Count It All Joy was able to grow from an at-home business into a full-fledged brand
Over the past year, Joyce Boahene, the founder of Count It All Joy, Inspirational Products, LLC, has embraced social media in every way.
“I do a Twitter every day. My blog I update on a weekly or monthly basis, usually with an inspirational message,” Boahene said.
She also logs onto Facebook several times a week. For Boahene, keeping up her Web presence is not just a social activity; it’s business. Count it All Joy sells faith-based poetry books, journals and gifts created by Boahene.
Count It All Joy, together with a growing number of small businesses, is using social media to market goods and services and communicate with customers.
Rick Hutley, the vice president of Global Innovations Internet Business Solutions Group, says a working knowledge of social media is relevant to any business.
“It is imperative to all businesses of all sizes in all industries,” Hutley said.
Hutley said businesses can take steps to create a more effective Web presence. They should build a site that reflects what the company offers and the customers it’s trying to attract. Hutley says when business has a working website, owners and employees should participate on social networking sites and blogs.
“Be active on other people’s streams. When someone tweets about something related to your product, reply and then link to your website,” Hutley said. “If you aren’t active in networks, search engines don’t find you.”
Bob Herz, the director of the South Side Innovation Center — a project of Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management that seeks to “incubate” new business ventures by providing office space, training resources and services — said small businesses can best utilize the Internet by learning to accept credit over the Web, using Facebook, other social media and email. He also says developing an efficient website is necessary.
“The website must be done right and have the right kinds of bells and whistles to drive traffic to it and make it stop on a Google or Bing search,” Herz said.
Some business experts, like Hutley and Herz, offer specific techniques that make social media marketing successful. Others say the concept has not been researched enough to determine the best way to go about it.
“The area is so new. I’m not sure anyone could tell you definitively the right way to use a social network, ” said Linda Cushman, a retail management professor at Whitman.
The uncharted waters of social media have not stopped business owners, like Boahene, from getting their feet wet.
Boahene, a full-time nurse at Crouse Hospital, began writing poetry books and inspirational journals in 1985. From 1985 to 2008, she sold her work out of her home. She said word of mouth was her only form of advertisement.
In 2008, E-book Time Book Publishing Company published 10 of Boahene’s books and prayer journals. As retailers like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble began selling Boahene’s work, she and her two daughters, Afua and Adwoa, decided it was time to turn the business into a serious venture.
“We wanted it to become a real genuine business,” Boahene said. The three women presented SU with a business plan based on transforming Boahene’s ideas into a brand. The brand, Count It All Joy, would sell Boahene’s merchandise that reflected themes found in her books. The women moved to the South Side Innovation Center, where they are today. Soon after, Boahene decided to develop her company as an Internet–based venture.
“It was suggested that it was one way to go. Everything is through the Web now unless you have a storefront,” Boahene said.
Boahene said focusing on the Web business allowed her to develop her brand concept and plan for new products. Along with books and journals, her website offers a line of “baby baskets” inspired by the story of baby Moses’ trip down the Nile from the biblical book Exodus.
Hutley said every business must tailor its use of social media to its goals, company profile and customers.
“We live in a technological age,” Hutley said. “Electronic is the means to reach people today, wherever they happen to live, whatever age group they happen to be.”