Facebook, Twitter give businesses new tools to reach potential customers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 27, 2010

NATCHEZ — Customers may like a business, but some show their support with a big thumbs-up.

The use of Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools has allowed businesses and organizations to expand their reach with just a couple of keystrokes.

Sally Durkin, media and film liaison with the Natchez Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, manages the CVB’s social media Web presence and said the incorporation of social media has given the CVB ways to reach visitors that were unheard of before the advent of Facebook and Twitter.

Through the use of Twilerts, e-mail updates when Twitter users mention Natchez, Durkin has been able to assist visitors in finding lodging, meals or just answering questions.

“The fact that they are being contacted by the (convention and visitors bureau) directly is a big plus,” she said. “We are reaching people who may not know how to get information about Natchez and are just asking if friends have been there.”

It also allows the CVB to contact visitors who may post something negative about Natchez and attempt to rectify the situation.

Durkin said the CVB realized more than a year ago the potential for social networking — so much so that they organized and offered free social networking workshops to show local business owners how to reach customers and potential customers using social media.

It was at one of those workshops that Rene Adams, co-owner of Natchez Coffee Company, got turned on to using social media to reach customers, and she has been “amazed by the reception.”

“Me and (co-owner) Selah Willard really thought this was just another way to reach out to our customers,” she said. “I wasn’t really a technology-minded person before and really fought learning all the different things, but this has been a constant reminder that we have to try every way possible to reach our customers.”

Natchez Coffee Company uses the site to distribute daily specials at the beginning of each week.

Adams said it is common for someone to come in say they saw the special on Facebook. She has even had out-of-town Facebook users request that a daily special be delivered to an in-town relative.

“People that live in Jackson or Vicksburg are using it, too,” she said. “They will say ‘My grandmother loves your chicken enchiladas. Will you take them to her?’

“Then they pay with a credit card, and it is taken care of. It blows my mind sometimes.”

Online tools come in handy for businesses.

Durkin said that is particularly true using Twitter, where users can create special lists to reach a certain type of follower.

“If (a store) is having a sale and wants to let all the local hotels and (bed and breakfasts) operators know, all they have to do it send a tweet to the list of those people,” she said.

On Facebook, users can set up several different pages to appeal to specific customers. Courtney Taylor, who handles public relations and marketing for Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, said NPT routinely creates specialized pages for events they handle.

Taylor said using Facebook gives them a further reach than some of their traditional advertising methods.

“If one of our Facebook friends is in Houston, (Texas), we might not advertise in publications that reach her, but we can reach her because she is on Facebook,” she said.

David Gammill, owner of Fat Mama’s Tamales, has been using Facebook to promote the restaurant for more than two years. He said in that time the ways he is able to use the social networking site has grown tremendously.

Now he is able to send out information on food specials and events whenever the need arises.

“It is certainly a work in progress,” he said. “The main purpose is just to keep Fat Mama’s fresh on the minds of our customers. I’d say I hear five or 10 times a week a mention of something from our Facebook page.”