By Sally Lo
Although Toronto is a big city, there are few organizations that offer social media classes. The Toronto Reference Library offers a free 1 or 2-hour class once a month. The Toronto District School Board's Overland Learning Centre offers social media classes in the fall and spring in two 8-week sessions (2-hour classes held once per week).
Social media has expanded and matured since the days when it was considered just a means for teenagers to connect with friends. Being computer-literate and social media-savvy has become essential for work, study and play in modern society. ProTech Media Centre offers free computer training to the public. They also run a social media class about once a month. I attended two unforgettable classes at ProTech last summer. Host Lucy Watson (of The Black Chick Group) teaches a very interactive class on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The social media class in May was aimed at small business owners and how they can use social networking to promote their businesses.
Lucy’s advice on using social media? Don’t use it to sell products but to share what you know. That may involve teaching others a skill, such as how to play the drums.
Social Media + Facetime = Success
I spoke to several small business owners in the Toronto Beach and Leslieville neighbourhoods recently about their use of social media to promote their businesses. All of the companies are currently on Facebook and Twitter. Some are also using Groupon, an online deals website, to attract new customers with special discounts.
Rochelle Straker owns the home decor/entertaining store Cry If I Want To with her sister Allison. She explains, “Not having a social media presence is like having no website 5 to 10 years ago. It builds your brand and reputation. It humanizes you. It makes (your) business like real people.”
There was a common thread among the business owners that I noticed. They do not hide behind social networking sites. They use them as a tool, along with personal interaction in their retail spaces to build relationships and their brands.
Miko Schechter and Jennifer Campbell offer a “Stitch and Bitch Night” every Tuesday evening at The Purple Purl. The women are co-owners of the local yarn shop/small cafe. Every Tuesday night, anyone is invited to sit around a circle and talk about crafts, work or their personal lives. Customers and potential customers chat in this “community space”, develop bonds and work on crafts at the same time. Miko explained that social media cannot reach their full market since some customers are not online. The store's customers range in
age from a three-year-old to a 104-year-old!
Donna Poulidis is the owner of Prana Fitness, a new yoga and exercise studio. Besides using Groupon to promote her business, Donna held a special Spa Night at Prana in July to raise money for a local charity. The event was open to members and the general public and included free services such as a hot stone massage. In closing social media has become part of day to day business for small and large companies. The encouraging thing is that you can do it yourself, to cut costs. Or add it into your advertising budget. Your target market is out there and wants to connect with you. Engage, share and stay connected.
Dwayne Reno CEO & Founder
Social Chat Blog
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