Social media paying off for business owners

February 19, 2010 4:21:43 PM PST
Facebook and Twitter have become a popular way for people to keep in touch, but savvy companies are finding they are good for business, too. Just how much it pays off may surprise you. Lots of businesses are on Facebook and Twitter, but now the researchers at Rice University have figured just how effective the sites are and why they are good consumers, too.

You may remember Dessert Gallery from their cake giveaway last year to anyone named Jennifer. Danielle Hunter knows the bakery from Facebook.

"I was playing around on the Facebook board and saw Dessert Gallery and saw fan pages in your area," said Facebook user Danielle Hunter. "And I was like 'Oh yes! Definite fan.'"

While plenty of businesses are on Facebook and Twitter, no one really knew just how powerful the web sites could be as tools for attracting customers until now. An associate professor from Rice University surveyed 1,700 customers of Dessert Gallery over a three month period and found Facebook fans were good for business.

The stores Facebook fans made 36 percent more visits to the restaurant each month than non Facebook customers and they spent 45 percent more of their dining out budget at the bakery. Those fans also spent 33 percent more at Dessert Gallery than other restaurants and had greater emotional attachment to the brand.

Store owner Sara Brook says the sites have changed the way she reaches out to consumers.

"It used to be, back in the old days, I was able to communicate with customer once a year," she said.

Now Brook has near instant access to thousands of customers and there is something in it for consumers who've signed up as fans.

"It is amazing what people will do for a free cookie or a brownie, you know. If we have a survey or trying to get people's opinions, they are very happy to give it," said Brook.

The researchers also found social media should not be the only marketing a company does, but when done right, social networking sites it can be money makers.

It also lets business owners respond quickly to a problem. I've heard from a lot of people who used a company's Facebook and Twitter account to complain about a bad experience and they ended up getting a resolution.