I have been an advocate of the use of social media and other guerrilla marketing tactics by businesses for years now, often preferring these avenues over more conventional channels of promotion.  While Super Bowl ads and gigantic Interstate billboards may sound appealing, the return just isn't there for most local retailers.
Social media, on the other hand, can get your message out to a targeted group of customers and prospects for a nominal cost.  In fact, not having a presence on facebook, twitter and the like might actually be a huge disadvantage.  I'll delve into the risks of ignoring social media in another post.
For now, I'd like to set the stage for an experiment I am running online.  A local [Atlanta] publication, The GA Voice, is running a contest for "The Best of Gay Atlanta".  Last month readers were invited to nominate businesses and individuals for a myriad of categories, ranging from "Actor" and "Art Gallery" to "Tattoo Shop" and "Veterinarian".  I decided this might be a good time to test my theory of social media influence.  I created a list of nominees for numerous categories, mostly consisting of underdogs.  I then encouraged my 'team' to nominate them and spread the word among their friends and followers.  In a couple of instances, I intentionally misspelled the name of the person or business [usually by one letter] to help track the results.  I used my facebook and twitter accounts to encourage nominations during the course of several weeks.  Then I waited for the results.
When the finalists were announced a couple of weeks ago, most of my candidates made the cut:  Eclectia [Home Decor & Antiques], Louis Gary [Financial Planner], Clay Hood [Visual Artist], Grey Miller West [Art Gallery], Michael Sam [Athlete], Twelve [Florist & Jewelry Store], and, naturally, myself [Art Smith, Business Person] to name a few.  I then created a facebook event to promote voting and invited friends who, in turn, invited more friends.  I informed my nominee finalists of their fortune and encouraged them to promote voting. And I networked with other friends to get the word out.
The voting period ends this weekend, so I have no idea how many of my candidates will be successful yet ... although I will definitely do a follow-up and let you know the end result.  No matter what the outcome, all of these people and businesses have gotten more attention and recognition already.  

[2013 Awards Event ad shown above]

My point: with a little effort and some well-planned networking, anyone can benefit from the use of social media. At virtually no cost to them.  Now wish us all luck and go vote: http://thegavoice.com/best-gay-atlanta-second-round/ 

More blogs at www.theARTofHYPE.com/gimme-5.php and more thoughts on small business atwww.theARTofHYPE.com/ramblings.php. Local Atlanta info at www.theWOWbiz.com and www.theWOWbiz.info Follow @ARTofHYPE