In mid-June, when computer maker Dell announced it had earned $3 million in revenue from using Twitter, a popular micro-blogging site, the Internet and blogosphere were all atwitter about the news. Finally, proof that social media had the potential to not only increase traffic but also sales. Though as Dell was quick to mention, it took 18 months to make that first million via Twitter, albeit only six to earn the last.

The Nauti-Dog Company
The Nauti-Dog Company
(Click for larger image)

While Dell is a large corporation, with revenues of more than $61 billion in 2008 alone, smaller businesses — significantly smaller businesses — can also benefit from using Twitter as well as other forms of social media, such as Facebook and MySpace; blogs, particularly community blogs aimed at entrepreneurs, like The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, which features hundreds of small business owners every week; and sites like Help a Reporter Out (HARO), which links businesses with journalists for free. (Think of it as PR 2.0.)

That’s because unlike traditional PR and advertising, which can be costly, the main cost associated with social media is time, not cash (though this may be changing, thanks in part to success stories like Dell’s). And any business willing to spend some time on social media/networking sites, building a community or fan base, can benefit.

That’s the beauty of social networking. It levels the playing field and provides small business owners another platform or medium to leverage from a marketing perspective, said Scott Bradley, a social media strategist who runs the blog Networking Effectively. Social media also fosters closer and better company-customer/prospective customer interaction – call it Word-of-Mouth 2.0 – than do the more traditional print advertising and PR he said.

To find out how small businesses are using social networking sites and tools to market themselves and to build better relationships with their customers, I spoke with three retail businesses: The James Store, a 63-year-old clothing boutique located in Granville, Ohio; The Nauti-Dog Company, a small two-year-old retail dog-apparel business; and, a startup e-commerce retailer selling premium branded hooded sweatshirts. While their products and audience may differ from yours, their tips and advice regarding social media can be applied to any business.

To hear what these businesses/experts had to say — and learn valuable tips and tricks that can help you use social media to market your small business and connect with customers — read my article, “Social Network Marketing Meets Small Business,” which appears on

Have your own advice re how social media can help you market your business? Leave me a comment.

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