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updated: 3/31/2014 5:04 AM

Business owners become social media marketing believers

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Here's a thought that may require some thought: Social media could be one of your business' most effective marketing tools.

One reason, says Patrick Finn, is the low cost. But at least equally important, is that it "allows us to hit our circle of influence," said the owner of Patrick A. Finn Ltd., a Palatine design and build business that focuses on custom homes and remodeling.

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The right targets, nicely reached. "We've done direct marketing, but not very successfully," Finn says. "It's a lot of money for a 99.5 percent rejection rate." In contrast, Finn's e-newsletter has a significantly high 49 percent open rate.

Finn is a social media marketing believer. So is Michael Menn.

Principal of Northbrook's Michael Menn Ltd. and a certified green professional who takes the designation seriously, Menn designs and builds sustainable buildings. It's not much of a leap to understand his commitment to social media marketing.

"Social media is a choice I made," Menn says. "I sat down with my marketing team and we talked about whether a promotional campaign built on social media would work. We talked about how to do it, whether a campaign would sustain us."

It would and does, along with traditional face-to-face networking that Menn says takes as much as 30 percent of his time.

Menn's social media marketing has been enormously successful. It helps that Amanda Hart, Menn's chief marketing adviser and, within the past month, Finn's adviser as well, understands how to use social media.

Buttressed by analytics that help determine the best time of day for an email blast or Facebook posting, Menn and Hart focus on a topic each month. "We do something personal," Menn says. "I'm not Procter & Gamble. I'm not Kraft. I'm me, a small business. People like knowing what Michael does."

The "real reason" to use social media platforms is to "build toward an in-person meeting," says Hart, CEO and creative director at Amanda Hart Design, Ottawa.

"There's not an exact frequency or particular platform," she says. "We test and see," basing activities on an evaluation of analytics.

"We don't post two or three times a day, because we don't want to be annoying to people," Hart says. A graphic designer, she "incorporates the client's brand" throughout whatever platforms are used "so the brand is recognizable everywhere."

Both Finn and Menn spend time and effort on Houzz, a web-based meeting place for clients, architect-builders, interior designers and others who like to peruse latest home design trends. Theirs is a visual business, and Houzz is a visual website.

While Menn and Finn thrive in that visual world, Hart suggests that others -- attorneys, bankers and health care providers, for example -- can do equally well with social media.

"If you can be found on social media, that's a good thing," Hart says. "Your competition is there. If you're not, you're missing the boat."

• 2014 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter, and at Kendall Communications on Facebook. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com.

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