Businesses increasing interested in social media | ParkRecord.com

Businesses increasing interested in social media

by Andrew Kirk, OF THE RECORD STAFF

Most of the attendees at the Park City Chamber/Bureau’s monthly Brown Bag Seminar on Thursday on how to improve public relations and marketing efforts were there to ask about using social media.

The seminar was hosted by Christa Graff, founder of Graff Public Relations in town. She emphasized that public relations is just what it sounds like: creating relationships. Social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Flickr are making that easy, fast and free.

The secret is knowing how to use them effectively because they are time consuming, Graff pointed out.

"When Twitter was getting big about six months ago I checked it out and it was a lot of friends saying, ‘I’m at the coffee shop.’ I thought, ‘Are you kidding?’ But then businesses got involved," Graff said.

She shared an experience of allowing a stranger to follow her on Twitter called "Cotton Candy Shop." Eventually, out of curiosity, she clicked on their link to see what it was. She found they sold children’s clothing and Graff ordered several items right then.

Lori Harris, owner of Mary Jane’s, said she had a similar experience. Harris uses Twitter to draw attention to her blogs about fashion and a designer requested to follow her. She clicked on his link, liked his clothing, and is now in negotiation with him to carry his line.

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But what are the right ways and the wrong ways? Michelle Rayner, founder of Cosmic Design, uses different kinds of social media but hasn’t seen any benefit yet.

"We’re all quite busy," she said. "How do I know if it’s beneficial to our business or a client?"

Rayner said she’s working hard to learn more and makes it a priority to follow trends in design and advertising.

"Like with anything, if I know how to use a tool properly I can do more, quicker," she said.

Graff showed how she follows news organizations on Twitter to get the most recent headlines and stay on top of interests in the media that she could tap into for her clients.

Katie Wright with The Park City Foundation said she’s fascinated by how companies are using their followings on Twitter to do market research. Wright said she’d like to use social media to connect people interested in fighting a problem in society. This fall she’s participating in the "Save the Snow" campaign fighting global climate change. She thinks social media could be used to encourage and remind people to conserve gas, electricity and water.

"I want to get people connected with each other and really harness it to solve social problems," she said.

Jean Carlan at The Washington School Inn said she’s found posting photographs of the inn on Flickr increases its rating for search engines like Google. Most of the inn’s new clients come from Internet searches, and anything she can do to increase exposure through those engines will be good for business, she explained.

Graff said she’s using Twitter in many of her public relations campaigns because it’s the fastest social media to use. Facebook works too, but takes more of a time investment to interact with people, she said.

For example, she posted spring deals at Stein Eriksen Lodge on Twitter and her clients said hits on those pages went up.

Some companies offer discounts or special events to people who follow them on Facebook or Twitter to track its impact, she said.

Harris said she’s held specials at Mary Janes only announced through social media and has seen great response.

Graff said experts have told her that traditional marketing and public relations strategies are not being replaced by social media, but these sites are becoming an increasingly important part of those efforts.

The Park Record uses Twitter to announce happenings in the news room and what stories reporters are working on. The staff invites readers to follow it to know what’s happening in Summit County.