Jessica Gardner Reporter

Jessica covers Australia's technology start-up scene, writing on breaking news and trends in entrepreneurialism, media and marketing. She was previously named Australia's best New IT Journalist for 2011.

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Fast and social

Published 01 November 2011 09:20, Updated 05 December 2011 12:14

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As part of our coverage for the BRW Fast 100 issue, I wrote an article about the social media efforts of some of the companies on the list. While not all companies have wholeheartedly embraced online conversation with their customers … and even those who have are still working it out, overall I was really quite impressed.

Sixty-six per cent of the Fast 100 are using social media for their business. The best users of social media had a clear objective, were continually measuring the impact of their activity and had really thought creatively about the content they were putting out.

I was most impressed by cloud data room host Ansarada and retailer Booktopia. Ansarada showed that even a B2B company with a completely intangible product can engage a following online. Booktopia showed the benefits of building quality content and not always using social media as a sales megaphone.

Well, what a difference a year and a bit makes.

It was only April 2010 that I was analysing the social media flirtations of the BRW Fast Starters . Back then, I was talking to businesses that had neglected Twitter accounts and dormant Facebook pages. And you could forget about any kind of strategy.

The biggest problem back then was that no one really knew why their business had a presence on social media. The one exception on this was e-commerce site RedBubble, which sells art and prints created by users. My expert analyst at the time, marketing agency Working Three’s Mark Cameron, noted that RedBubble was really a community in itself and he was not surprised that it was able to take advantage of social media. Dropping in on RedBubble’s social media efforts these days shows that the company has gone from strength to strength. On Facebook, the company has gone from having 2004 fans in April 2010 to more than 15,000 likes today. Cameron, at the time, challenged the company to consider using widgets within Facebook to drive revenue. Well, whaddayaknow, about 6000 people have incorporated RedBubble’s Activity app into their Facebook pages to automatically sync updates from their RedBubble activity and share their art portfolios with friends.

Even the companies that were struggling a bit in April 2010 have stepped up a notch today. Mexican food chain Mad Mex had about 339 Facebook friends and as I pointed out in the article, was still working out just what to do on the site, as evidenced from posts by fans such as: “Love Mad Mex but seriously, what’s this page ever done for us?” Now almost 10,000 people “like” Mad Mex on Facebook and the company has an active community that enters competitions and shares their restaurant experiences.

It’s really pleasing to see the progress that many businesses can make on social media, in really such a short time. And I hope it’s encouraging for businesses such as GoGet Car Share. As part of this year’s article, I spoke to the company’s marketing manager, Richard Turino. He said GoGet had just started testing the water with social media. Initially he was hesitant because he was worried about letting go of the message. Given what I know about GoGet (as well as writing about it, I am also a customer) I think its community of users would really embrace building a community around the GoGet brand online. The customer base is urban and savvy. Even back in 2008, some of GoGet’s early customers were blogging about their experience, with comments such as “I just want to publicly acknowledge some good customer service. I got an email today from GoGet … I also like that all of their communications are really friendly and non-corporate and they make me happy to be a part of such a successful local business.”

In general, so long as businesses are genuine in their communications online, I think their customers are ready and willing to engage in social media. So there’s no time like the present for GoGet and the remaining 33 per cent of the Fast 100 to get brave, shake off the shackles of conservatism and get cracking with a social media policy.

Do you agree? Write and tell me your views.

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