ninja who’ll gladly help you out for, oh say, $5,000 a week.

I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

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