Many people probably don't remember the last billboard they saw. Some people probably don't remember the last Facebook status they read.
That's why T.J. Kaikobad says there's little difference between I-75 and the information highway. When it comes to advertisements -- whether it's a billboard or a Facebook timeline post -- attention spans don't last long.
"But for any small town business, social media is like raw electricity," Kaikobad said. "That's why it's so important to grab a customer's interest right away. You've just got to flip the switch to turn the lights on. But like any other tool, it's only as good as you use it. The more you know about it, the better. In the early days, people thought, 'I'll just go and put this out on Facebook. It will make me untold riches.' If it was that simple, there would be a lot of people with untold riches."
Maybe it's not getting him untold riches, but Kaikobad, owner of the Dalton Depot restaurant, is one of several local business owners who rely on social media like Facebook to build their business. James Kelley, director of digital strategy at h2b creative, a Dalton advertising firm, says using social media has given an edge to several business owners here.
"I've been in Dalton for four years and I've seen the dramatic change for business," Kelley said. "Social media is helping business owners influence northwest Georgia and I think we're better than some others in the country. What local businesses are doing is what we call 'so-lo-mob,' or social local mobile. It's interacting and creating an online community that is built exclusively in Dalton. It helps businesses here compete in the larger social media community, letting them fight the curve with Chattanooga and Atlanta."
One tool in that fight is Foursquare, a social networking application that lets smartphone users log their visits to nearby locations using their phone's global positioning system (GPS). Rusty Davis, owner of Iron Gate Pizzeria, uses Foursquare to get demographic information from his customers. Anyone who checks into the restaurant gets a 10 percent discount.
"That encourages them to log in and that provides me with so much information (from the person's profile), which is surprising for an app that's free of charge," Davis said. "Foursquare really has that pyramid effect where if one person checks in, everyone they know sees it. Then maybe one or two more people build on that and check in. And then more see it ... It's really more about building loyalty as opposed to getting new business, but there's no charge so it's great."
The cost-free aspect of social media is what makes it so appealing, Kaikobad said.
"Too often, trial and error in advertising comes at a cost," he said. "Social media kind of removes that cost and lets you experiment to see what works and what doesn't work. Sometimes, with other types of advertising, when you go through trial and error and by the time you go through the learning curve, you've had a huge loss somewhere."
Larger companies might still have losses.
"Big companies have spent millions of dollars on research to figure out how to offer good customer service through social media," Kelley said. "But the businesses in Dalton have been able to use social media on a smaller level and still provide relationships and service that big businesses cannot give."
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