Yesterday I had the great honor and privilege of speaking with Joe Sorge of AJ Bombers about the use of social media for small business. Joe spoke for about twenty minutes and I was fortunate enough to be able to ask him a few questions and get some really great answers.
Joe’s success in utilizing social media, specifically Twitter and Foursquare, in marketing AJ Bombers, a Milwaukee, WI restaurant has been highly publicized. Joe has even been called a Twitter “guru” and “genius”. In a popular interview with Chris Brogan, Joe once said that Twitter had built his business.
During the conversation Joe explained his thoughts on how to leverage social media for different types of small businesses and explained some of the things that he does at AJ Bombers. Most interesting to me was the fact that in the restaurant he has a 42″ flat-screen TV solely dedicated to the AJ Bombers’ Twitter feed.
Although putting your business out there in the world of social media comes with inherent risks, such as exposing the public to potential negative publicity, Sorge isn’t scared. Addressing negative concerns in the public can be an amazingly successful customer service tool that can create a strong brand-image. He acknowledged that AJ Bombers can make mistakes. But, he encourages his patrons to let him know, via Twitter or other social networks, when they fall short. He wants them to tell him so he can fix it. The “mistakes” seem to be few and far between if you take a look at their Twitter feed. An overwhelming majority of the interaction is extremely positive. Ultimately, Joe recognized the unparalleled power of social media to make contacts and connections with his customers and use social media as quite possibly the greatest tool for customer service, brand building and loyalty.
I asked Joe what made him look to social media as a small business owner. He answered quite frankly. He explained that the recession had affected him and his businesses and he was panicked. He was looking for a magic bullet. He knew there was no such thing, but social media seemed like an inexpensive way to connect and engage with his customers. In Joe’s words, “social media doesn’t cost anything but time”.
One of the insights Joe offered was that when businesses, especially small businesses, use social media, the business becomes a user of the same media as their customers. To your customers, you become one of them.
Joe knows that many of his customers are already on social platforms and that a business should go where the people are. he and the staff at AJ Bombers encourage patrons who aren’t yet active in social media to get involved; right there in the restaurant. This is an unbelievably simple, yet ingenious, idea. How long does it really take to download a Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare app to a cell phone and create an account? Five minutes? Less? That Five minute investment could be invaluable to a small business trying to build or maintain a customer base.
Joe also mentioned how his social media efforts aided his more traditional marketing efforts. He built a decent following on Twitter and more conventional media outlets picked up his story. That coverage resulted in a larger following on Twitter, which resulted in more media coverage. I think you get the picture.
The story of Joe Sorge and AJ Bombers is a true social media success story. I think it is undeniable that Twitter played an integral role in their brand-building. Is Joe a genius? I don’t know. Is he a social media genius? My answer is yes.