Tweet, Tweet, Ching, Ching: For Small Companies, Twitter Pays

Twitter can supercharge a word-of-mouth campaign, invigorate the street food market, and even replace the restaurant industry's comment card.


Jason Cox, aka @MJasonC, was planning a birthday dinner. Rather than call a restaurant or book a reservation online, he sent a tweet to William "Marty" Kotis, aka @darryls, the owner of Darryl's Wood Fire Grill in Greensboro, North Carolina.  A few hundred characters and one birthday S'more promise later, he not only grabbed a celebratory dinner at Darryl's, but also tweeted with the owner through the meal and came back to book a 50-person event as result of their correspondence.

The success of Darryl's is the direct result of the success of @darryls, Kotis claims. "In a restaurant, the comment card has been replaced by the tweet," he says. "I've had conversations, 140 characters of less of course, with guests that are dining in the restaurant. It's instant, effective, and creates a real wow factor for the guest to get instantaneous responses to their comments."

To tweet or not to tweet? is the question many small businesses face when designing high impact marketing plans on a small budget. For some small businesses, Twitter is more than a marketing gimmick. It's pivotal to the business model -- if you know how to use it.

Perhaps no industry relies on Twitter as much as food trucks. Take-out restaurants on wheels pull up to an open curb and send out their daily location to followers. Without Twitter, nobody would know where to form a food line. The owner of a crème brulee cart in San Francisco, Curtis Kimball told the New York Times that he owed the success of his small business to Twitter, through which he advertises his daily location and offerings.

Another company, Mabel's Label's, which creates labels for children's products like sippy cups, takes full advantage of Twitter. Between staff, company, and founder Julie Cole's account (@JulieCole), they boast over 20,000 followers. "We have a children's product, and mothers generally spread the word about products they like via word of mouth," Cole says. Twitter moves that word-of-mouth advertising online.

Cole, who has received a shout-out from Regis and Kelly's on Twitter, says all she has to do is send a message saying "hello" and the recipient often follows her profile to view products online. "A lot of exposure for one little 'hello' tweet!" she says.

But while marketing gurus urge companies to jump social media, some executives are still left wondering whether it's for everyone.

Joanna Robinson is the owner of Lunar Massage, with two locations in Washington, D.C., targeting district workaholics with limited disposable income in need of a quick, quality massage without the fussy spa treatment. But Robinson says her tweets don't bring much extra attention. "People do follow me on Twitter," she says, "but I use it to build a narrative. I don't expect it to boost sales 20 percent."

Robinson says small business owners need to be realistic about how much traffic comes with a tweet. "I read all these business articles and everyone says, 'Social networking! Social networking!'" she says. "Twitter has different implications for different industries."